C’mon, wake up. ::nudge nudge:: You haven’t even had the turkey yet. ::nudge nudge:: Not that it matters, really…. (More)

Mythinformation, Part I: Turkey Naps and other Thanksgiving Myths

This week Morning Feature looks at some widely-believed myths. As today is Thanksgiving, we start with myths about that celebration. Tomorrow we’ll demythtify Black Friday and Friday the 13th. Saturday we’ll ponder why myths are often more compelling than facts.

Pass the turkey, and the sofa pillows

Ahh, you’ve just finished Thanksgiving dinner. And what a dinner it was. Roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, stuffed celery, buttered rolls, a glass of wine, and apple pie à la mode. Time for the postprandial checklist:

  • Sofa or recliner
  • Football game on
  • Afghan or blanket over lap
  • Belt loosened

Check, check, check, and ohh-ooh-ahh, check. Time for T. Turkey and his buddy L. Tryptophan to carry you into dreamland.

Or not, really. Yes, turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps you produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter which helps regulate sleep.

But your Thanksgiving feast also had lots of other amino acids, and they’re queued up at the blood-brain barrier like Black Friday shoppers waiting for Bigmart to open. And tryptophan is a big amino acid, so it’s at the back of the line, hoping maybe there’ll be one iPhone6 left. But then the other amino acids start to wander off, like Black Friday shoppers who just got texts that Bestmart already opened and they’re offering first-hour-only prices. (They got those texts on their iPhone6s, by the way.)

So the other amino acids climb in their cars (actually they ride along with the carbohydrates in the gravy and stuffing and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole and cranberry sauce and that apple pie à la mode) and that leaves tryptophan at the front of the line, eying that display of iPhone6s (or the “I want an iPhone6” messages sparking around your brain) and off to sleep you go.

It’s not the turkey that makes you sleepy, so much as the carbohydrates that carry the other amino acids off to your muscles. Plus you just ate about two days’ worth of calories in an hour, so your digestive system tells your brain “Umm, you did your job; now let us do ours.”

Belt buckles and Native American guests

Fortunately you loosened your belt, just like the Pilgrims did after their Thanksgiving feast. Except they had bigger belt buckles.

Or not:

Not only did they not dress in black, they did not wear those funny buckles, weird shoes, or black steeple hats. So how did we get the idea of the buckles? Plymouth Plantation historian James W. Baker explains that in the nineteenth century, when the popular image of the Pilgrims was formed, buckles served as a kind of emblem of quaintness. That’s the reason illustrators gave Santa buckles.

Also, the Pilgrims didn’t invite the Native Americans:

In fact, from Edward Winslow’s letter in December of 1621 and William Bradford’s passage in “Of Plymouth Plantation,” which are the only two first-hand passages that directly describe the event, the wording seems to imply that the Indians simply stopped by at random times throughout the [three-day!] event. Nowhere does it say they were invited. It is likely that the noise, from the various shooting games and the festivities, is what brought them over to investigate what was going on. At which point, they were allowed to participate in the festivities and at one point contributed five deer.

And it wasn’t even a “thanksgiving”:

In fact, the colonists didn’t even call the day Thanksgiving. To them, a thanksgiving was a religious holiday in which they would go to church and thank God for a specific event, such as the winning of a battle. On such a religious day, the types of recreational activities that the pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians participated in during the 1621 harvest feast – dancing, singing secular songs, playing games – wouldn’t have been allowed. The feast was a secular celebration, so it never would have been considered a thanksgiving in the pilgrims minds.

So when Someone (you know who we mean) says no one can eat until after a two-hour prayer that mentions everything including the new garage door opener (but not an iPhone6, yet, dammit) and after the “Amen” mom picks up her plate and says “I’ll just warm this up in the microwave” … well, tell Someone (yes, we’re looking at you) to let everyone eat before the cranberry sauce leaks into the mashed potatoes (uggh, ammiright?).

Oh, and when Someone (a noted Expert On Everything) says the turkey on the table has nothing to do with the Turkey on the map, mention this little nugget:

How they actually got their name was that, in the 16th century, when North American turkeys were first introduced in-mass to Europe, there was another bird that was popularly imported throughout Europe and England, called a guinea fowl. The guinea fowl was imported from Madagascar via the Ottoman Empire. The merchants who did this were known as “turkey merchants.” The guinea fowl themselves eventually were popularly referred to as “turkey fowl,” similar to how other products imported through the Ottoman Empire acquired their name, such as “turkey corn,” “turkey wheat,” etc. The North American turkey was thought by many to be a species of the type of guinea fowl that was imported via the Ottoman Empire and thus began also being called a “turkey fowl” in English, with this eventually being shortened to just “turkey.”

So there, Someone.

Ooh, the TV commentator just said this “It’s gut check time.” That’s on my Football Cliché Bingo card. Now where’d I put that. Oh, I’ll find it later….



Happy Thanksgiving!