Turkey doesn't make you that sleepy, and Pilgrims were latecomers

Thursday, November 26, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

It's time to clear up some common misconceptions about Thanksgiving Day.

Everyone's favorite Thanksgiving poultry does not actually make you that sleepy

Turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan. When tryptophan is ingested, it makes serotonin and melatonin, which can cause a drowsy or relaxed sensation.

However, the concentration of tryptophan in turkey is about the same as that in chicken or beef, and there is even more in pork and cheese.

Robin Gammon, MU extension associate and registered dietitian, says that there are other forces at work when you doze off after Thanksgiving dinner.

"I think the biggest reason is that the Thanksgiving meal has a lot of carbohydrates, like mashed potatoes, pie, stuffing and rolls, which can fill you up and make you feel sleepy," Gammon said.

She added that spending time with your family and drinking wine may also wear you out.

We know that feeling.

Overeating is the culprit in this myth. Ingesting an excess of food can slow blood flow and oxygenation, which makes you feel tired. Many people are led to believe it’s the turkey that specifically makes them long for their pillow, but in reality, it's just the quantity of dinner.

So, if you want to stay awake for the post-dinner football game, you can eat as much turkey as you want; just don’t fill up on all that other stuff.

The truth about the first Thanksgiving

The story about Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal might be just a folk tale. Many of us learned that the first Thanksgiving was an autumn harvest feast shared by Indians and Pilgrims in 1621. Contrary to belief, this harvest had been marked by the Indians for centuries before English colonists ever came to America, according to

Some historians believe that European settlers had similar rituals. Crew members of a British ship, led by Capt. John Woodlief, knelt and prayed to God for “thanksgiving” of their safe arrival in 1619. Some scholars acknowledge this to be the first recorded European Thanksgiving.

So now you know.

Wrong date, wrong dish

"We do not know the exact date of the celebration we now call the First Thanksgiving, but it was probably in late September or early October," Nathaniel Philbrick wrote in his book, "Mayflower." He also wrote that the term "thanksgiving" was not used by the Pilgrims at the time and would not be applied until the 19th century.

That's not all that is misunderstood about history. The foods that will adorn your Thanksgiving Day feast table were not eaten in the 1600s. A journal by Edward Winslow reveals that both venison and a wild fowl were eaten, but all else is unclear. It is not certain if turkey was actually on the menu, but we can be sure that mashed potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie were not invited. The Europeans had no oven and little sugar, so you can rule those out. According to Philbrick, they most likely ate duck, geese, seafood, cabbage, corn and squash.

Black Friday? Try Red and Green Saturday

There is a misconception that the busiest day of shopping all year is the day following Thanksgiving. Seriously, wouldn't you rather relax after stuffing your face than go to the mall? Malachy Kavanagh, spokesman of International Council of Shopping Centers, sheds light on the situation. The International Council of Shopping Centers has been tracking sales of retail centers from around the country for more than 10 years.

The last Saturday before Christmas wins the title for busiest shopping day in most years, Kavanagh said. "We're a society of procrastinators," he said.

Janet Henderson, senior general manager of the Columbia Mall, agreed, saying she sees more traffic closer to Christmas.

So quit stalling and get shopping.

Mincemeat pie: vegetarian approved

You've heard about mincemeat pie, but does it really have meat in it?

The origin of this dish is debated, but what is known is that it came in different shapes and sizes and certainly included meat.

Today, we leave the meat to the butcher, not the baker, and the modern mincemeat pie is baked with fruit, raisins, nuts and seasoning. For those who really want meat in their dessert, there is an ingredient called suet that can be included in a mincemeat pie. Suet is the fat surrounding the kidney and loin of an animal. Goes great with fruit and milk.

Stay hungry, my friends.

Turducken, smurducken

This unicorn of a meal is not so mythological.

A turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck, which is then stuffed with a chicken. We've even heard of attempts to stuff the whole thing inside a pig.

What we do know for certain is that the turducken has been sold commercially for over 20 years.

If you're feeling even more adventurous and really love meat, try the turbaducken, which is a turducken wrapped in bacon, giving you a quartet of meats and the complete destruction of your stomach.

Gobble gobble, quack quack, cluck cluck, oink oink.

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