According to this collection of turkey statistics, “more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving.”
In a country of some 300 million people, that’s one whole turkey for every 6.67 people. According to this report, the average Thanksgiving gathering has about 11 people. So that’s nearly two whole turkeys on every single table in America.
O.K., let’s assume those numbers are way, way off. Still, there are plainly an awful lot of turkeys sold at Thanksgiving. But are they consumed?
I just roasted two whole turkeys for my Thanksgiving crowd — we had 24 people and not a single punishable offense, a new record for my family — and when it came time to wrangle the leftovers, the turkey was easily the biggest problem.
We could have easily done with one turkey instead of two. And an unscientific poll of our 24 guests revealed that roughly one-third of them actively liked turkey, while roughly another third tolerated it, and the last third weren’t very interested.
This leads me to wonder: why do so many of us have turkey for Thanksgiving?
People rarely roast turkeys during the year. I am guessing that roast turkey is pretty far down anyone’s list of the most delicious foods. So why do so many of us go against our true preferences on this one day? Here are a few ideas:
1) We love tradition more than we love turkey.
2) We love to do what everyone else does, and if everyone else is roasting a turkey, we’ll roast a turkey too, damn it.
3) A roast turkey is a very cheap way to feed a lot of people.
4) Roasting a turkey gives the host a way to keep busy and avoid the once-a-year relatives who have invaded his/her home.
5) Turkey is a great delivery system for gravy, which is what we really like, and it’s hard to justify putting gravy on other foods that are naturally more flavorful.
Also, according to this report, “essentially 100 percent of the nearly 300 million turkeys produced annually in the United States for consumption are the results of artificial insemination.”
Kind of gives a whole new meaning to “turkey baster.”