Good Question: How did turkey become the traditional Thanksgiving food?
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A lot of you are going to be eating turkey on Thanksgiving, but why that specific animal?
Good Question: How did turkey become the traditional food we eat at Thanksgiving?
A: We all were taught in school about the first feast in 1621, but food historian Andrew Smith says deer and geese were the likely main dishes at that meal.
In fact, Thanksgiving didn’t become a national holiday until 1863, after author Sarah Josepha Hale persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to set aside a day in November to give thanks, following the end of the Civil War.
At that point, people in New England had been celebrating it for about a century and, as they spread west, so did the tradition.
As for turkeys, well, they are indigenous to the United States, so they were readily available and, unlike a chicken, one of them can feed a lot of people. They had also been popular in England, so that tradition also carried over.
Smith said the turkey and Thanksgiving were introduced into school curriculums and, by the early 20th century, magazines showed turkeys as the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner. At that point, the tradition was set.
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