A mere 250 years ago Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to replace the bald eagle as the national bird.
Now we eat 45 million turkeys each Thanksgiving.
Feel like talking turkey?
You aren't alone. This time of year the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (800-323-4848) gets an average of 5,000 calls a day from cooks in fowl trouble (sorry).
But you won't even have to pick up the phone.
We have the frequently asked questions, the answers, turkey trivia, historical data.
What does a space turkey say?
Hubble, Hubble, Hubble
Keep your eye off the turkey dressing.
It makes him blush.
Waddle I do if you don't open the door?
A waddle, by the way, is the fleshy growth under a turkey's neck. It turns bright red when the male turkey does his mating dance.
Sad to say, it's not certain that the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621 even included turkeys. But in the past 25 years, turkeys have gotten trendy, with per capita consumption increasing from 8.3 pounds to 18.5 pounds a year, according to the folks at Butterball.
Taking the phrase "top heavy" to new levels, today's turkeys are bred to be so big-breasted they fall over, according to several turkey trivia lists on the Internet. Not so, says the National Turkey Federation, a trade association.
Nor is it true that the domesticated turkey is so dumb it has to be attracted to its food by brightly colored marbles. "They're dumb, but not that dumb," says federation spokeswoman Sherrie Rosenblatt.
A turkey shoot is slang for an easy task, but wild turkeys can run up to 30 mph and can even fly for short distances.
The heaviest turkey ever raised weighed in at 86 pounds.
Audubon magazine has put the wild turkey on its list of 10 species that have cheated extinction. In the early 1900s the population was down to 30,000 birds in 18 states. It now numbers 4.2 million.
Here are 10 steps to a perfect Thanksgiving bird, courtesy of various cookbooks and Web sites:
1. Buy one pound of turkey for each person you're serving. You'll have a little left over without having to eat turkey tetrazzini, turkey meatloaf, turkey cutlets and stir-fried turkey for the next two weeks.
2. Order fresh turkeys in advance to be sure you get the size you want.
3. Thaw frozen turkeys in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of bird.
4. Remove the neck and giblets from the body cavities.
5. Stuff the turkey just before putting it in the oven.
6. Roast the thawed turkey in a preheated 325-degree oven. No need to baste.
7. The breast will get brown before the rest of the turkey. When it does, cover it with foil.
8. Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness. Experts disagree on how done the bird should be, but 180 degrees in the thigh is a common recommendation. Pop-up timers that come with the turkey work, too.
9. Let the turkey sit at least 20 minutes after roasting. Carving will be easier. A cooked turkey can sit up to an hour and still stay warm if you cover it with foil, so don't worry if it's ready before the rest of the meal.
10. Store leftover turkey no longer than 3 to 4 days in the fridge and 3 to 4 months in the freezer.
Need more help? Try these:
Emergency hot lines:
Butterball Turkey Talk-line: 800-323-4848
Foster Farms Consumer Affairs: 800-255-7227
Reynolds Turkey Tips Line: 800-745-4000
Useful Web sites:
Visit it for: The comprehensive turkey-cooking handbook
Visit it for: Idiosyncratic turkey advice from celebrity cooks. (Barbara Kafka, for instance, cooks her turkeys at 500 degrees.)
Visit it for: Lots of good turkey tips. Avoid the virtual tour of a Norbest turkey operation or you may find yourself having a vegetarian Thanksgiving.
Visit it for: More turkey recipes than you knew existed. Great for leftovers.
Visit it for: Stories about truly absurd calls to the Turkey Talk-Line (like the woman who dropped her turkey in the toilet).
Visit it for: Serious consumer info. This is the Web site of the National Turkey Federation.