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updated: 11/21/2012 2:06 PM

Thanksgiving trivia and tips

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  • Do you know how many pounds of cranberries Americans eat each year?

      Do you know how many pounds of cranberries Americans eat each year?

  • Cook of the Week Challenge winner Michael Pennisi's salmon dish will be featured in the special section that publishes Nov. 21.

      Cook of the Week Challenge winner Michael Pennisi's salmon dish will be featured in the special section that publishes Nov. 21.


Don't let the table talk this Thanksgiving turn to the recent Washington sex scandal or the state's pension reform woes (sure to make you sleepier than three helpings of turkey). Keep things lively with some Thanksgiving trivia.

Did you know that wild turkeys, now almost 7 million strong, were almost extinct in the early 1900s? The National Wild Turkey Federation also points out that wild turkeys can run up to 25 mph -- that's faster than Usain Bolt, who averaged 23.35 mph during his world-record, 100 meters.

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With as many as 6,000 feathers, wild turkeys can fly as fast as 55 mph; farm-raised domestic turkeys, on the other hand, are too heavy to fly. Wild turkeys also roost in trees, sometimes as high as 50 feet off the ground, the South Carolina-based group reports.

On Thanksgiving Americans consume about 46 million turkeys; on Christmas we consume a mere 22 million.

We like our cranberries too. We eat some 400 million pounds of these nutrient-rich berries each year, with 20 percent of that during Thanksgiving week. Jellied cranberry sauce was first marketed in 1912 and now we eat more than 5 million gallons of the stuff during the winter holidays.

Keeping the feast safe to eat: The kitchen always seems to be the place folks congregate, especially at Thanksgiving when you've got a team of people preparing the feast. Make sure everyone is using the same playbook when it comes to food safety.

These tips come from the National Restaurant Association:

• Store raw turkey away from ready-to-eat food. Make sure your raw turkey is covered and stored in a leakproof container on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Keep it away from foods that are ready to eat, such as desserts and salads, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

• Clean and sanitize your sink and counters. After rinsing your raw turkey thoroughly, properly clean and sanitize the sink and surrounding area before starting to prepare any other food.

• Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Prep salads, cranberries and other colds items first and store them in the fridge until ready to serve. Then prep your hot dishes closer to serving time so they stay hot. Keep all food items outside the "temperature danger zone" (41 to 135 degrees) as much as possible.

• Safely reheat leftovers. Whether from a meal prepared at home or picked up from a restaurant, leftovers are part of the holiday tradition. Store each dish separately in clean, sealable, leakproof containers and reheat to 165 degrees when you're ready to enjoy round two of your Thanksgiving meal.

Correction: My high school French teacher is not happy with me right now. I did some gender-bending and misidentified La Petite Sweet in the Nov. 14 Food section. For further clarification, the Westmont bakery is not exclusively a gluten-free shop; it carries a full selection of cakes, pastries and specialty sweets.

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at or (847) 427-4524.

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