- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Content, optimistic and well-fed, the nation holds tight to its Thanksgiving traditions this week: 84 percent of Americans plan a special feast on Thursday and 86 percent of them are looking forward to it, according to a Scripps Howard survey of more than 1,000 people taken in mid-October.

The day is open to interpretation behind the scenes, however.

Thanksgiving is the busiest time of the year for plumbers, for example. American drains get so overrun with gravy, potato peels and the occasional toy truck that Roto-Rooter has proclaimed that Thanksgiving is followed by “Black Friday.”

Service calls to the Cincinnati-based pipe-cleaning meisters jump by 47 percent, reports spokesman Paul Abrams.

“Pipes are like your arteries,” he said. “Thanksgiving overloads the pipes like a heart attack.”

Such things also preoccupy the American Council on Exercise in San Diego, which calculated that the average reveler will consume 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat when all is said and done.

“A 160-pound person would have to run for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving meal,” said Cedric Bryant, the group’s exercise physiologist.

There is some regional dissent over how much that meal costs. The Washington-based American Farm Bureau Federation reports this year’s meal adds up to $35.66 — 60 cents less than last year. The Indiana Farm Bureau contends the meal costs $34.91, down $2.52 from a year ago.

Not to be outdone, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau says the meal will cost $36.64, an increase of 85 cents.

Meanwhile, the folks at Butterball’s turkey hot line — which has fielded almost 3 million calls from befuddled home chefs in the past 50 years — now doles out low-fat, low-sodium and low-carb advice.

“Turkey is the easy part. It’s what we surround it with that might not be on our new diet menus,” hot-line dietitian Astrid Volpert said.

Butterball counselors advise the diet-conscious to use mashed cauliflower with chicken broth to replace traditional mashed potatoes, and to banish the brown sugar, butter and marshmallows from sweet potatoes and boil them with spices instead.

And if turkeys — not to mention butter, potatoes and cranberries — can have a national hot line, so can bubbly. The Office of Champagne — another District-based trade group — has created a champagne hot line for those who hanker for bubbles with their stuffing.

“What would the holidays be without the pleasant pop of a cork?” asked spokeswoman Miranda Duncan.

For the record, a “demi-sec” is good with pumpkin pie while a “rose champagne” suits the turkey.

Lakefront Breweries of Milwaukee has gone one step further, offering Pumpkin Lager for the holiday, which adds real pumpkin and spices to beer “to produce the taste and the texture of pumpkin pie.”

Should the family watch football or a movie while the unfortunate cleanup team does battle with dirty plates in the kitchen?

“Watching the antics of a family more neurotic than yours can provide a healthy dose of relativism,” advised Joyce Woodward of Blockbuster.

The company is offering a list of suggested “relative” titles this year to get the point across.

One tradition will not be overlooked thousands of miles out in the Pacific. The Kaanapali Beach Hotel in Maui will offer a hula show in conjunction with its Thanksgiving meal — rotisserie turkey with Maui corn dressing, served on the Tiki Terrace.

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