- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 22, 2006

For better or worse, someone is always trying to teach an old holiday new tricks. Thanksgiving is not immune to a few cheeky, revisionist ideas out to challenge the old traditions.

It could be an epic battle, as some things are firmly entrenched in America. We are still grateful for our lot in life, for one thing: 85 percent of us report we’ve got much to be thankful for, according to a Rasmussen poll released yesterday. Despite the travails of Election Day, Republicans are more likely to be happy than Democrats, 92 percent to 83 percent, respectively, even though the poll of 1,000 adults was conducted last Thursday and Friday — after the election.

The old Norman Rockwell vision of Thanksgiving — family, a burgeoning table, contented smiles — also is intact. The poll found that 42 percent will enjoy today’s big meal at home, 41 percent will be in a relative’s home and 8 percent will dine with friends. Five percent will eat in a restaurant.

Oh, and “turkey is tops” with 81 percent of the population; almost half expect to eat too much of it today.

Our gobbler gobbling is considerable. Americans will consume 46 million turkeys today, according to the National Turkey Federation; our troops in Iraq alone will chow down on 20 tons, according to the Army’s 1st Calvalry Division.

We do have pronounced opinions about turkeys, once favored over the bald eagle as our national emblem by none other than Benjamin Franklin.

More than 20,000 people, for example, responded to a White House call to name the two turkeys — Flyer and Fryer — who benefited yesterday from the customary pre-Thanksgiving presidential pardon. President Bush also ordered them sent in first-class airline seats to serve as grand marshalls of the Disneyland Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The runners-up in turkey monickers were Plymouth and Rock, followed by Corn and Copia, Ben and Franklin, and Washington and Lincoln.

Meanwhile, British historian Godfrey Hodgson has got some folks clucking in annoyance over the notion that there was no turkey served at the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in 1621, a claim made in his new book “A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving.”

The Organization of American Historians and the Plimoth Plantation have disputed the idea, as does Nathaniel Philbrick, author of “Mayflower,” which devotes considerable space to historic records noting that the autumnal feast indeed included a “great store of wild Turkies.”

Even pumpkin pie is getting a challenge this year. Cake-mix maker Duncan Hines has proclaimed a national “Thanksgiving Dessert Upset” this week. The majority of Americans — 58 percent — really want to eat brownies for dessert today, the company insists, basing that conclusion on an opinion survey serious enough for the Pew Research Center.

The poll of 1,025 adults was conducted from Oct. 27 to 30; it has got the obligatory margin of error — three percentage points. The survey revealed, among other things, that 71 percent of the respondents wanted that brownie to be “fudgy” rather than “cakey.”

Not to be outdone, soupmaker Campbell’s has developed six versions of the traditional green bean casserole since the company’s home economist Dorcas Reilly invented the dish in 1955. Nonetheless, 30 million of us will enjoy it today, Campbell’s says, noting that Mrs. Reilly was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

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