Food has been an integral part of Thanksgiving since the earliest days. In fact, the word ``Thanksgiving' is derived from the Wampanoag Indian words ``than,' meaning ``let's,' and ``sgiving,' meaning ``make huge pigs of ourselves.'

Today's typical Thanksgiving dinner differs dramatically from the first Thanksgiving feast, which essentially consisted of corn. The Pilgrims had a bumper crop of corn that year, much of which they planned to sell to the Soviet Union. The deal fell through, however, when one of the more astute Pilgrims, Miles ``Bubba' Standish, discovered that the Soviet Union was not scheduled to come into existence for another 300 years.Faced with a towering abundance of corn and little else, the first Pilgrim chefs did the best they could. Corn, corned corn, corn with corn sauce- corn a!la corn and pureed corn!were just a few of the imaginative dishes that were prepared. The grateful Pilgrims, who had been eating nothing but corn for the past year, surveyed the table laden with this sumptuous feast, fell to their knees and said as one: ``Maybe we could shovel this slop off on the Indians. Whaddaya think?'

Today, of course, because of the wide variety of food available to them, Thanksgiving cooks would not dream of serving a bland, monotonous, essentially tasteless food like corn as the main course. Today, they serve turkey. I think you can see how far we've come.

But, hey! Who am I to argue with tradition? Besides, turkey has several fun and exciting aspects, even if taste is not among them. For example, there is the fun and exciting aspect of defrosting the bugger.

Health officials suggest that you thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. (I understand that health officials also suggest that you cool down your pizza by putting it in the microwave, but never mind.) The trick is trying to figure out how long it will take the turkey to defrost. To help you, I am including this chart, courtesy of the American Frozen Turkey and Hockey Puck Corp.:

Weight of Turkey vs. When You Should Have Started Defrosting It

8-pound turkey ..... last June

15-pound turkey ..... 1929

25-pound turkey ..... the early Mesozoic

Another fun and exciting aspect of turkey is the ``giblet' bag. Thanks to genetic engineering, today's turkey no longer has internal organs, it has giblets, and they're all neatly tucked away inside a clear plastic pouch. This is a magnificent accomplishment that I think might someday revolutionize medicine as we know it. If you have something wrong with your heart or liver or pancreas, you could just visit your local gibletologist, who would remove your handy giblet bag, make the necessary repairs and replace the bag all in less than an hour. Ask your doctor for more details on this exciting new health concept.

Once you have defrosted your turkey and removed the giblets (I recommend using long-handled fireplace tongs), you will want to roast it in the oven. A medium-size turkey will generally cook in between two to three hours, unless you forget to turn on the oven, in which case it will take much longer. While the turkey is cooking, you may want to mess the kitchen up a little more by preparing some side dishes. Most anything will do, so long as it doesn't contain corn.

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