Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

The Compleat Wetlander: This Thanksgiving don’t talk turkey–-talk cranberry instead

“It has been an unchallengeable American doctrine that
cranberry sauce, a pink goo with overtones of sugared
tomatoes, is a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving
board and that turkey is inedible without it. ”
–Alistair Cooke

Thanksgiving Day.  Parades. Football. Family and friends. Dinner.  More football. More family. More friends. More food.

And throughout there is conversation.  Lots of conversation.  Navigating the small talk on Thanksgiving Day is frequently a bit of a challenge.   My father has always pointed out “You can choose your friends, but not your family.”  Too true.  Families are an odd mix.  Frequently mismatched.  Even those of us who can rejoice in a perfectly delightful family still have to search for topics of conversation— interesting subjects that can entertain all generations.

Personally I would love to dazzle my family with scintillating stories about work.  But for some reason they are not thrilled with shop talk about wetlands.  Well, really, who can blame them?  Convoluted court cases, bewildering scientific terminology, and impenetrable acronyms might be a sure cure for insomnia, but scarcely makes for electrifying dinner conversation.  Politics and religion on the other hand tend to be a little too electrifying.  What’s left?

How about the lowly cranberry?  It’s a great topic for conversation over Thanksgiving dinner.  For example the cranberry was originally called the crane berry presumably because the pink flowers of the plant resembled the head and bill of a crane.  There is also considerable controversy over whether cranberries were served at the first Thanksgiving feast. In recent years cranberries have gained ever greater popularity for their superior antioxidant properties.   Nowadays an acre of cranberry bog can produce up to 15,000 pounds of berries, ten times as much as a century ago and likely a hundred times more than during colonial times.

To keep young and old entertained this holiday, a game of 20 questions about cranberries might do the trick.  The rules can be found at: http://barelybad.com/20_questions.htm Below are some questions.

1.  What three berries are native to the United States?
Cranberry, blueberry, Concord grape

2.  The American Indians used cranberries to make the travel food pemmican with
what other two ingredients?
Melted fat and dried deer meat (venison)

3.  Where do wild cranberries grow?
Bogs

4.  In the 1800s sailors carried cranberries on long voyages to prevent what
disease?
Scurvy

5.  The first cranberries were cultivated in 1816 in what state?
Massachusetts

6.  What general ordered cranberry sauce to be served to the troops during the
siege of Petersburg in 1864?
General Ulysses S. Grant

7.  The cranberry is the official state fruit in which two states?
Massachusetts and Wisconsin

Later, when the topic of cranberries is utterly exhausted and someone decides to “talk turkey” you can wonder—

“Where did that old saying about talking turkey come from?”
http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-tal1.htm
or–
“What did Benjamin Franklin really say about the bald eagle versus the turkey as
a national emblem?”
http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~insrisg/nature/nw98/franklinturkey.html

or–
“How many subspecies of wild turkey exist in North America?”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Turkey

There is also a great list of Thanksgiving “fact or fiction” topics at:
http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving

For more information about cranberries visit:
Cranberries in Wisconsin  http://www.americanprofile.com/article/36652.html
History of Cranberries http://www.cranberries.org/cranberries/history.html
Cranberry Facts http://www.teachervision.fen.com/foods/resource/3268.html
Cranberries and Pesticides 1957 http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ntAsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=XPcDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2624,4367132&dq=history+
of+cranberries&hl=en

Good Eats Transcript http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season11/cranberry/cranberry_tran.htm

And have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Jeanne Christie

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