Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Day Drowsiness, But Don't Blame The Gobbler

Oh, yes! Pass me a wing and pile on the taters, baby! It's Turkey Day!

I have a soft spot for Thanksgiving. After all, believe it or not, I had relatives on the Mayflower, on my paternal grandmother's side of the family. Yes, those fairly clueless Plymouth pilgrims who were my family managed to make it in the new world thanks to Native American friends like Squanto and the Wampanoag Tribe, and were so thankful after their first harvest in 1621 that they fed and entertained the natives for three days, after which the Wampanoags went hunting and returned with 5 deer as a return gift (STORY). I doubt the native peoples would have been so giving had they realized the cultural devastation that would eventually be wrought upon them. I wonder what the Wampanoag word for "sucker" was?

But, hey, who am I kidding? I mainly enjoy having time off (I get today and Friday off, plus the weekend, plus a vacation day on Monday – 5 days!). Time to eat heavy, kick up my feet in front of the tube, let the children run free and crazy, and maybe find time in the ensuing days to do some projects around the house and yard. And you'd better believe there will be naps in there somewhere.

You've probably heard the reason why you're so sleepy after eating all that turkey, right? The story goes that turkey meat contains an abnormally large amount of the amino acid tryptophan, which induces sleepiness by producing the "sleepy" brain chemical serotonin. So, if you eat lots of turkey, you'll be drowsy. For some reason this myth comes out only around Thanksgiving time.

Although it's true that our little gobbling friends do possess a lot of tryptophan, the tryptophan is not easily transported from your bulging, overfed gut to your brain, and even if it makes it to your noggin, you would need to "ingest quite a number of turkeys" to get enough tryptophan to cause drowsiness, according to Dr. Carol Ash of Somerset Medical Center's Sleep for Life Center in Hillsborough, N.J.:

More likely, the article says, your post-gluttony sleepiness is the result of overeating, alcohol consumption, and not getting enough sleep in the days before, not to mention sitting on your ass watching people called Jets and Cowboys running up and down a field with an oblong leather ball.

My lovely wife, though, suggested an additional cause for Thanksgiving sleepiness. "Don't forget the poor women who do the cooking have to get up before dawn to start the turkey, prepare all that other food, and finish cleaning the house for all those guests."

But if you still wish to believe those hapless birds are the cause of your snoozing, be my guest. Call it the dinosaurs' revenge (after all, modern birds like the turkey are direct descendants of two-legged dinos like T. rex and velociraptors, as evidenced by the shared "wishbone", or furcula -- STORY).

I'll take a dino wing, please, with my 2000- to 3000-calorie meal. And you'd better warm up the pie. I want it to melt the whipped cream when I eat it.

And if anyone asks, I'm still blaming the gobbler for the naps.

Image taken from HERE.


Annaphis said...

Well, I certainly don't need to use turkey as a sleep-inducer, I can sleep at the drop of a hat (do hats contain tryptophan?).

Interesting to note that you're partly of British descent, so from one whose ancestors stayed at home in 1620, happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Hey--- me too!!! (descendant of the Mayflower) Crazy world or did we just have a lot of interbreeding going on in the early days? ;-)