Gravy is great, but the best sauce for Thanksgiving dinner( excluding wine, of course) is good dialogue. Something edgy enough to maintain interest, yet tamed enough to keep your crazy uncle seated for the entire meal.
Don’t wing it unless you’re willing to hazard ruffling a few plumages; instead, here’s a guidebook to some safe — and substantive — conversation starters.
1. Talk Turkey
Not the country. Focus on the bird instead, which has a amazingly interesting history — and nearly went extinct.
Native to North and Central America, the turkey spread to Europe, according to New Scientist. When colonizers returned to the Americas, they brought the turkey back with them, merely to relentlessly hunt its wilder( and tastier) native cousin and cut down the birds’ natural shelter, trees, for building materials.
New Scientist notes that by 1920, the turkey had disappeared from 18 of the 39 countries it once occupied, down from an estimated pre-Columbus population of 10 million to between 30,000 and 200,000.
Wildlife administrators struggled to rebuild populations until the middle of the 20 th century, when they realized individual birds, bred in captivity, had no notion how to survive on their own. When whole flocks were relocated, however, they rebounded — all the way to your table.( Read more on the turkey’s history at New Scientist .)
Drop some dinner-table knowledge with a couple turkey facts 😛 TAGEND
– An adult wild turkey has between 5,000 and 6,000 featherings on its body.
– A turkey’s beard( the dangly bit) is called a “wattle, ” while the flesh on their foreheads is called the “snood.”
– Male turkeys( called “gobblers” or “toms”) poop a different shape than females( “hens” ). Gobblers make J-shaped fells, while hens build spiralings and curlicues.
There’s no sort of transit more universally decried at Thanksgiving than air travel, and if your relatives flew in for the vacation, this topic is a sure gimme.
Open with obligatory low-hanging fruit( e.g. “How was your flight? ” ), then branch into more interesting conversation about how airlines stimulate us board the plane all wrong. According to Mythbusters, the standard “back to front” boarding technique is also the “slowest and least efficient.”
Other patterns, like boarding window passengers first, then middle seats, then aisles, tend to be quicker. Interestingly, one of the fastest methods is actually no method at all — a free-for-all without any seat assignings — but it’s also the least client friendly, according to Mythbusters( sorry, Southwest !).
3. The ‘Mystery’ Spots On Ceres
If you want to steer clear of troublesome terrestrial topics wholly, consider instead the mysterious bright spots on Ceres, the dwarf planet located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
We first learned of the anomalous places after the Hubble Telescope captured photos of Ceres in 2004, but only started getting higher-resolution images this summer when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft dropped into orbit.
Here’s what they look like close up. For perspective, “Occator Crater, ” which encircles the spots, is about 60 miles wide and two miles deep 😛 TAGEND
Conspiracy theoreticians exulted when scientists didn’t have an immediate, definitive explanation for the spots’ reflectivity. While NASA data indicates they’re likely some sort of salt deposit — and we should know more in the near future as Dawn assembles more information — for the time being you can delight in Thanksgiving conversation about the mystery of the unknown.
Because perhaps they’re aliens. Very, very salty ones.
4. Question Everything — And Listen
Sometimes it’s better to ask a great question or two to get the ball rolling. Here are a few basics — other than the classic “What are you thankful for? ” — from HuffPost bloggers Chris Colin and Rob Baedeker 😛 TAGEND “What’s the strangest thing about where you grew up? ” “What does your name mean? “( If they say, “I don’t know, ” reply, “What would you like it to mean? “) “What are you looking forward to this week? ” “Who do you think is the luckiest person in this room? ” “If you could teleport by blinking your eyes, where would you go right now? “