Beyond Butterball: 7 Food Hotlines That Can Help You Out of a Kitchen Disaster

iStock/Kerkez
iStock/Kerkez

Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-BUTTERBALL) is one of the biggest Thanksgiving helplines around, but it’s not the only show in town. Many companies now offer hotlines staffed with experts who want to help you prepare the best turkey possible—plus delectable side dishes and desserts. If you need a little help in the kitchen this Thanksgiving, here are a few other hotlines you can lean on.

1. USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline

Call 1-888-674-6854 or email MPHotline.fsis@usda.gov.
Thanksgiving hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (ET)

If you’re unsure how long to leave your turkey in the oven, call up the Department of Agriculture’s handy hotline. They can also answer questions about other types of meat, egg products, and food storage.

2. Jennie-O Turkey Helpline

Call 1-800-887-5397 or launch the live chat
Live chat hours: 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. (CST)

One of Butterball’s competitors, Jennie-O, also offers a helpline. Check out their live chat, which is ideal for cooks in need of some quick answers.

3. Honeysuckle White Turkey Helpline

Call 1-800-810-6325
Available 24 hours a day

Another turkey brand, Honeysuckle White, has a holiday hotline you can call with questions about how to select, prepare, and cook a turkey. The messages are pre-recorded, but they still might do the trick.

4. Food52 Digital Hotline

Visit the Food52 website
Thanksgiving hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET)

Amanda Hesser, former food editor for The New York Times Magazine, launched this website and Q&A forum in 2009 to help solve people’s cooking conundrums. Just post a question to the online forum, and you’ll get a prompt response from one of Food52’s editors—or perhaps even a notable food writer or chef.

5. Crisco Pie & Baking Hotline

Call 1-877-367-7438
Thanksgiving hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET)

All your pie-related problems will be resolved when you call up the Crisco hotline. A National Pie Championship winner and other baking experts will be on hand to answer questions.

6. Sara Lee Pie Hotline

Call 1-888-914-1247
Thanksgiving hours: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. (CST)

Sara Lee Desserts offers another option for people with pressing pie questions.

7. Ocean Spray Holiday Helpline

Call 1-800-662-3263
Thanksgiving hours: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (ET)

If you have a question about cranberry sauce—or other cranberry-infused creations—then this is the hotline to call.

The Great Tryptophan Lie: Eating Turkey Does Not Make You Tired

H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images

While you’re battling your cousins for the best napping spot after Thanksgiving dinner, feel free to use this as a diversion tactic: It’s a myth that eating turkey makes you tired.

It’s true that turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleep. Your body uses it to produce a B vitamin called niacin, which generates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which yields the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. However, plenty of other common foods contain comparable levels of tryptophan, including other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

Furthermore, in order for tryptophan to produce serotonin in your brain, it first has to make it across the blood-brain barrier, which many other amino acids are also trying to do. To give tryptophan a leg up in the competition, it needs the help of carbohydrates. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer tells WebMD that the best way to boost serotonin is to eat a small, all-carbohydrate snack a little while after you’ve eaten something that contains tryptophan, and the carbs will help ferry the tryptophan from your bloodstream to your brain.

But Thanksgiving isn’t exactly about eating small, well-timed snacks. It’s more about heaps of potatoes, mountains of stuffing, and generous globs of gravy—and that, along with alcohol, is more likely the reason you collapse into a spectacular food coma after your meal. Overeating (especially of foods high in fat) means your body has to work extra hard to digest everything. To get the job done, it redirects blood to the digestive system, leaving little energy for anything else. And since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it also slows down your brain and other organs.

In short, you can still hold turkey responsible for your Thanksgiving exhaustion, but you should make sure it knows it can share the blame with the homestyle mac and cheese, spiked apple cider, and second piece of pumpkin pie.

[h/t WebMD]

How Mammoth Poop Gave Us Pumpkin Pie

MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images
MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images

When it’s time to express gratitude for the many privileges bestowed upon your family this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be grateful for mammoth poop. The excrement of this long-extinct species is a big reason why holiday desserts taste so good.

Why? Because, as Smithsonian Insider reports, tens of thousands of years ago, mammoths, elephants, and mastodons had an affinity for wild gourds, the ancestors of squashes and pumpkin. In a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Smithsonian researcher and colleagues found that wild gourds—which were much smaller than our modern-day butternuts—carried a bitter-tasting toxin in their flesh that acted as a deterrent to some animals. While small rodents would avoid eating the gourds, the huge mammals would not. Their taste buds wouldn't pick up the bitter flavor and the toxin had no effect on them. Mammoths would eat the gourds and pass the indigestible seeds out in their feces. The seeds would then be plopped into whatever habitat range the mammoth was roaming in, complete with fertilizer.

When the mammoths went extinct as recently as 4000 years ago, the gourds faced the same fate—until humans began to domesticate the plants, allowing for the rise of pumpkins. But had it not been for the dispersal of the seeds via mammoth crap, the gourd might not have survived long enough to arrive at our dinner tables.

So as you dig into your pumpkin pie this year, be sure to think of the heaping piles of dung that made the delicious treat possible.

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