The Science of our Thanksgiving Meal

We’re rapidly approaching the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, which can also be thought of as a festival of food. On our blog, we previously covered some of the food science behind Thanksgiving, and even discussed the science behind the perfect pie crust. In this post, we are going to share some research and insights in neuroscience, biochemistry, and more that contribute to our enjoyment of this fall feast.

  • For November, it’s that smell of sulfur: The building blocks of protein are amino acids. Sulfur is an integral part of two amino acids (methionine and cysteine) which accounts for most of this element in the human diet. In this article, Dr. Quira Zeidan Rodriguez article explains more about the element, including its importance for health and nutrition.
  • The science behind the flavors of a Thanksgiving meal: In this piece, Dr. Cordelia Running of the Purdue SPIT Lab (that is, the Saliva, Perception, Ingestion, Tongues Lab) talks about “the science behind the physical and mental processes that influence the flavors of the food we eat.” Every part of the meal becomes important, from the enzymes in the mouth that begin digestion of the food, to the mental associations and memories we have with the meal itself. A short video is available that discusses more of what the SPIT Lab studies.
  • Spotlight on Thanksgiving Science from Science Friday: This collection of resources could be a short course on Thanksgiving science. From courtship rituals of turkeys to better ways to cook your feast, this page has something for everyone. Our favorite pieces include an audio segment about “Food Failures: The Science of Side Dishes” and a video explaining the design process for creating the balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
  • The Science Behind Thanksgiving Dinner: In this interview from the Institute of Food Technologists, Dr. Kantha Shelke goes through a typical Thanksgiving meal dish by dish to discuss the best ways to prepare certain foods, why certain foods taste SO good together, and even debunking a myth about L-tryptophan, the sleepy turkey chemical!
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on
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