As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and observe the tradition of giving thanks for our blessings, we often are reminded of the story of the first Thanksgiving. Remember the Pilgrims and the natives? Regardless of the veracity of that story (it’s hard to fact-check it!), we can be certain HVACR played no part in the celebration. Today, of course, we would be hard-pressed to imagine Thanksgiving without it. With apologies to our vegan readers, consider a basic—but classic—Thanksgiving menu looks like this:
- Roasted turkey
- Mashed potatoes with gravy
- Bread stuffing
- Sweet potatoes
- Green beans
- Cranberry sauce
- Pumpkin pie
The turkey, unless you raised it yourself, probably was hatched in an incubator and raised in a "grower house" or brooding barn, the temperature and humidity of which was controlled by a HVAC system. If you bought your turkey fresh, it would have been chilled to a temperature as low as 26°F (according to the National Turkey Federation, turkey meat doesn't freeze at 32°F, but at a temperature closer to 26°F) using mechanical refrigeration equipment. Frozen turkeys require similar equipment, but a much lower temperature—perhaps as low as 0°F (-18°C). The turkey then would have been stored in a refrigerated case at your grocery store until you got it home and put it in your freezer or refrigerator. Commercial refrigeration equipment at work to make your Thanksgiving holiday a success!
What about the potatoes? Again, unless you’re growing your own, they probably were harvested using either a self-propelled or trailed (behind a tractor) potato harvester. There is a very good chance that, in either case, the cab was air-conditioned for driver/operator comfort.
The bread might have avoided mechanical refrigeration after it was baked (the cab of the combine used to harvest the grain falls into the same category as that of the potato harvester), but your butter certainly required refrigeration during and after production.
The green beans and cranberry sauce probably won’t see the inside of your refrigerator until the table is cleared (of course, the green beans may have been flash-frozen before you cooked them). And the pièce de résistance, the pumpkin pie? The whipped cream should be very cold when served!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and remember: The Pilgrims didn’t have HVACR, but they did have a great appreciation for all of their blessings, just as we should.