People still buying the traditional holiday foods
by: File photo Traditional Thanksgiving foods like potatoes and turkey fit well into a tighter budget.

The premise behind giving thanks has changed little since early settlers in the Plymouth Colony held their three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest in 1621.

OK, so the party doesn't run for three days anymore, but families do still gather around tables laden with traditional holiday foods. What has changed, however, is that most folks don't raise their centerpiece turkey in the backyard. Nor do the majority of us grow all our own vegetables.

But with the holidays upon us, and in a sputtering economy, are consumers curtailing big holiday feeding frenzies?

'Even in an economy like this, people still have to eat,' said Robin Feigner, owner of White's Country Meats in Gresham. 'They may cut down on other things, but not food for the holidays.'

Always a busy place before any holiday, Feigner said White's made no price change in the per-pound cost of turkeys from last year. Fresh refrigerated turkeys were $1.98 per pound both years, while White's in-house smoked turkeys also remained the same at $2.98 per pound. Additionally, the store ordered between 400 and 500 birds each year and had nearly sold out as of early this week.

Turkey is a fairly inexpensive product, Feigner said, making it affordable for a traditional dinner. But it doesn't always take center stage for Christmas, and that could prove more telling in how the economy affects holiday meals.

'We sell 10 times more Prime Rib at Christmas,' Feigner explained. 'That's a higher end cost, so Christmas could be a little different. We don't know yet.'

Some may consider changing their main course if money is tight, but few will compromise on a holiday pie.

Cindy Wich, owner of Banaka and Browns Artisan Bakery and Coffee House in Gresham, has been pleased with holiday pie pre-orders. The bakery has been filling orders for traditional favorites, like sweet potato, pumpkin and apple, but is also offering regional choices like pecan and mixed berry.

'We've taken 30 orders already,' Wich said. 'I wasn't really sure what to expect, since we've only been open a month, but I think it's probably about average. I think Christmas will be more because word about our pies is getting out.'

What has surprised Wich, however, are the customers who asked to have their holiday pie baked in a personal pie plate.

'I think it's a brilliant idea,' she said. 'Nobody will know they didn't bake it themselves when they serve it. I wish I had thought of the idea in my young married life and didn't know how to cook all that fancy stuff.'

But if a Thanksgiving pie has somehow fallen off the to-do list, Wich said Banaka and Browns has planned ahead for those who haven't planned ahead.

'We will have premade pies on Wednesday for those last-minute people,' she said. 'They will be all boxed and ready to go.'

The colonists at Plymouth may have unknowingly established a tradition that has survived for centuries, and no doubt included interesting dinner conversation.

Every family has a jokester who comes armed with an odd holiday or historical story. Test your knowledge about all things Thanksgiving related - and impress Uncle Bud - with the interesting facts from the U.S. Census Bureau below.

Thanksgiving by the numbers

248 million - the number of turkeys expected to be raised in the United States in2011.

46.5 million - early estimate of the number of turkeys expected to be raised in Minnesota in 2011. While the Gopher State is tops in turkey production, Tom and his relatives are also raised in North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia and Indiana.

750 million pounds - cranberries that is. Wisconsin leads all states in cranberry production, followed by Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

2.4 billion pounds - total weight of sweet potatoes grown in 2010. North Carolina beats all competitors as the leading sweet potato producer with 972 million pounds last year.

1.1 billion pounds - pumpkins grown in 2010 to make those pies. Illinois produced 427 million pounds of the gourd, but pumpkin producing patches are also found in California, New York and Ohio.

2.01 billion bushels - total volume of wheat grown in 2011 to make those breads, rolls and piecrusts. Kansas, Montana and North Dakota lead the nation in wheat production.

13.3 pounds - the amount of turkey consumed by the average American in 2009. Per capita sweet potato consumption was 5.3 pounds per person.

$1.38 - retail cost per pound for a frozen whole turkey in December 2010.

Where we celebrate

Four - number of cities in the United States named for Thanksgiving's traditional main course. Know where they are? Turkey Creek, La., (441 residents), Turkey, Texas (421 residents), Turkey Creek, Ariz., (294 residents) and Turkey, N.C., (292 residents). There are also 11 townships around the country with Turkey in their names, including three in Kansas.

Nine - number of locations in the United States with Cranberry, or some spelling variation, in their names. Most populous of those bearing the name are Cranberry Township in Butler County, Pa., with 28,098 folks and another Cranberry Township in Venango County, Pa., with 6,685 residents.

37 - places or locations with mailing addresses of Plymouth. Last year, 70,576 folks called Plymouth, Minn., home and the Pilgrims' original settlement in Massachusetts boasted 56,468 residents. Ah, but lest we forget how the Pilgrims arrived on American soil. Mayflower, Ark., had a population of 2,234 in 2010, followed by Mayflower Village, Calif., who counted 5,515 people in residence last year.

116.7 million - we are in good company, since that's the estimated number of households across the country and all are potential gathering places for people to celebrate the holiday.

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