Why Thanksgiving dinner tastes so good, according to science


A Thanksgiving feast of salt–rubbed, roasted turkey with roasted parsnips, pan sauce and spiced pumpkin soup with maple syrup in roasted pumpkins.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

When most people think of Thanksgiving, a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie come to mind. These may be the classic Thanksgiving flavors, but there's a reason it all tastes so good together, and it has nothing to do with the fact that your very talented grandmother made dinner. Well, maybe it does a little.

According to the Institute for Food Technologists, how something smells is responsible for 80% of your eating experience. And many ingredients used in a Thanksgiving dinner smell good together, because they have similar flavor components.

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"When components of ingredients match, they tend to go together very well," Kantha Shelke, spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists, says in the video below. "Turkey, root vegetables, onions, potatoes and the squash family — they all share many flavor compounds," Shelke says. "So when you roast turkey and you prepare apples, cranberries, pecans, honey, molasses together, these flavor compounds complement each other and delight our senses."

According to the institute, turkey shares similar flavor compounds with chocolate, pumpkin, pecans, apples, molasses, ham, roasted vegetables, tomatoes and parsley leaves. And no meal incorporates these flavors together more than Thanksgiving.

Groundbreaking? Not so much. But it's good to know you're not the only one who who craves turkey, cranberry sauce (jellied of course) and stuffing together in every bite. Apparently everyone does — at least once a year.

And don't worry, you can still give Grandma most of the credit for your holiday dinner.

Proud jellied cranberry supporter. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Jenn_Harris_


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