My favorite task this week was to call the Media office at the Butterball Hotline. I was investigating a rumor that the hot line trains its callers to speak in a Midwestern accent. I asked the woman in media relations if there was any truth to the rumor, and she answered me with...well she basically laughed at me.
Once composed, she said "well, all of our callers come from the Chicagoland area (By the way, am I the only one who thinks Chicagoland Area sounds like the parking lot, gas station, and Pizzeria Uno's in the immediate vicinity of a schlocky amusement park?) and they're all middle-aged ladies so..."
I stopped her. "So it's not so much that they're trained to speak like middle-aged Midwest housewives, and more like they are middle-aged Midwest housewives."
To further investigate the sheer stupidity of my question, I turned to the Butterball Hotline's media relations web site. Butterball Turkey Talk-line experts are "more than 50 professionally trained, college-educated home economists eager to assist Americans in preparing holiday feasts." Let's meet some of them, shall we?
Mary Clingman is the director of the Turkey Talk-Line. Her favorite call came from a man who was concerned that his Thanksgiving turkey spent too much time thawing in the refrigerator while he was off assisting his wife with the birth of their first child. Mrs. Clingman asked "how much does it weigh?" and the man replied "The turkey or the baby?" and Mrs. Clingman thought that was very funny. Clingman has a degree in Home Economics from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and she looks exactly the way you think she does. Mary's been talking turkey for 23 years.
Carol Miller has been talking turkey for 24 years and graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Home Economics (a major that, as you might suspect, no longer exists at NIU) Carol remembers a caller with a very straightforward question - "when do I have to put my turkey in the oven so that it's done at halftime?" Carol and the caller put their heads together and calculated out the exact time! She loves the callers, especially on Thanksgiving Day, when her advice is often greeted with applause on the other end of the phone.
Astrid Volpert is the Talkline's token Hispanic. She has a degree in Nutrition and Biology from Perdue University. She formerly worked for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) a non-profit organiztion that provides low-income women with nutritious food, information on healthy eating and health care referrals. Now she talks turkey and volunteers at her children's school and for the Cub Scouts, where she holds board positions. According to Butterball, she is a "polished and charming media interview", which is probably code for "she doesn't sound hispanic".
Lastly, Dorothy Jones (23-year turkey talker) also has a home economics degree from NIU. And she has the best story of all. Her favorite caller came from a man who was distressed about the ammount of time it takes to cook a turkey. He asked Dorothy if the turkey would cook faster if he drove a railroad spike through it "to promote heat conduction." Calmly, Dorothy advised against avian impalement and instead offered a less violent shortcut.
These ladies are exactly who you think they are (a particular Dana Carvey character comes to mind) They may all have old-fashioned degrees and old-fashioned ways, but don't call them old fashioned. The Butterball Hotline keeps up with the times. 2007 marks year 2 for TurkeyTalk - the Butterball PodCast.
Here's a few more things you may not have known:
The line opened in 1981, when 6 operators answered about 11,000 calls. Today, more than 50 operators handle over 100,000 calls between Thanksgiving and Christmas (actually, the hotline officially opens November 1)
A survey this year of nearly 2000 adults found that 95% of American Thanksgiving tables feature mashed potatoes, but only 46% have gravy.
Men are twice as likely as women to prefer the drumstick, while the majority of women stick to breast meat. (hmm, might of thought that one would go the other way...)
83% of Americans in the North call it "stuffing", but the south is split between calling it "stuffing" or "dressing". Only 1% of the country calls it filling.
Americans in the Mountain Time Zone are most likely to serve pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.
Southerners are the most likely to deep fry their turkeys.
Americans in the South Atlantic region (which stretches from New York to Florida along the East Coast) love the turkey just as much as they love the sides, and are more likely than any other region to use cilantro in their turkey preparation.Well I bet that was more than you ever wanted to know.
Really, you want more? http://www.butterball.com/