Thanksgiving survival is generally understood to be about negotiating delicate family relationships. There’s your uncle, with his creative conspiracy theories. And your sister, who insists on monopolizing the kitchen only to complain about having to cook for everyone.
And then, if you’re headed to the cottage, there are likely endless hours in the car with the kids getting bored in the back seat, a bumper-to-bumper recipe for explosive outbursts.
But there’s more at stake during the Thanksgiving weekend than family harmony. The first step toward a happy turkey day is not switch off your brain while you’re at the wheel, the stove, or the dinner table.
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Here are a few tips on what not to do if you want to survive Thanksgiving – in the literal sense:
No seat belt on your way to turkey dinner
A 2013 study based on five years’ worth of data on traffic crashes in Alberta found that long weekends have 18 per cent more deadly accidents than non-holiday weekends.
That’s why Transport Canada and police services from across the country have instituted Operation Impact on Thanksgiving, a national traffic safety and enforcement initiative.
Staying safe on the road basically boils down to two things: a) don’t be an idiot; b) do as much as you can to protect yourself and your family from idiots.
To make sure you comply with part “a,” there will be extra police officers monitoring roads and highways this weekend, and they will be paying particular attention to speeding and aggressive driving, distracted driving and impaired driving.
But here’s the surprising part about fatal accidents in Canada: failing to buckle up may be a bigger cause of fatal accidents during long weekends than either driver intoxication or speeding, according to the groundbreaking Alberta study.
That’s why seat belts are also a big focus of Operation Impact. And that includes checking on the use of child restraints in vehicles.
According to a recent survey, only 90 per cent of children under 12 months were placed in infant carriers, only 86 per cent of toddlers were in infant carriers or child seats, and only 40 per cent of children aged four to eight were in booster seats.
“These usage rates are considerably below the seat belt use rates for adults,” Transport Canada noted.
Also, even bigger toddlers should be kept in rear-facing seats if they haven’t reached the age of two because they still have fragile neck muscles and spines.
“Children up to 23 months old are about 75 per cent less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing one,” according to Consumer Reports.
Children under 12 should always ride in the back seat.
WATCH: Is your car seat safe? Common mistakes that can put your child at risk
Undercooking your turkey – and stuffing
Once you’ve safely made your way to wherever you’re headed this Thanksgiving, take care to properly cook and handle your turkey.
All birds should cook until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast or thigh is 82 °C (180 °F), according to Health Canada. And the best way to ensure that is to use a meat thermometer.
But avoiding food poisoning isn’t just about the turkey itself.
“Stuffing is moist and is slow to heat up and cool down. For those reasons, stuffing provides an ideal place for bacteria to grow,” writes Health Canada.
That’s why cooking it separately is best. But regardless of whether your stuffing is inside or outside your turkey, it should be heated to a minimum internal temperature of 74 C (165 F).
And after your big meal, make sure to refrigerate leftovers within two hours, and possibly remove the meat from the bones.
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Setting your turkey on fire
There’s another way to go wrong with a turkey: setting it and your kitchen on fire.
Cooking mishaps account for 30 per cent of residential fires in Canada, according to data from the the National Fire Information Database.
And firefighters tend to see an uptick in such fires when scores of amateur cooks try their hand at a big Thanksgiving dinner.
So don’t leave your stove or oven unattended and make sure you have working smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher.
If you end up with a grease fire in one of your pot, turn off the source of the heat and focus on cutting the oxygen supply. You can do so by covering up your pot with a tight-fitting lid, if you have one, or another pot.
Above all, though, never use water to try to put it out – otherwise, this might happen:
If a small grease fire breaks out in one of your pots, cover it up immediately with a tight-fitting lid, which cuts off the oxygen supply. Never try to put it out with water, which tends to boil and can cause the grease to sputter and the fire to explode.
Another pro tip: do not attempt to deep fry your bird.
By now YouTube has made the dangers of the popular practice abundantly clear, but it bears repeating: there is no truly safe way to cook a big bird in a pot of boiling oil.
Eating too much turkey
Overeating itself is rarely serious enough to put your life in danger, but the symptoms of indigestion can mimic more serious conditions, like a heart attack, leading to unnecessary trips to the ER.
On the other hand, a heavy meal can trigger a heart attack within as much as 26 hours after the feast.
Washing down your turkey dinner with litres of alcohol also increases the chance your heart will start malfunctioning.
WATCH: Tips to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner and advice in not feeling bloated
So buckle up, drive carefully, cook your food, and eat in moderation. Here’s to a happy Thanksgiving and to seeing you again on Tuesday.