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Steel Your Stomachs: Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Pass Is Back

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Call their salad overdressed and their pasta bland all you want. If there’s one thing Olive Garden could never be accused of, it’s being stingy with their food. From salad to soda, with breadsticks in between, the pseudo-Italian restaurant chain loves nothing more than to modify a menu item with the word “unlimited.” And for $100, Eater reports that 22,000 lucky carb-lovers can spend eight weeks stuffing their faces with as much pasta as their stomachs can handle. That’s right, people: the Never Ending Pasta Pass is back!

On Thursday, September 14, at 2 p.m. ET precisely, the chain will offer 22,000 of its luckiest customers the opportunity to spend the bulk of the fall season gorging themselves on chicken alfredo, spaghetti and meatballs, and whatever other al dente dishes strike their fancy. (You pick the pasta, sauce, and toppings.)

As far as the rules go, there aren’t many: passholders can use their golden ticket to dine in gratis between September 25 and November 19, though only one pass can be used per transaction (it will be inscribed with the passholder's name); diners and their guests will get the requisite unlimited soda and other bottomless promises; and you might want to wear your stretchiest pants. Passes will go on sale at PastaPass.com for one hour only (or until they're all gobbled up).

Before you dismiss it as a quick publicity gimmick, consider this: for the past two years, the passes have sold out in one second—yes, one second. The good news this year is that they’ve upped the ante from 21,000 passes to 22,000. They've also added a second option for OG lovers who are willing to shell out twice as much: for $200, 50 people can purchase a Pasta Passport, which will get them all of the aforementioned goodies—plus an eight-day/seven-night trip to Italy for two, with airfare, transportation, hotel, meals, and a lineup of daily activities included. Again, there are only 50 of these available, so you'd better start exercising your fingers and carbo-loading now.

[h/t: Eater]

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Food
Here's the Butterball Hotline's Most Frequently Asked Turkey Question
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If you’re preparing to conquer a whole turkey for the first time this Thanksgiving, you may have some questions. Like, is bigger really better? How long should the turkey rest? And is dunking the bird in a deep-fryer a bad idea? But if data from the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is any indication, the first and most important question you have concerns defrosting. As Fox News reports, how to properly thaw a turkey is the hotline's most frequently asked question—and has been for some time.

Dial the Butterball experts in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and they’ll likely tell you that there are two ways to handle a frozen turkey. The first is to unwrap it, place it on a tray, breast-side up, and leave it to sit in the refrigerator for a few days. The rule of thumb is to allow one day for every four pounds of turkey you’re thawing. So if you have an eight-pound bird, begin the defrosting process two days before Thanksgiving; if it’s 16 pounds, you need to let it thaw for four days.

Don’t panic if you’re reading this Wednesday night. There’s a quicker method for home cooks who prefer to wait until the last minute to start thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Empty and clean the sink in your kitchen and fill it with cold water. With the plastic wrapping still on, submerge the turkey in the bath, breast-side down, and leave it alone. After 30 minutes, change out the water and flip the turkey so that it’s breast-side up. Repeat the process until the meat has fully thawed, which should take half an hour per pound. (So if you’re willing to stay up the night before, you can have a frozen turkey oven-ready by Thanksgiving morning.)

Have more burning questions about your dinner’s starring dish? You can call or text Butterball for guidance between now and December 24 (for those Christmas Eve questions). For additional turkey-cooking expertise, check out our list of tips from real chefs.

[h/t Fox News]

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