Need to talk turkey? Baffled by Brussels sprouts? Sure, you could go old school and call a 1-800 holiday helpline. But these days, cooks are finding inspiration, or salvation as the case may be, online.
From smart phone apps that put together your grocery lists to Twitter sessions that answer your pressing pumpkin questions, traditional sources of holiday help are transforming to meet the demands of a digital age.
"People are just going online more and more to get their Thanksgiving questions answered," says Angela Moore, vice president of FoodNetwork.com.
Traffic to that site's Thanksgiving section has been growing annually and this month marked the launch of Food Network's In The Kitchen app, which features 45,000 recipes from the network's chefs, including monthly seasonal menus, which for November, naturally, will be Thanksgiving-centric.
The $1.99 app, available for iPhones, iPods and iPads, () includes shopping lists that can be shared via email, Facebook and Twitter, a unit converter for accurate measurements and timers that can be set in-recipe. http://www.foodnetwork.com/mobile
"Basically, it's Thanksgiving at your fingertips," says Moore.
At Food & Wine magazine, editors are holding chats on Twitter and Facebook to give readers real-time help.
A Twitter session in early November was "the fastest two hours we have ever spent," says Dana Cowin, the magazine's editor-in-chief. "Just so many questions about perfect side dishes, smoking a turkey. I love the people who ask the questions because they ask really great questions and they were really open to new ideas."
What's nice about the online approach, says Cowin, is that it's like "having an expert at your elbow."
Grace Parisi of the Food & Wine test kitchen will be sharing her tips on Thanksgiving prep, from recipes to managing crisis, each Monday on Twitter and Tuesdays on Facebook through Tuesday, Nov. 23. Wine editor, Megan Krigbaum, will discuss tips and strategies for the holidays on Wednesday, Nov. 17, via Twitter and Thursday, November 18, on Facebook.
Parisi, who moderates the Food & Wine sessions, "knows our database so well and she has such strong opinions about what really is the perfect Thanksgiving dish that you have never made before," says Cowin, adding with a laugh, ""We're like a dating service between the person who wants to make a new recipe and the recipe that's right for them in our archive (or database)."
Meanwhile, hot line stalwarts like Butterball, which has been saving cooks from making turkeys of themselves for 30 years, also are moving online. Butterball experts are answering questions from now through the holidays on Facebook (facebook.combutterball) and Twitter (twitter.combutterball).
Another twist on the holiday hot line comes from Martha Stewart, who has signed up 30 chefs and entertaining experts for shows that will run 30 hours over a three-day period, Nov. 22, 23 and 24 on Martha Stewart Living Radio, SIRIUS channel 112 and XM channel 157. The show airs 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET and replays beginning at 7 p.m.
Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Marcus Samuelsson, Rick Bayless, Wolfgang Puck and Alton Brown are among the experts scheduled to answer questions and share tips on cooking and entertaining. They already have contributed recipes for a free online cookbook available later this month at , "Martha Stewart Living Radio's Thanksgiving Hotline Recipes." Listeners can call the hot line at 866-675-6675 or e-mail questions to radio(at)marthastewart.com. http://www.sirius.com
At the Food Network, Moore likes the idea of connecting to experts you know and trust. "The people we have answering your questions are Giada (De Laurentiis), and Alton (Brown) and Bobby (Flay) and Paula (Deen)," she says, noting that FoodNetwork.com has solutions for last-minute disasters along with videos of chefs sharing personal stories of kitchen catastrophes.
"If you have a problem on Thanksgiving Day, you're going to trust Paula Deen to fix that problem," says Moore.
We're guessing the answer may very well include butter.
Not ready to make the leap online? No problem. All the usual hot lines will be up and ready to deal with your questions about that rock-hard bird or gummy pastry. Here are some numbers:
_ Crisco Pie Hotline: (877) 367-7438
_ Butterball Turkey Talk-Line: (800) BUTTERBALL or http://www.butterball.com
_ Empire Kosher poultry customer hot line: (717) 436-7055 or http://www.empirekosher.com/index.htm
_ Fleischmann's Yeast Baker's Help Line: (800) 777-4959 or http://www.breadworld.com/help.aspx
_ Foster Farms Turkey Helpline: (800) 255-7227 or http://www.fosterfarms.com/cooking/index.asp
_ General Mills: (800) 248-7310
_ King Arthur Flour Co.'s Bakers Hotline: (802) 649-3717 or e-mail questions to bakers(at)kingarthurflour.com
_ Nestle Toll House Baking Information Line: (800) 637-8537 or http://verybestbaking.com
_ Ocean Spray consumer help line: (800) 662-3263 or http://www.oceanspray.com
_ Perdue consumer help line: (800) 4PERDUE or http://www.perdue.com/tips/index.html
_ Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline (800) 745-4000 or http://www.reynoldspkg.com/reynoldskitchens/en/product_how_to.asp
_ U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline: (888) 674-6854 or http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Food_Safety_Education/index.asp