How a data guy cooks a Thanksgiving dinner!


Here in the US, we're preparing to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Therefore  this Thursday most families in the US will be having a big turkey dinner. Although I'm a bachelor guy and eat out all the time, I'm actually a pretty good cook - and I'd like to share with you some of my turkey cooking tips ... cooking the turkey data, that is! ;-)

But before we get started, here's a picture of my oven. When I first bought my house (in year 2000) I gave it a good cleaning ... and I still haven't gotten it dirty again! :-)

A few years ago, I found this pleasantly eye-catching graph about the traditional Thanksgiving holiday dinner:

It was a decent graph done in good taste, but like any self-respecting cook I couldn't help but make a few changes to their recipe. I carefully considered the ingredients for a good graph, and stewed on it a while. I wanted to serve up the data in a way that it was easy to digest, but still looked delicious.  After slaving away over a hot computer for several hours, I finally rolled out my new creation ...

Here are a few of the key ingredients in my recipe for a good graph:

  • I added "for 10" to the title, so you'll know how many people the $50 dinner is for (a very important detail, eh?)
  • I added light reference lines, so it's easier to see whether the prices are increasing or decreasing.
  • I added markers along the plot line - this way it's easier to see if an increase is one year, or multiple years, for example.
  • I started the price axis at zero (rather than 10), so you can perceive the changes visually as more of a percent.
  • I added the '$' format to the values on the price axis, so it's easier to tell that the values are in dollars.
  • I put the axis tick marks on the outside of the axes, rather than the inside.
  • I added year labels to the right-side of the bottom axis, and I make them a lighter color so they show up against the dark background image.
  • And I made the footnote (showing the data source) larger, so people can actually read it! :-)

What are you planning to have for Thanksgiving dinner, and how does the price estimate in the graph compare to your costs?



About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over a quarter century, and his specialty is customizing graphs and maps - adding those little extra touches that help them answer your questions at a glance. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University.

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  1. Once again a cool graph! I wold rather think that the $50 cost would be for one person if a complete dinner is cooked from scratch, counting the time and labor into cost, not just the raw material. :) Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Nice remake! But at $5/person I suspect they won't get too much Pecan Pie - seeing as shelled pecans are around $10 a pound! The $50 figure probably considers a lot of canned foods... Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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