Celebrating Thanksgiving is one of the great pleasures of being an American, but preparing the feast is filled with perils and pitfalls, from guest’s high expectations to the endless debates about the star of the show – The Turkey.
In Matthew White’s latest National Public Radio short story he talks about the Thanksgiving turkey, and the drama this gobbler brings to the kitchen, as well as the harvest table.
To listen to the podcast, click here, or simply use the player below. Prefer to read the script? Scroll down.
Matthew White’s series of radio short stories, is called The Shape of Things, and is produced by Robinhood Radio in nearby Sharon, Connecticut.
Mmmmm, stuffed turkey, dressing, gravy and all the fixings, Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner. With this holiday, comes the endless talk about the main course – The Bird.
The turkey is always the focus of this feast and is ingrained in the American psyche, thanks to tales of the Pilgrims and Indians sharing
a (largely undocumented) meal in 1621, or Norman Rockwell’s famous image of a table lined with expectant guests as grandma proudly places the enormous golden bird at the head of the table.
The national conversation, from the moment the turkey is being prepared, to when the first morsel is eaten, goes something like this – “I hope it’s not going to be too dry, Is it dry? Oh dear the turkey is dry!” Those words, in that order, will be uttered all across this great land of ours on that famous fourth Thursday in November.
The various techniques to avoid the “dry bird” syndrome are endless. Roast it breast side down, fill it with apples, stuff it, don’t stuff it, roast it standing up, don’t roast it at all but cook it on the grill! Or why not deep fry the beast, or better yet, inject it with melted butter using an enormous culinary syringe.
Of course how one procures the bird is an essential part of the experience as well. Fresh, or frozen? At this time of year around my house in Hillsdale, New York we see flocks of wild turkey gawkily traipsing through the woods and fields getting fatter each day. They are such comical birds, ungainly and yet elegant, not unlike the 1930’s actress Margaret Dumont.
I love watching them strutting and pecking in little clusters of three or large groups, known as a gang or a rafter of turkeys. They seem to be tempting the fates at this particular time of year as they blithely walk in the open, almost begging to be hunted.
But most people don’t eat wild turkey, even those who could easily nab one in their own backyard. I suspect if they did, they would be disappointed in the comparatively scrawny flesh or gamey flavor. The hunger for bland white turkey meat in American is so out of control that the birds have been specifically bred to have massive breasts (if I may say such a thing on radio).
In fact, the typical farmed turkey in the US must be artificially insemenated because these birds cannot do the deed on their own. Why? Because their enormous endowment gets in the way, that’s why.
It’s a shame really, not only are they bred for just one purpose, and mostly in rather awful conditions, but they can’t even enjoy a little nookie while they are alive. At least wild turkeys can breath free and breed free during their short time on earth.
It may sound as if I am advocating going turkey free on the big day. Hardly. I will happily be joining in on the feast. And as the golden-brown bird is pulled from the oven, I will utter those famous holiday words: Is it dry? I hope it’s not dry! Oh dear… the turkey is dry.
Please pass the gravy.