Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

A Christmas Story

December 27, 2010

Christmas at our home started out uneventfully. The farolitos – or if you prefer, the luminarios – had lasted all night. At the bird feeders visitors included a few White-crowned sparrows, several English Sparrows, some Bushtits, and two robins, but nothing exotic or out-of-the-ordinary. Overflights of Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes added color and sound to the morning. The Border Collies helped us open presents and we had a traditional Northern New Mexico lunch: Posole, tamales, with copious doses of red chile.

A turkey was in the oven, promising turkey dinners, dressing, gravy, and turkey soup.

After lunch we watched “A Christmas Story.” That’s the movie about the little boy, Ralphie, who wants an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, a/k/a BB gun. But it’s not looking good for his chances: His mother, his teacher, and even Santa Claus assure him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

He expected resistance from his mother, of course. After all, Mothers know nothing about creeping marauders burrowing through the snow toward the kitchen where only you and you alone stand between your tiny, huddled family and insensate evil.” But he is stunned by opposition from his teacher and Santa Claus.

The Roast Turkey from "A Christmas Story"

A Christmas Story” is also the movie in which Darrin MacGavin plays Ralphie’s Dad and is constantly at profanity-laced war with electrical outlets, his car, and the furnace. As an adult, Ralphie remembers his father as an artist who, “worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay.” “In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that, as far as we know, is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.”

The Bumpus Bloodhounds

But, to his father’s credit, he was beloved by the bloodhounds belonging to the neighbors, the Bumpeses. The dogs mobbed Ralphie’s Dad whenever he appeared at his door or when he got home from work. Any man that beloved by dogs can be forgiven a lot of profanity.

And he loved roast turkey. After the Christmas turkey was roasted his wife was on constant guard to ensure he didn’t sneak into the kitchen and start eating it before dinner.

That turkey was the tragedy of the movie. The bloodhounds broke into the house and demolished it like it had been thrown into a Piranha infested river. Ralphie summed it up, “The heavenly aroma still hung in the house. But it was gone, all gone! No turkey! No turkey sandwiches! No turkey salad! No turkey gravy! Turkey Hash! Turkey a la King! Or gallons of turkey soup! Gone, ALL GONE!”

Red-bellied Piranha by Gregory Moine

I commiserated with that man. I love roast turkey and all its fall-out. And while I would never – and never did, even when I owned a BB gun – shoot a wild bird, I do love to eat turkey.

Anyway, while waiting for our turkey, we watched and enjoyed “A Christmas Story.” On our television, that movie was followed by “The Wizard of Oz” and neither of us had seen it in years.

But that didn’t matter. The turkey was ready, the dressing and potatoes were ready for the gravy and, even though I had not yet had a glass of champagne, I announced, “Our cookie is turked.” I was that excited, you see. Even the power of coherent speech left me.

So instead of watching another movie we ate our dinner.

After the meal we wandered back into the living room and watched the last scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy awakes and finds herself back in Kansas. Shortly one of the Border Collies wandered into view with something in her mouth.

It was a turkey wing.

A dash to the kitchen resulted in a view of several Border Collies in the middle of the kitchen floor, huddled around the turkey. What was left of it.

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Here is the movie’s official trailer. A glimpse of the turkey heist occurs about 50 seconds into the clip.

Turkeys

November 25, 2008
Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Benjamin Franklin famously believed that the national bird of the United States should be the wild turkey.  Of course, he also thought the rattlesnake would be a good symbol for the new country; because this is a bird blog, we’ll let that go.

In a letter to his daughter Franklin wrote about the bald eagle,

He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

On the other hand, Franklin asserted,

For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

Franklin was right about the turkey being a native of North America.  It has been here a long time. Because of its large size and historical use as human food, the turkey has a good fossil record.  Fossils have been found as far back as the Miocene and the Pleistocene in North America. Archeology established long ago that many subsistence cultures ate them.

Female Wild Turkey with chicks

Female Wild Turkey with chicks

Hunting them must have been a challenge to those early hunters. Franklin aside, the birds are extremely wary; no wild turkey would have attacked a British Grenadier.  But it would have seen and heard that Red Coat coming from miles away and fled.  Wild turkeys possess keen eyesight and exquisite hearing which makes them hunting challenges even for their primary modern predator, humans.  Males prefer running away; females, flying.  Both can fly and at speeds up to 50mph.

That turkey in your kitchen for this Thanksgiving is a pale imitation of the real thing.  Because of the popularity of white meat — white because it is different muscle with less ability to store oxygen than dark muscle — your turkey was bred for a large breast.  In fact, domesticated turkeys raised for food have such large breasts they are incapable of mounting females for the cloacal kiss.  Instead the males are artificially manipulated and then milked for their semen which is then injected into the females to fertilize their eggs. Confined to quarters, these domesticated turkeys are tricked by artificial light into breeding year round so that the supply, especially now, is adequate.  Far too heavy for flight, it could never have escaped a British soldier.

But even though that Broad-breasted White Turkey you cut into this Thanksgiving is not the same as his wild, shrewd cousin, you partake of a North American tradition far older than Thanksgiving.

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If you need any help carving a turkey, here is a video of a pretty good way to do it.


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