Pass on the Turkey

My old friend Lorenzo Bigge had some advice for me: “Forget the turkey this year. I’m tellin’ ya, it ain’t right to be eatin’ them turkeys all the time. Every year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, they kill all those birds, and they don’t even eat most of it, just throw it out when it gets all dried up and rotten. It’s just a shame.”

Now Lorenzo was from southern Ohio, and he’s been known to hold some controversial opinions when it comes to cuisine. For example, he believed that a well-prepared groundhog was just about the tastiest dish anyone could enjoy. He regaled us with tales of family reunions where folks would arrive with fat groundhogs strapped to the rooves of their cars. The womenfolk would break out batches of onions with which to “cook the wild out” of the groundhogs, a laborious process which took several hours of boiling before the meat was ready for grilling. Groundhogs aside, however, Lorenzo insisted that turkeys were not proper eating for holiday celebrations.

“Now turkeys were supposed to be the national bird, did you know that? Benjamin Franklin picked the turkey, not the bald eagle, mind you, and they should have listened to him. The turkey is a noble creature. Pure American, and you come across turkeys more often than you do eagles, don’t you?” Well, I couldn’t argue with that, as eagles are rather scarce in my neck of the woods. But I wasn’t sure I could believe what Lorenzo told me next.

“Now I was running the trail in the park one day, and a couple of turkeys popped out of the woods and when I came up on them, what do you think they did?” “Try to attack you?” (I knew that would be the wrong answer, since if it happened, Lorenzo wouldn’t be singing their praises now.) “Not at all, and I wasn’t about to do them no harm neither. No, and they didn’t run away like you might think.” “Well then I give up. What did they do?” “They ran along with me. Kind of paced me for a while. They was just a bit ahead, but they didn’t try to lose me, just kept a nice comfortable pace. One of them glanced back over his shoulder a couple of times to see if I was still there, and I was, just following along. Made my run a lot easier and fun too” I was tempted to ask if the turkey looked back over his left or right shoulder but resisted.

Lorenzo persisted. “These birds are smart, and good natured too. Why I seen a turkey play with kids in the park, and take care not to frighten them or harm them, just like a household pet. Never seen no bald eagle do that.” I had to admit that I couldn’t even picture a bald eagle playing with kids let alone jogging along with a runner. “Would you sit down to holiday dinner to enjoy a roasted bald eagle?” “No I wouldn’t even eat a bald eagle with hair.” “There you go!” Lorenzo sensed he had a convert. “Deep fried eagle? Grilled eagle?” “I should say not!” “That’s what I’m getting’ at! It just ain’t right what we’re doin’ to turkeys!”

I think Lorenzo had a point. But what are the alternatives? I don’t fancy groundhogs. I thought about a nice fat goose – a historic holiday meal. Literary too. Remember “A Christmas Carol” when Scrooge, after he was properly chastened by all the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, deciding to be a good guy, opening his bedroom window, spotting a young fellow on the snowy street below, and telling him to go to the butcher shop, and buy a nice fat goose. “The one they have in the window?” “That’s the one!” Then Scrooge tosses him some money, and he sends the goose to Bob Cratchett’s house so that Tiny Tim can enjoy a regular holiday feast for the first time in his life. Yes, it should be a goose for the holidays!

I changed my mind once I saw that the few places that even stocked geese around my way were charging 75 bucks for a bird that might feed a person and a half. What about one of those thousands of snow geese that seem to be taking over every square inch of vacant property in these parts? No, my wife said, one of her friends said she tried one, and it didn’t taste good. Maybe they didn’t cook it right. Doesn’t matter, it’s probably illegal to poach them anyway.

 So, no goose. How about a ham? Nah, I’m not much of a ham eater. Besides, if you’re going to cook pork on the holidays, why not beef? And beef doesn’t seem right.  Fish doesn’t seem right either, much as I like fish. So Lorenzo had created quite a problem for me. Well there wasn’t much left to choose from. Groundhogs were out of the question. It seemed like it should be some kind of a bird. Just about the only choice remaining was chicken, the turkey’s poor relation. Now there isn’t much special about feasting on a chicken when we eat it about 4 times a week throughout the year anyway. But I know it will make Lorenzo happy, and that’s something. I just hope that while I’m eating I don’t have a vision of the chicken looking over its shoulder as it jogs along beside me. That would put me off holiday meals for a long time. 

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