Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Get Stuffed

The great bird revisited

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Talking turkey in more ways than one

Two activities are up for the Most Irritating Social Protocol Award this time of year: raking up those damn leaves over and over, and serving up that damn turkey with all its incumbent leftovers day after day. The leaves, well, what can we do about leaves? But the turkey, hey, he could use a new perspective or at least a spin doctor to flesh out his image, so to speak.

Here’s the problem. I grew up in Edmonton and that meant turkey for Thanksgiving, turkey for Christmas and sometimes even turkey for Easter, depending on which auntie’s house you were at. So when those "festive" holidays roll around, it’s Pavlovian: buy a big honking turkey and all the trimmings. What are you, too cheap, too lazy to serve a turkey?

Now that’s just ducky if you have an extended family of, say, 42 people. But if you’re one of the great unwashed whose family is scattered hither and yon or is stuck between divorces, or whose circle of friends seems to dry up on holiday weekends, or who is simply living some non-traditional lifestyle, even if part of you remains starkly traditionalist, you can end up with this awkward situation.

Don’t buy a turkey and you feel like a traitor to your country and your childhood. Or do the right thing. But even if it’s a free-range, grain-fed, organic, more urbane, sort of Paris Hilton turkey, you’re still stuck with the bloody Saran-draped carcass occupying the fridge for the next two weeks.

Sure, there are those turkey roasts and turkey thighs all gussied up. But they seem so, well, depressing. Ditto the turkey pretenders that get trotted out on such "family" occasions – the roast chicken, the quails, the Cornish hens. It’s like they’re wagging their stunted wingtips at you, reprimanding you for not being average or normal enough to create the constant, drumstick-loving, wishbone-breaking family forever stuck in time and TV sitcoms that demands the bigger, SUV-sized bird.

But maybe all we need here is to revisit old Mr. Turkey. See him with fresh eyes, outside his rather limiting and limited waspish stereotypical roles.

On a positive note, we can look to Benjamin Franklin, printer, publisher, inventor, scientist and key instigator in separating the American colonies from England. You’d never catch old Ben complaining about gluey sandwiches stuffed with turkey leftovers, or cursing as he caught his sleeve on a greasy drumstick while reaching for a beer at the back of the fridge (mainly because he didn’t have a fridge).

Old Ben loved his turkey. So much so that he proposed naming it America’s national bird and placing it on the flag. Yep. The eagle, he argued, was a bird of "bad moral character". Are you with me on this? The turkey, he said, was a much more respectable bird. Imagine, a turkey fluttering atop the capital dome, or U.S. commandos crying, black turkey down! Ben might have been on to something there – a kinder, gentler, more Rick Mercer kind of America.

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