Topics & Perspectives

Turkey Duty for the Generations

I grew up going to my grandma’s or my mother’s house for Thanksgiving. But now, for years, my home is where the turkey is prepared. This year will be no different, but it reminds me of the time I first took over the coveted Turkey Duty!

A few days before Thanksgiving some years ago, I casually mentioned I was preparing my first turkey ever. Boy, did I open a can of worms, giblets not included: I was bombarded from all sides as everyone had to weigh in on this matter of state. Innocently, I said how uncertain I was about buying my first bird.

“Turkeys must come in only two sizes,” I had thought. Nope: They come in 12-14 pounds and 22-24 pounds. At least when you buy a dress at a discount store it comes in small, medium, large, or one-size-fits-all.

And pray tell me, what’s the difference between a turkey that’s $0.59 a pound, $0.99 a pound, and $2.22 a pound? They are all dead, and they are all frozen.

“Frozen?” someone gasped.

“Can you return it?” someone else asked.

“I’ve tried giving back other turkeys in my life but without any luck,” I joked.

Instead of laughing, my colleagues sighed. Now they saw their mission clearly. I was the turkey being dressed as I learned about marinating the fresh bird overnight with kosher salt in a brine bath (I assumed the fresh bird was dead, but I was afraid to ask).

I learned about an initial roasting at 500 degrees, about the two-thermometer approach to prevent botulism, and about an herbal rub between the bird’s skin and flesh before cooking.

No disagreement existed about roasting the bird upside down and about the proper way to tie it up. I heard horror stories about distant relatives who had the gall to cook the turkey in brown paper bags and who served Spam as an alternative meat.

I was even given a colleague’s unlisted cell phone number if I needed help in staying with the Pilgrim’s Progress of true turkey enlightenment. After an hour of this, I knew my goose had been cooked. My karma had been changed forever.

Even here in America, in the home of the free-ranging turkey, I’ve learned that all meals are not created equal. But I do know I’m canning any talk with colleagues about ham for the holidays.


Beverly J. Graves

Beverly Graves is a retired high school teacher who now writes curriculum and articles for the Ohio State Bar Foundation. She also presents that curriculum to students throughout Ohio.

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