The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 18, 2005


Talking turkey: a cribsheet

Two turkeys stood before my door, decently plumed, respectful and alert. One carried pamphlets, another a clip board with what looked like a petition.

"Good morning m'am," said the older bird. "We're from the Ben Franklin Society (BFS). We'd like just a few minutes of your time." He made what could only be called a sincere turkey smile, with a sort of jiggle for a bow. He added sadly, "It's a serious matter; you might say a matter of life and death to us." Indeed, it was. The coincidence of the local hunting season and Thanksgiving has precipitated the entire turkey population into crisis mode. "For some, not for others," observed the younger turkey with asperity. The sole mission of the Ben Franklin Society is to safely herd all turkeys through the time of Thanksgiving peril.

Somewhere near us a car backfired, there was a pulsation of feathers, a scratching in the bushes, and my guests disappeared, with only a pile of spilled pamphlets testifying to their brief visit.

For those in the turkey consumption business, as opposed to the BFS turkey protection business, the spilled pamphlets have proved useful. They contain data that from the turkeys' point of view documents discrimination against and killing of innocent fowl, and from the consumers' perspective offers a guide to what is available at local stores for the Thanksgiving table. Assuming that you are not planning to sit in a freezing blind waiting for a wild turkey, here is a list of what is available at the supermarket the BFS gobblers did not reach in time.

There is a variety of choices, fresh or frozen, "natural," organic, with or without a pop-up button, including one oxymoronic natural turkey with a pop-up button. There are prebasted turkeys and there are brined turkeys, and all are waiting to appear on your Thanksgiving table.

Bird selection is pretty straightforward, except for the difference between "natural" and "organic," the latter term meaning a bird that is fed only organically grown food in addition to having no antibiotics or hormones in its diet.

Every serious and experienced consumer of the Thanksgiving bird knows that bigger birds have more leftovers and factor that in when purchasing one.

Ready-to-go dinners

Ready-to-go dinners generate a swell of thanksgiving from the rushed or lazy hostess, as well as from one with last-minute guests. Things have changed since Scrooge walked out of a shop with the great, roasted turkey for Bob Cratchit's family. Now you must order ahead and be sure what you are getting, i.e., Roche Bros. turkey dinner is cooked, whereas Whole Foods has only oven-ready, prepared turkeys, including one in a roasting pan. Most stores that sell turkeys also sell stuffed turkey breasts, which, in addition to being all white meat, take less time to roast. An unprepared hostess can still scramble up a last-minute feast, as one friend did with a prepared cooked turkey and creamed onions, squash, sweet potato and vegetables in boil-in-a-bag pouches bobbing around in a roaster pan of bubbling water. On the other side of the kitchen door, when the bags had been emptied into the best china and set on a table with flowers and candlelight shining on the good silver, none of the unexpected relatives was the wiser.

A warning about pick-up times. Whole Foods in Bedford is the only store that has a Thursday morning pick-up for its dinners. A hot dinner picked up on Wednesday night isn't going to do the trick for a Thursday afternoon banquet, so plan accordingly. The larger markets have a salesperson who will take your order and answer your questions. Good luck, and as Julia would say, "Bon appetit!"

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito