Now, I’m not a purist when it comes to foods. But I’m uneasy about any product with ingredients I can’t pronounce. I don’t want the label to read like the fine print on a can of aerosol spray.
My Pure Food Era
One year, I began a campaign to introduce purer foods to the kitchen table. I started by introducing the family to a small, frozen turkey breast. My teenage son, examined the bird suspiciously.
“This turkey has been injected with ‘edible fat’ and something called ‘flavor enhancers’ and a bunch of chemicals identified only by initials,” he said. He pronounced it “fowl.”
“That’s right,” I said, “a wholesome fowl packed with protein, low in calories and fatty cholesterol. The perfect food.”
“No, I mean ‘foul’ not ‘fowl.’” (I didn’t realize he knew the difference.)
“This is really gross,” he said.
Where the Wild Things Are
My son devised a plan to free us from antibiotic-injected poultry. He would bag a wild turkey in the woods behind our farm house, he said. But as I soon discovered, this undertaking required much skill and no little expense.
In addition to roaming the woods before daylight to find where the turkeys were hanging out, there was the required turkey tag, camouflage gear, repairs to his old shotgun, ammunition, and the turkey caller.
Learning to Speak Gobble
The calling device is used by hunters to produce a mating call that tricks a pea-brained turkey into coming out of the brush, thinking that a good time awaits him in the clearing.
My son perfected his turkey talk well enough to entice a large gobbler to come strutting into the open where he could get a clear shot. We were spared the burden of ‘dressing’ the bird, (a euphemism for gutting poultry).
Thankfully, he found a professional, who performed the indelicate task in return for a few bucks.
Wild vs. Butterball
I should point out that a wild turkey is not as plump as the shrink-wrapped Butterball, that you pull from the freezer bin at your grocery.
Commercially raised turkeys have bent legs; a wild turkey’s legs stick out straight like two exclamation marks. And, the breast is flat compared to most of the vitamin-fed birds sold commercially.
My huntsmen eventually took up other pursuits. So I returned to buying supermarket poultry. That is, until I discovered Harr Family Farms organic and heritage birds at Soulard Market.
On Thanksgiving morning we gather in the kitchen to deliberate how long a 20 lb. turkey should cook and what goes into the dressing.
We once again debate how the gravy should be made and who’s skilled enough to do the carving. We plan ahead for the turkey soup, that comes from cooking the bones with vegetables and noodles.
My neighbor says it’s the fretting over the meal, the weather, and the attendees that makes Thanksgiving such a complex holiday. I guess that’s why we observe it just once a year and follow up with a nap and football game.