2012-11-21 / Front Page

Heart Treasures

We Need To Talk Turkey
by Joanne J. Hannon

Don’t know where this “talk turkey” phrase originated; tried to find out on Google, but did not find anything. As I understand it, when someone says, “We need to talk turkey,” that someone means it’s time to get serious, to get down to business, to be honest and realistic. 

So here we are upon the eve of another Thanksgiving, the holiday we connect with food, particularly the turkey. Oh, I know, we say it’s not about that, it’s about being thankful for our many blessings, but our mouths start watering as soon as that turkey is put in the oven and doesn’t stop until we roll away from the table, often in pain. Yes, ham eaters, I know not everyone eats turkey, but it is the animal connected with the holiday. Maybe if the pig had a large, fan shaped tail that children could color in all sorts of bright colors, things would be different.

I think I began to connect turkey with Thanksgiving as a little girl learning for the first time that song,

“There’s a big fat turkey out on Grandfather’s farm

Who thinks he’s very gay.

He spreads his tail into a great big fan

And struts around all day.

You should hear him gobble at the girls and boys –

He thinks he’s singing when he makes that noise.

He’ll sing his song a different way,

Upon Thanksgiving Day.”

If we’re going to talk turkey, I have to admit, I never did have turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, when growing up. Where would we have gotten one, I wonder? We didn’t have turkey farms around us like they do down in Davies County, and I don’t recall seeing any wild ones running around as I was growing up. To be honest, the only turkey I knew was the one I colored each year, trying very hard to have the prettiest. What a disappointment it was when I finally saw some turkeys; if you wanted to see a fan type tail, you could grow old waiting. These we see in the wild are really not very pretty at all. I’m glad I was older when I finally saw a real turkey.

Also, if we’re going to talk turkey, we’ve got to remember the first time we prepared one for Thanksgiving. I remember very well, because I was quite nervous about it; what if it wasn’t done by the time the guests arrived? So... as the expert worrier I was, I got up at 4:30 and popped it in the oven. Even in those days when the turkeys were not as tender as they are now, it was done within four hours and there I was; a done turkey before it was even time to start the rest of the food. As it turns out, turkey can be kept warm and does not have to be hot when served.

I also remember the time I decided to seek the advice of someone who was visiting and we followed the suggested time to a T, and as time to eat arrived, that turkey was not done. I was so nervous by the time it was finished that I wanted to go shut myself up in the bedroom; not coming out ‘til everyone was gone. The turkeys now are so easy to prepare, even coming with a thermometer, which pops out when they’re done. I also use the baking bags, and those really make it easy.

Of course, I’ve made the mistake that many others have made; I left the bag with gizzard, liver and heart inside the turkey, discovering it afterwards.

Don’t you wonder, sometimes, how we survived in the “old” days? My mother always stuffed the turkey with dressing, so I did that for years, also. Until we were warned that it is not safe to do that. Wouldn’t want to send anybody to the hospital, or maybe worse, so I now bake it separately. The dressing from inside the turkey always tasted best, though.

Oh, these are just a few remembrances that come to mind in my attempt to “Talk Turkey” with you. The nicest memories I have about turkeys and Thanksgiving have to do with the giving spirit of so many churches, other groups, and people, at this time of year:

I remember the Food Pantry at our church in Spencer gave food baskets, including a turkey or ham to families who needed help in providing a special meal on Thanksgiving Day.

Some churches serve a Thanksgiving meal, which means many people volunteer their time on that day to serve the meal. They would tell you that it was far more meaningful than any meal they might have eaten at home on that day.

Because we were a family away from our brothers, sisters and parents, we were often invited to share Thanksgiving with another family. I think that is generosity personified; it certainly helped to make our day more fun and meaningful.

I will be making the turkey this Thanksgiving Day, and am looking forward to it. Mostly, though, the food will not be the memory that stays with me; it will be about the people we share it with; the time spent with family.

Wouldn’t want to end this without a wish for you:

May your stuffing be tasty

May your turkey plump,

May your potatoes and gravy

Have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious

And your pies take the prize,

And may your Thanksgiving dinner

Stay off your thighs!

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