Why Do We Have to Eat Turkey?

Why do Americans insist on eating turkey every Thanksgiving? It’s not something we normally eat. It’s not most people’s favorite food. If this was my last meal on death row, I certainly wouldn’t order turkey.

My dad preparing to carve the turkey back in 1975.

Wild turkeys parade through my brother’s property near Yosemite. They don’t look that appetizing.

Turkey is a pain to defrost, takes hours to cook, is tricky to carve, and requires stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce to make it palatable. Yes, back in the pilgrim days, big birds were typical feasting foods. Pa went out and shot something. Ma defeathered it and chopped it up, and they cooked it over the fire for, I don’t know, days. What did they do with the leftovers without refrigerators? Or had they not invented food poisoning yet? Let me tell you from personal experience, bad turkey will make you awfully sick. It’s an amazing weight loss plan, but you feel so bad you don’t even care that your tight pants finally fit.

So why not celebrate Thanksgiving with steak, pasta, salmon or an enormous chocolate cream pie with multiple forks?

Oh no. Grandma cooked turkey, Mom cooked turkey, and I must cook turkey. Which I did. It was delicious. Last bit of leftovers going down for lunch today. A twelve pound of turkey is a lot for two people, but it doesn’t have much space for stuffing. And don’t tell me it’s not safe cooking it in the bird. We’re been doing it since my ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower. Anyway, I can’t wait to eat something normal like a hamburger or moo shu pork.

Every culture has its traditions. My Portuguese family ate linguica, beans and potato salad on Christmas Eve, but we had turkey on Christmas. Every time. I wonder if Mom’s good china, only used for the holidays, ever saw a different kind of meat. What if she decided to serve fried chicken, beef wellington or lasagna instead? Oh, the horror.

And don’t get me started on pumpkin pie. Of all the pies in the world, it’s my least favorite. I only eat it for the crust and whipped cream. Sure, the pilgrims didn’t have chocolate, but we do.

Ranting aside, my sister-friend Pat and I, both lacking husbands and local family, did the holiday together our way this year, mixing her East Coast and my West Coast traditions into something new. We had a great time. I hadn’t had company on a holiday in over a decade, not since before Fred’s illness got bad. In recent years, I have always gone to California to take my father to my brother’s house. With Dad gone and COVID pushing us to all stay home, I finally got my chance to break out the roasting pan and wash the dust off my own china, which you can be sure has held food that wasn’t turkey.

After dinner, we ate cake, watched Sister Act I and II, then pulled out the food and ate again, even though we were full. Why? Because it was Thanksgiving.

Between you and me, I’m kind of glad COVID forced us to change things up this year. If we do a rerun at Christmas, turkey will not be involved.

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you have turkey? Tofurkey? Something else? Were there fights? Or just tryptophan comas? What did you do with the leftovers?

My neighbors have already put up their Christmas lights up. Have you?


Read about it:

https://www.almanac.com/why-turkey-thanksgiving “Why Do We Eat Turkey on Thanksgiving?”

https://www.mashed.com/30402/real-reason-eat-turkey-thanksgiving/ “The Real Reason We Eat Turkey on Thanksgiving”

https://www.historyextra.com/period/modern/thanksgiving-history-facts-when-first-what-why-pilgrims-turkey/ “7 Facts You Might Not Know About the History of Thanksgiving”

The Spirit Fills the Church Bazaar

It started months ago with people gathering their unwanted possessions–their books and CDs, coffee mugs, unused popcorn poppers, china figurines, and Christmas decorations–and bringing them to the church. The donations piled up in the office, the basement, and the garage. As the time drew nearer, Father Brian started his post-Mass standup routine about the important of buying raffle tickets. You don’t have to be here, he said. We’ll mail it to you—I hope you don’t win a sofa. And if you don’t want any of the other prizes, we have money! For weeks, after Mass, people walked around with strips of gray raffle tickets and signed their names on big posters for donations and volunteer tasks.
Then the baking began. Zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, banana bread, scones, muffins, and thousands of cookies, not just chocolate chip but peanut butter, sugar cookies with green sprinkles, snickerdoodles, and Rice Krispy treats.
Halloween and All Saints Day came and went, pen scratches on the calendar compared to what was coming Saturday: the Sacred Heart bazaar.
On Thursday, workers took down the holy pictures and posters in the hall and the adjoining classrooms. They rearranged the tables, covering them with red and green cloths. They carried load after load of books, CDs, coffee mugs, popcorn poppers, china figurines and Christmas decorations from their hiding places into the hall. They set up signs for the Book Nook, the Country Store, Odds and Ends, the Cookie Walk. They set up tables near the kitchen where people could eat Chinese lunch or homemade pie.
On Friday, parishioners with dough and colored sprinkles embedded in their fingernails came in a steady stream delivering their home-baked contributions on holiday plates, in plastic bags, in aluminum foil.
On Saturday, parishioners, garage salers, and bazaar lovers were waiting at the doors at 9 a.m. With borrowed grocery store baskets in their hands and twenty-dollar bills in their wallets, they shopped and shopped, and, like the loaves and fishes, there was still more to buy. They bought raffle tickets and signed their names to spend hundreds of dollars on silent auction items, including paintings, quilts, and a dinner with Father Brian. They filled boxes with all kinds of cookies, filled them so tight they could barely close the lids.
When the bazaar ended at 3 p.m., there was still more left to buy. So on Sunday, the workers opened the doors again, and parishioners swarmed out of the 8:30 and 10:30 Masses to snatch those half-price bargains, not minding that the usual donuts had been replaced by leftover pie.
Then, sated, clutching their treasures to their chests, they went out into the rain while the exhausted volunteers counted the money and returned the hall to its usual holy appearance, knowing that Sacred Heart would thrive for another year.