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?

Discuss.

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”

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy turkey day to everyone. It’s raining here, but not too hard. It’s cold, but not too cold. Being far from family, we hadn’t planned to make a big deal out of Thanksgiving. In fact, the plan was for me to go to church and then make enchiladas while the husband watched football all day. But my stepson surprised us by showing up yesterday. He was camping east of Sisters and got snowed out. Since we had a turkey in the freezer, he requested a traditional dinner, so the bird is in the oven, the pie is cooling, the Jello is made and it feels like a holiday now. I’ve been burning up the telephone lines calling people in California. They’re all having turkey dinners with other family members, so things are as they should be.

Church was nice this morning, just a small group in our old-fashioned brick sanctuary near the beach. This version of Sacred Heart Church was built in 1952, the year I was born. We all brought bags of food for the poor, and the sermon was about all the things we have to be grateful for. After Mass, Father Brian said he would be grateful if we’d take the 2008 hymnals out of their jackets and put in the 2009 books. We assembled a work party in the hall and were done in no time. That’s a small town for you. When there’s something to be done, we all join in.

My friend Georgia, who sings with me in the choir, was there in her baseball cap and no makeup. She’s got a nasty sinus infection and a cracking voice that sounds like a 13-year-old boy’s. When I stopped at the grocery store for yams and Cool Whip, she was pulling in. She picked up a bottle of wine, saying that was going to be her Thanksgiving dinner. Hey, whatever makes you feel good.

The store was full of people buying one bag worth of stuff, all the forgotten items somebody sent them out to get. While I was in line at the register, Michael the stepson called to request a lemon. I’m not sure what he’s going to do with it, but off I went for a lemon. Now he’s busy working magic with the yams.

Newport, OR is the county seat, with a population of approximately 10,000. The weather and lack of jobs keep us from growing much larger, but it’s the kind of place where you meet friends everywhere you go, and I like that. This week, the public works department wound lighted wreaths around all the light poles and strung lights around City Hall. It is so pretty at night. I’ll try to get a picture soon. Next Saturday the Nye Beach Christmas tree will be lit in front of Nana’s Bistro and I’ll join the wandering musicians visiting the local shops. Soon we will also have our lighted boat parade in Yaquina Bay and the Festival of Trees up at the Agate Beach Best Western. It’s a nice time to be here.

And our puppies, Chico and Annie, huge at nine months, are getting to sleep inside by the pellet stove, the light of the fire shining in their eyes, the scent of turkey wafting past their nostrils.

Happy Holidays.