Today’s celebration was very low key. I cooked a large beef roast, and roasted some butternut squash, purple potatoes, onion, and sweet potatoes. We had pumpkin pie and dutch apple pie (Thank you, Mrs. Smith’s Pies) and turkey. My boyfriend’s work gave him a turkey – and he can’t/won’t eat turkey so he gave it to me. I cooked it last night so it would be cool for carving this morning. The kids got into it and decided to carve it for me. They did a fantastic job and said it was cooked perfectly. They are amazed that I cook turkeys very well – and mine are never dry or chewy – no matter the brand or quality. It’s no secret I do not enjoy eating turkey. I am quite clear about it – but it’s not because I’m a picky eater. We all have heard the stories of how it’s better to not know where your food comes from.
Turkey Day – 1975 – Las Vegas, Nevada
The Corner Bar, where Mom and Dad spent all their time when they weren’t at work, had a November darts tournament which they named The Turkey Shoot. First prize was a turkey – and a free turkey meant more money for drinking – so Dad entered and won. They neglected to tell him it was a LIVE Turkey.
The bar owner offered to house the turkey at her home if we would prepare it there and have dinner there on Turkey day – and Dad agreed. Mom found out a few days later – That’s a story for another day. So Turkey day morning, we drive out into the desert to the bar owner’s ranch and meet Tom, the turkey. Mom went inside, and Dad kept my brother and I outside. Soon, I was standing in front of a large stump with a basket full of corn and a hatchet, chopping the ears of corn in half with the very sharp hatchet. It was practice, Dad said, for when I get to kill the turkey. My memory is foggy here – and I”m not sure if I actually beheaded the turkey or watched my Dad do it. I was 9 – but they expected so many adult things from me that it’s not that far fetched to believe I did chop that turkey’s head off and I repressed it. I was 9, and that was 9 years of abuse I’d survived already. But beyond all that, I do remember the next part clearly.
I cannot use the phrase “like a chicken with my head cut off” since that day – The head fell off one side of the stump, and the body fell off the other side and landed on it’s feet. The feet began running, which kept the heart pumping, which made the blood shoot out the arteries and veins in the turkey’s neck – spraying blood alternately to the left and right into the air in a thick mist like a liquid confetti cannon until it had bled itself out halfway around the house. We ran after it, tied it’s legs together and hung it from a hook on the back porch with a big bucket underneath it to drain the rest of the blood. After an hour or so, Dad cut the bird down, and put it back on the stump and we began plucking it. After we got the big feathers, I learned that my tiny hands were perfect for getting all the tiny pin feathers out of the bird. Then, we gutted it, cut off the neck, cleaned it, washed it, stuffed it and baked it.
My parents belittled me because I wasn’t hungry for the huge pile of turkey on my plate. Every time I looked at it, all I saw was the headless blood shower running across the yard. The cranberry sauce only made it worse – and don’t even bring up the gravy and the raisins in the stuffing.
I think turkeys are very beautiful birds – I wish I had the conviction to be a vegetarian – but I’m a committed omnivore for life – as long as I don’t have to make friends with my food and then kill it and cook it.
Tomorrow – Black Friday Memories – Before Cyber Monday was a thing.