Monday, November 21, 2011

Culinary IQ: Monday, November 21, 2011; Turkey History

Let's Talk Turkey

It is Thanksgiving week and I can't let it pass without discussing turkey this week. History tells us that if we were following the original feasts of the holiday we would probably be discussing venison. The first celebration of Thanksgiving was not a single meal but a 3 day event that was more of a political gathering between the Wamponoag indians and the Plimoth pilgrims. The event was attended by men only and was held outdoors instead of at a long Thanksgiving table. Pumpkin and cranberry were most likely part of the meals but not in the pies or sauces we know them for today. So how did the turkey become part of the meal? Turkey started appearing as a traditional part of the meal when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. And away we go!

The wild turkey was the first turkey served at Thanksgiving and is native to North America. Rather than being farmed, the turkeys that made it to the table were hunted and can still be hunted in various parts of the US today. The domestic turkey is descended from several species of wild turkeys. It has been bred to be white because the white pin feathers are less visible when the carcass is dressed. Sadly, conventional turkey producing practices have caused the turkey to no longer propagate naturally so the only way for them to reproduce is through artificial insemination. Additionally, overcrowding prevents conventionally grown turkeys from moving about in their pens. I am pleased that more and more brands of free range organic turkeys are becoming available today and as a result the prices are coming down.

Now that my brief history of the turkey is out of the way there are numerous ways to prepare the turkey for your Thanksgiving feast. This week I will discuss some of the ways to prepare your turkey, as well as making gravy for the bird and what to do with leftovers. 

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