Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey vs. Turkey

In the near corner, weighing thirteen pounds, from Home Acres Farm in Everett, Washington, we’ve got the free-range, sustainably-raised, all-organic, killed-and-plucked-by-my-own-hand heritage bird, Slate-Narraganset, and in the far corner, weighing 23 pounds, from Red Apple supermarket, we’ve got the plumped-up, large-breasted tender-timed (with pop-up tender-timer roasting gauge) Norwest improved bird; both are ready to be cooked, the former looking forward to being dunked in boiling hot oil for a couple hours, I think, the latter anticipating the pleasure of being seared at 475 degrees Fahrenheit for about fifteen minutes before being slowly roasted at 325 degrees for almost half a day.

And then, they’ll both be eaten, although I think I’m only going to sample the one I killed myself. Somehow, ironically, the vegetarian has ended up being the dead animal chef; I was the one who prepared the store-bought bird and put it in the oven, the old-fashioned Ruth Shapiro way, breast-side down.

Having had the experience of “processing” a live bird to a hunk of foodstuff to be cooked made me way less squeamish about the various cuts, grabs, and tucks it took to get Mr. Norwest into the roasting pan. Yanking the pre-packaged giblets from the interior of the pre-packaged bird was nothing compared to slicing off the head of the one whose throat I slit or of twisting its esophagus around my finger so as to pull the body part free.

I hope my time as butcher hasn’t made me overly sanguine about the plight of these once-living things; on the contrary, I think that I’ve become more sensitive to what they go through to end up on dinner tables coast-to-coast on this, arguably the most American of all our American cultural holidays.

I have lots to be thankful for myself, like my health, the love of family and friends, a good job, a nice home, and none the least, that I wasn’t born a turkey to be eaten.


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