Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way and we can resume our national bitterness, can we talk turkey for just a sec? Literally, I mean. As in: When did it become cool to bash turkey, the venerable superstar of the traditional holiday table?
Turkey-bashing is so prevalent, I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump had announced: “You know? All the other presidents have pardoned this turkey but, really, who likes turkey anyway so, yeah, kill it. Peas looks like a Democrat, anyway. Carrots, too.” I’m guessing this announcement would be greeted with a national shrug. Even Joe Biden might say: “Yeah, kill ’em. Turkeys suck.”
That glistening golden bird proudly delivered to the table by a be-aproned, beaming grandma, Norman Rockwell style, is no longer a thing. These days, the turkey is as welcome as Bill Cosby on the doorstep at the sorority house.
For years, food snobs have bemoaned the bird but now turkey-hate is viral. The turkey is so bullied it should have its own afterschool special.
“The best part is the side dishes,” is a popular refrain. “I couldn’t care less about the turkey.”
“It’s dry and tasteless.” (Yes, well, so is Bill Maher but I don’t want him out of my life.)
“Why can’t we just have ice cream and candy instead?” (Not now, Mr. President.)
I’ve always loved turkey, perhaps because we share a wattle. The older I get, the more pronounced mine is. I expect to wake up in my 70s to find it glowing red just like Tom you-know-who.
But, I digress.
Where is the love for the noble, American bird depicted so perfectly in “A Christmas Story”? Remember Ralphie’s narration: “Now it is well known in the Midwest that the Old Man is a turkey junky, a bona fide golly turkaconis freak…”?
No more. Even the cooking channels seem apologetic about their obligatory holiday turkey dinner shows. They speed past the turkey main course and focus on leftovers where the much-maligned meat is buried beneath veggies and bubbling mounds of cheese like a cat covering its litter.
And, yes, though I love turkey almost as much as the Old Man, I admit to giving in to the pressure to at least modernize the meal.
And so this holiday season, I announced to the fam that I would be spatchcocking the turkey.
“Well, it’s about time!” said Duh Hubby. “I have no idea what you just said but if it means moving on to a rib roast, I’m all in!”
“No, you simpleton,” I said lovingly. “Spatchcocking is when you cut the backbone out of the turkey and break its breast bone so you can roast it flat. All the cool cooks are doing it.”
Duh winced at this description, alarmed at its brutality. He looked at me curiously, wondering perhaps if I would get mad at him and spatchcock him in his sleep.
It’s a slippery slope (with equal measures olive oil and butter) when you flip the bird to a national tradition. Spiral-sliced ham, you could be next.