Thursday, November 26, 2009

Poultry in Motion

OK that doesn't really mean anything. But it is Thanksgiving Eve, and I'm thinking back on some of my favorite adulthood turkey-related memories.

Ever since I read the aforementioned "Omnivore's Dilemma," (thanks, Mary!) we've been trying to eat as locally and farmishly as possible. Last year, that meant driving out to a local farm to get a pasture-raised turkey. This place is run by a wholesome couple and their 9 freakishly adorable kids from the Opie Taylor mold. When the dad was trying to convey to me how good the gravy made from their fresh hams was, he gently exclaimed, "Oh my land, that is good!" You see what I'm saying.

So I waited in line for about an hour for the turkey -- complete with the neck attached -- and then a sweet-faced boy of about 7 offered to carry it out to my car. The thing was about half his size. As we walked, I said to him, "Now, what do you do on the farm?" And in a high-pitched boy voice he said, "Oh, I feed the chickens! And ... I used to feed the turkeys."

I could feel my eyes widen and the rest of my face fall. Heartbreak.

This year when I returned I was a bit nervous that I'd somehow get my heart broken again, but no one offered to carry out my turkey. Thank goodness. However, a cow did get loose and a few kids ran after it for four very exciting minutes. Those free-rangers run fast!

The other memory I love is the year my friend Julie and I co-hosted Thanksgiving together. We planned for weeks in advance, getting the menu perfectly balanced, making sure we had enough plates, forks, chairs. She hadn't cooked a turkey before, so we did a ton of research. To figure out how long to defrost, first she counted on her fingers: "OK, Monday-Tuesday, Tuesday-Wednesday, Wednesday-Thursday." And then I counted on mine, to check her math. 1-2-3. Yes. It all checked out.

So on Monday, she ceremoniously moved the turkey from its home in the freezer to the refrigerator way station. She e-mailed me. That week we talked every day, laughing, planning, smiling.

And Thursday morning, she called me at 7.
"Hi Judy, you up?"
"Um, yes!" (a lie is softened by um, don't you think?)
"I think there's a problem. I can't get my hand in there."
"I'll be right there."

I zoomed through the neighborhood, which was mostly asleep, to find that the bird was frozen rock solid. I mean, you could totally brain someone with it. I felt a burning indignation; she did everything right! She doesn't deserve this! So I called around and found another bird a few blocks away -- a fresh one. No defrosting. And you know, those things are pretty cheap when you buy them right on Thanksgiving morning. I got it back to Julie, who honest to goodness cooked it into the most beautiful turkey I'd ever seen. And after that little turkey-shaped speed bump, the party went off beautifully. No one could know that, just hours before, we were assaulting a bird with a hair dryer.

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