Sunday, November 23, 2014

Eulogy for a Feathered Friend

We’ve come to that time of year when we pause to say “Thanks for the blessings we have received.” Unfortunately there’s a large segment of the animal kingdom that offers no thanks, only trembling fear and mindless flight.

Yes, Thanksgiving is upon us. As an integral part of the celebration, millions of turkeys will lay their necks on the block for us, hoping for a painless departure and eventual placement on a large platter surrounded by bowls of dressing, yams, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie, with a circle of hungry humans seated at the ready, teeth bared, knives and forks in hand. 

I know of no other nation that decimates such a large segment of its animal population to feed their citizenry. How this hapless bird became the centerpiece for this well-intentioned celebration baffles me. Ben Franklin believed the turkey should be the national bird instead of the eagle because there were so many turkeys in America. Somehow the gobbler ended up in the oven and the eagle ascended to the top of flagpoles.
It’s as though the eagle lobby was better organized than that of the poor turkeys. Given the recent state of affairs in Washington, the turkey would have been more appropriate. Be that as it may, the holiday gathered momentum under President Lincoln, who declared it a National Holiday in 1863. You’d think, with all he had to attend to, like the Civil War and Secession and Slavery, he would’ve had more important things to do. FDR got into the act in 1939 when he moved the holiday up a week. Of course it met with Republican opposition, headed up by Alf Landon. (I can’t believe our nation would’ve ever elected a man named Alf to be president). Europe was being overrun by the Germans, Britain was in deadly peril, but Americans now had more time for Christmas shopping. 

Here comes the really ugly part of this history lesson. 
“Parental guidance advised. Some scenes may be too graphic for young minds, or bird lovers.” According to the National Turkey Federation (I’m not kidding; Google it), 200,000,000 turkeys were eaten in the U.S. last year. Two hundred million! That’s bigger than the combined populations of Paraguay, Serbia, Thailand, Argentina and, yes, Turkey. Those poor birds waddled to their death much as soldiers did in the Civil War and The Great War. Only this onslaught occurs every year, regular as clockwork and the tides. More from the NTF: 46 million are eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas, 19 million at Easter. Good thing the Jews, Muslims, and atheists don’t have a bird-centered holiday.

The Turducken
I’m not suggesting you have a New York Strip on Thanksgiving, or even that amalgam of birds known as a turducken, a twisted invention that combines the boneless bodies of a turkey, a duck and a chicken. You can get one for $60 on the internet. I’ve heard they’ve added a fourth bird this year. A parakeet, buried deep in the center, with feathers, as kind of a colorful surprise for eating your way through the outer layers. If you stick with turkey, you obviously can roast it in the oven (the traditional way) but now I hear deep-fried turkey is a treat to behold. Also smoked turkey is a favorite in some areas. Whatever pleases your palette, go for it.

But remember the following day. Black Friday. It’s really not about WalMart and Best Buy and Amazon, and up to 70% off if you show up before sunrise. No, Black Friday is a day of mourning for the forty-six million who gave so we could receive. A grateful nation bows its head and gives thanks to the noble turkey. 

1 comment:

  1. Gerry--Oh. I just ordered the 4-bird bird for my family's holiday meal. They will love eating something colorful. I searched and searched--after reading your post--and finally found it. Thanks for the information. If not for you, I'd have known nothing about the Turduckenkeet.

    (And I'll be wearing black arm bands on Black Friday. You are right. We need to mourn and honor...)