by Joanne Kennedy
When we gather around the table on Thanksgiving Day, we should recognize the fine qualities of the all-American turkey - you know, the extraordinarily fat, round one lying flat on his back with his legs sticking up in the air. No, I'm not talking about Grandpa Joe over there on the sofa digesting his dinner; I'm talking about the actual turkey.
His supine pose isn't the only similarity the festive fowl bears to your family and friends. Take a good look at a real live turkey sometime. A tom turkey has a wrinkly face, beetled brows, wattles, and hair in his ears - just like Grandpa Joe. He's constantly red in the face from exertion and fury, and is so profoundly overweight that he has difficulty standing upright even when he's not watching a bowl game on ESPN. Hens, on the other hand, are thinner and seem to be in a perpetual state of frazzled panic - just like the cook in the kitchen.
Glancing around the table, you might note other similarities between turkeys and humans. For example, only the males "gobble," while the hens "chatter." And like Grandpa Joe, boy turkeys are all bluster and no bite. A turkey will chase you, but he won't actually attack (hence the term "jive turkey"). As a matter of fact, turkeys are so timid that the Apaches refused to use their feathers on their arrows. They knew that turkeys are chicken.
So when the "toms" at the table want to argue about politics or the relative merits of the Broncos over the Cowboys, just wait them out. They'll eventually go to roost, wattles wobbling, indignant but harmless.
Behind all the bluster, the turkey is a noble creature. In fact, it's widely rumored that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird.
This is a myth. In reality, he thought the turkey on the national seal was so badly drawn it looked like a turkey. In a letter to his daughter, he declared that this was not a bad thing, because the turkey is, "though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."
I suspect Grandpa Joe would attack the Grenadier, too.
If you calculate the ages of your children in turkey years, your eleven-year-old has ceased to be a poult and has become a young roaster. (If you call him this, you'll probably get to see a preview of the bluster he'll perfect by the time he reaches Grandpa Joe's age.) At around twenty, your young roaster will be mature - or at least he would be if he was a turkey. Of course, he'd also be displayed belly-up in the freezer case at the local Safeway, so be grateful that your child is not poultry.
As you eat your plate of turkey this year, you can also be grateful that your brain is bigger than the turkey's (which is the size of a walnut and boasts about as much wattage as the brain of a cockroach) and that your position on the food chain is a little higher up than the denizen of your dinner plate.
The preceding fabulous factoids are due to my failure as a Thanksgiving chef. I had to offer research rather than recipes because my rendition of the holiday meal involves Safeway's deli counter and Swanson Frozen Entrees. But this year I'm actually going to cook! So please offer any fool-proof (a.k.a. Joanne-proof) recipes and culinary disaster-aversion techniques in the comments!