By now you have gobbled down your turkey dinner, ate all of Aunt Suzy’s famous pumpkin pie, and family members and all their kids have finally left. You might say things are settling down for awhile. So sit back in your favorite chair with a triple-decker turkey club sandwich heaped with the last scoop of cranberry sauce and savor these turkey comments.

By now you have gobbled down your turkey dinner, ate all of Aunt Suzy’s famous pumpkin pie, and family members and all their kids have finally left. You might say things are settling down for awhile. So sit back in your favorite chair with a triple-decker turkey club sandwich heaped with the last scoop of cranberry sauce and savor these turkey comments.

Turkeys are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere. And it was very possible that it was part of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. The origin of the name may go back to the time of Christopher Columbus. He thought he landed in India, so he named the turkey “tuka,” which in Tamil, an Indian language, means “peacock.” Other origins state that the Native American name for turkey is “firkee.’ But the one I like is “turk” simply because when a turkey is scared it makes a “turk, turk, turk” sound.

Of course we have all heard that Benjamin Franklin argued passionately on behalf of the turkey to be the national symbol of America. Wild turkeys are very fierce, and Franklin thought the bald eagle was a coward.



A real turkey story:

Presidential pardon

Did you know that the president pardons a turkey each year from the proverbial chopping block? Each year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National Board have given a turkey to the President at a White House ceremony.

History never recorded how these presidential turkey pardons came about. One story claims that Harry Truman pardoned the turkey given to him in 1947, but the Truman Library has been unable to find any evidence of this. Another story claims the tradition dates back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son Tad’s pet turkey.

Somewhere along the line, the federation started sending two or three turkeys to the White House.  President Kennedy upon receiving the turkey given to him, said, “Let’s just keep him.” It wasn’t until the first Thanksgiving of President George H.W. Bush, in 1989, that one turkey was officially pardoned for the first time.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush continued the pardons begun under the first Bush.

President Obama, this past Wednesday, pardoned a turkey named “Courage.”



My presidential

turkeys

Around 1991, I received two of the broad-breasted White Presidential Turkeys. I was a partner in a free-ranging natural poultry farm in Hope, N.J. The story begins when two turkeys were sent to the Joan Lunden talk show being taped in Secaucus, N.J.

The producer called and asked if I would like to have the turkeys after the show. “Sure,” I said.

So off we went to collect our turkeys and also to enjoy the show. I was surprised that the National Turkey Federation sent an agent with the turkeys to ensure they were taken care of properly.

The agent helped us cage them and put them on our truck. Our two turkeys were raised with other special turkeys, but the rest went to the White House and mostly likely became dinner.

The agent told me they couldn’t take our turkeys back to the farm in Minnesota because they were considered contaminated. They had a good life at our farm. Children visiting the farm enjoyed seeing and feeding them. Later that year Tomasina Turkey was killed by a fox that broke into the barn. And for the next Thanksgiving I gave Tom Turkey to our farm manager’s family. Tom was becoming vicious and very unmanageable. Tom dressed out at 48 pounds and “just” fit into the oven. He was delicious.



Turkey talk

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the United States at Thanksgiving-that’s one sixth of all turkeys sold in the United States each year.

American per capita consumption of turkeys has soared from 8.3 pounds in 1975 to 17.5 pounds in 2007. Forecast for 2009 turkey sales expect to reach $4.5 billion; that’s about 7.9 billion pounds of turkey. 

And if you didn’t get your fill of turkey at Thanksgiving, remember Christmas is just around the corner.