I Just Can’t Get the Poor Turkey Out of My Mind

I am glad my mamma taught me how to carve a turkey.  It isn’t the most important lesson, but does merit a couple of interactive sessions in the kitchen. The crazy looking bird has meat hidden in the most devious place intermingled with bone, cartilage, skin, and other unmentionables.  For many, the turkey sets the third most important mood of the day, only superseded by thanksgiving and family.

My mother was an incredible woman.  I didn’t fully appreciate her exceptional character until she was gone.  I could list many strengths but for this blog I will mention some lessons she taught me.  Let me put the teachings into a top ten list.

  1. She taught me that faith was an important dimension of life.
  2. She insisted I believe in myself, and love others.
  3. She aimed to develop a man rather than raise a boy.
  4. She punished me when necessary, but left me with my dignity and a sense of being loved.
  5. She taught me to do my own laundry and to care enough about my appearance to learn to iron.
  6. She insisted I respect women.
  7. She taught me the importance of relating to people of all ages.
  8. She taught the ends and outs of etiquette.
  9. She gave me a work ethic through example and expectation.
  10. She taught me to cook and carve a turkey.

And this brings me to the blog of the day.

Marji, Wendy and I were invited for Thanksgiving dinner at the home of a new friend in Sun City, Arizona.  Our friend lives in a park model in our retirement community and the kitchens are relatively small, allowing only two people to move comfortably in the kitchen.  Our friend, age 81, had left most of the cooking to us with the exception of the turkey.

Marji and Wendy, my wife and daughter, had brought everything to the serving table except the turkey.  I am a traditionalist and always the happiest when the turkey is carved at the table.  I have failed to mention that another man was invited to the dinner, a quiet middle-aged security worker. So, everyone was seated around the table very similar to a Norman Rockwell painting.


Anticipation was written on everyone’s face.  I had been assigned carrying the golden turkey to the only empty space at the table; obviously it had been cooked to perfection.  While I was tending to uncovering the turkey, the other man had taken the seat where I had planned to sit.  He had literally set himself up for failure.

It just happened that the turkey rested directly in front of the other fellow.  It was the luck of the draw.  So, I handed the carving knife and fork to him.  He didn’t look surprised and stood to begin the carving.  He was excited and had Pelosi smile on his face.  I thought, you lucky man; by default you are getting the job I love. It was immediately apparent that this was a first time experience because he jabbed the fork into one side of the turkey with no sense of respect for the animal whatsoever. I almost uttered my pain.  No mother had ever walked him through this procedure. Then, he began to attempt to cut the turkey right down the middle until he struck the breastbone.  He pushed so hard he turned fevered red. Being a little heavy and out of shape, he began to perspire.  He tried with a couple more grinding swipes with the blade to cut the bird into two equal pieces.  I thought, “Oh, my gosh, he is going either sever this breast bone and drive chards into the meat or strain his wrist.  Finally he said, “Rosa, I think I need a bigger and sharper knife.”  By then, I was about to split my own gut, holding my amusement inside.

Once he got a bigger butcher knife, he tried again and began to get frustrated.  He mumbled and grumbled without calling the turkey tuff.  Finally, he said, “would anyone else like to give this a try?”  We were five minutes into the ritual and he had yet to serve a piece of turkey.

I volunteered without showing too much excitement.

I have always looked at carving a turkey like the selection of which fork to use during formal dining—you start at the outside and work toward the center, just the opposite of his technique.  I also knew that you only cut the joints and not the bone.  All the books say that the turkey can best be carved in the kitchen, but that seems un-American to me.  The figure head of the family should be designated the carver and serves the meat according to whether a person wants dark or white meat.  Only at that point is the rest of the food uncovered and served.  Let’s face it I have paid a lot of a annual dues and deserve this honor. Thanksgiving is not a meal to be rushed.

For those that don’t want to carve the turkey at the table, another  viable plan is cooking two turkeys—the first to be carved in advance and the second to bring to the table after the ceremonial carving of the first eight to ten pieces of the breast.  This meets the needs of Thanksgiving ritual and cold turkey sandwiches for the following few days.  If you want to see the proper way to carve a turkey, you might want to visit the following web site.


Do not miss the following spoof on Rockwell’s classic painting!  I wanted a good deep chuckle and I got it again and again.


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