Adding sage, cornbread, and insult to injury
I'm standing in my kitchen with a turkey's neck in my hand, and I'm screaming.
I am wholly unprepared for the qualities that make this hunk of meat identifiable; as a person who was raised on a primarily vegetarian diet, I have next to no experience cooking meat, and anything I eat is mercifully doused in spices that make the taste of flesh almost imperceptible. So imagine my surprise when I reached in to the turkey's body cavity the day before Thanksgiving, and out came what looked like an enormous, fleshy umbrella handle.
Let me make it perfectly clear: I do not pity turkeys. They're unbearably stupid creatures, ones who, I've been informed, actually drown when it rains because they stare at the sky with their mouths open. But there is still something oddly disconcerting about looking at a bird whole, its identifiable, dismembered limbs lying in my hand. In hindsight it's funny, but in the moment it was like a scene from The Godfather, as if the neck were left there by someone who wanted me to know that I was next.
So why am I pulling pieces of a dead animal out of its own ass? It’s for a holiday, one with a purpose that is murky at best.
photo courtesy of Priyanka Mantha
The Thanksgiving mythology that we were all fed in elementary school has long been debunked by historical fact. But let us suppose, as some individuals suggest, that we acknowledge the evils of this history while simultaneously embracing the spirit of the mythology: the cross-cultural harmony that the Native Americans' and Pilgrims' sharing a meal implies. Does Thanksgiving, then, have the potential to be a holiday where we aspire to unity?
Reminders like Victoria’s post, on images of Thanksgiving at a Japanese relocation camp, make even that aspiration hard to swallow.
But let’s say we'll refrain from over-analyzing the holiday and just make it about being thankful for what we have today, for family togetherness, and an abundance of good food.
Even on a micro scale at a family dinner, the sentiment is difficult to cope with. Every family has alcoholics, workaholics, a republican or two, and is complicated and broken in some way that inevitably takes the taste out of the cranberry sauce. Even when my family and I managed to put together a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for forty guests, complete with a stuffed turkey and every kind of Indian curry imaginable, we still had baggage to deal with. Pretending otherwise only seems to highlight the ways in which we fall short of a fictitious ideal. Despite this, on a personal level, the desire to come together seems more constructive, and less nefarious than masking historical fact with the spirit of historical fiction.
photo courtesy of Priyanka Mantha
So why was I groping around in the dark body cavity of one of the dumbest animals on the planet? I’m not certain anymore. The meaning of this holiday is different for everyone; for some it represents family, for others an act of charity gone horribly awry, and the turkey is just wondering where his neck is. For now, I’m glad I was capable of sticking its neck in the freezer and forgetting about it for a night, cooking the bird, and eating it with my family. Because it tasted delicious, and for the moment, that was enough.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!