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  • Writer's pictureBetty Girardeau

Let's Talk Turkey

They must have known they had nothing to fear from me, that I don't eat turkey very often, because this guy and his entourage have visited my house more than once. Too bad he didn't wave at me with his tail feathers. It would have been a much more dramatic portrait of him. As birds go I don't think that they are the most beautiful, and yet, Ben Franklin supposedly lobbied hard for them to become the national bird. He considered it preferable to the bald eagle because it was more "respectable" and a true Native American. He went on to say that he thought the eagle was a "rank coward" and that the turkey was a "“a bird of courage that “would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm." Well, at least that is what the myth makers would want you to believe. Ben's comments about these two birds are true, as he did write a letter to his daughter after seeing the new American seal, commenting that the eagle on it looked more like a turkey than an eagle. He then went on to expound on what he perceived to be the differences between the two birds and their life styles. But he did not actually propose the turkey to become one of America's most important symbols to the world. Thanksgiving (Turkey Day ) did not become a regular American holiday until Lincoln declared it to be one in 1863. It was just a few years earlier that the journals of William Bradford, one of the founders of the Plymouth Colony, had been found in which he mentions that the colonists had hunted wild turkeys in the fall of 1621. So with that seemingly historic connection to what many have believed was the first American Thanksgiving, the idea of having turkey served at the meal on this new holiday became popular. Gifts of turkeys to the White House have a long history going back to the 1870's when Horace Vose, a Rhode Island poultry farmer first began the tradition. After his death in the early 1900's other people and organizations continued the practice, establishing the turkey gifs as a symbol of good cheer. But it wasn't until 1989 and the administration of President H. W. Bush that the gift bird was officially granted a Presidential Pardon. If it were not for tradition, most turkeys could probably live out their lives without fear of becoming part of this (and Christmas) holiday meals. I am among the nearly 68% of Americans who say they actually dislike the traditional Thanksgiving menu. And I am thankful this year to not having to eat one. My son is preparing a smoked beef rib roast with a herb rub. Bon Appetit.

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