Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not for your Thanksgiving Table

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Seen in my neighborhood late on this cloudy, rainy, November afternoon:


These four birds were part of a flock of about a dozen, up the road across from the reservoir. We have plenty of wild turkeys around here. The habitat is good for turkey: wooded hillsides, plenty of oaks, grassy meadows, and fields under tillage.

One day several years ago, we watched 29 turkeys parade single file across our front lawn, saunter down the walk at the side of the house, and settle themselves down in the back yard for an extended session of preening and napping. Twenty-nine! After an hour or so, they got and up stretched, and continued toward the back of the back yard, but they were brought up short by the fence. They just stood there for the longest time, seemingly unable to figure out that they could 1) fly over the fence (they are very good flyers!), 2) go out through the open gate that was right in front of them, or 3) turn around and walk out the way they came. It began to rain, and they looked pretty pathetic. Finally, D took pity on them, went out to the yard, and gently shooed them out through the gate at the back of the yard.

Fun facts! Turkeys are among the fastest fliers of our land birds. And...they roost in trees. High up in trees.

People love to make jokes about wild turkeys ending up on the Thanksgiving table. But you wouldn't want to roast one of these birds; they are dry-fleshed and gamy, unlike the domestic birds bred for the table, which are bred to be fatty and tender. If you are ever lucky enough to obtain a wild turkey, don't try to make it into a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Instead, braise it with red wine and good-flavored stock, starting with a soffrito of leeks and root vegetables. Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans.

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