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Jive Turkey - Joel Hall

Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday of the year.

My family doesn't do much for Christmas, and during that time, we are often scattered all over the place.

Thanksgiving is the one time where my entire six-sibling family has the same goal in mind -- food and family fellowship.

They especially like the food part.

My mother is the only person in my life, right now, who appreciates the value of sweet cornbread, not this crackling cornbread that they try to push on you on the Southside.

I have the good fortune of having brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and parents who can cook extremely well. Whenever we all get together for a meal, I am usually treated to heaping portions of mouth-watering desserts, tantalizing sides, and savory meats.

The variety of meats is always a sight to behold. At least a dozen creatures of the land and sea usually meet their fate at our dinner table. Of all the meats I look forward to, however, turkey is at the bottom of the list.

Since the inception of Thanksgiving, turkey has been an obligatory food, much like bitter herbs at Passover. Nobody likes the bitter herbs, but they eat them every year, nonetheless.

The same goes for turkey. I've met plenty of people who say they like cornbread, mashed potatoes, yams, and even cranberry sauce, but I've never met anyone who blathers on about how great turkey is.

First of all, turkey is about the most inconvenient bird to prepare, next to cooking an ostrich whole. Turkeys can weigh up to 25 pounds, take almost an entire day to prepare, and take up your entire oven in the process.

Turkey is so big, that there is no way humanly possible for even a large family to eat a whole turkey in a single sitting.

On day one, the turkey starts off as single entity. When it's warm and out the oven, it's okay, but not as good as ham, chicken, or ribs. By the second day, the turkey has had about 12 hours to sit in the refrigerator. It's colder and a little drier than the first day, but still fit for human consumption.

By the third day, the gravy and juices that once marinated the turkey have congealed to the sides of the pan. At this time, the turkey has most likely fallen pray to younger cousins and siblings who don't know how to properly operate a carving knife.

The hacked-up appearance of the turkey by day four is not visually appealing and by now, the gravy-Jell-O that has to be scooped on top of it to make it palatable isn't too pleasing, either.

By day five, if the turkey legs have not been eaten, the turkey is no longer something that can be sliced, but rather, a mass of crumbly turkey pieces that has to be harvested onto your plate.

By day six, people are no longer eating the turkey, but using it in turkey-based by-products, such as turkey salad, turkey soup, and turkey stuffing.

By the seventh day, the turkey is unrecognizable and you start to question whether you were really eating turkey at all.

If they could find a way to genetically shrink turkeys to the size of chickens -- which I believe are much tastier fowl -- I think I would enjoy turkey more. Turkey, however, is more of a holiday drudgery rather than a delicacy.

Furthermore, in the 250 years that Americans have been eating turkey at Thanksgiving, we really haven't found too many ways to spice it up.

I've seen fried turkey, baked turkey, and those slices of lunch meat that people call turkey, but that's it. I've eaten about 50 different variations on chicken which were all tasty and interesting in their own way.

Maybe it's untraditional, maybe it's even un-American, but until turkey gets a little more exciting, I'm going straight for the ham at Thanksgiving time.