Farm Fresh!

Old Birds with Little Red Berries

Well, it's almost Turkey Day again.


Mmmm... roast turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

Yes, cranberry sauce -- the whole berry sauce, not the jellied kind. I love cranberry sauce with my turkey.

Red cranberries in sauce pot

Cranberries are a little red wetlands fruit grown in the bogs of Wisconsin, Maine, Massachusetts and the coastal Northwest. Loaded with vitamin C, they are very nutritious. Folk healers used them to cure urinary tract infections, ulcers and gum disease. And they were once eaten by sailors to ward off scurvy.

I don't want scurvy, but I doubt I'd ever eat cranberries if it weren't for turkey. That would be like eating mustard without the bratwurst, or salsa without chips.

Turkey with cranberry sauce is just the thing, though, and I'm not alone in this. The distinguished Alistair Cook once declared the "pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes... a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving board and that turkey is uneatable without it."

Turkey Breast Saddle w/ Wings

Everyone loves turkey, of course. Well, almost everyone except vegetarians and those who ask "Why are Americans so enamored of birds that can't fly, walk straight, or mate naturally?"

It's their big breasts. It is!

The hybrid Broad Breasted White turkey produces more meat (mostly white meat) at less cost than any other bird. This has made it so popular among producers and consumers that it has pushed almost every other breed of turkey into extinction, or close to it. This is the classic Thanksgiving turkey you see on television and in cookbooks and glossy magazines, but it is not the turkey that great-grandma served, or the pilgrims for that matter. It has been selectively bred to have, above all else, huge breasts full of juicy white meat.

Abnormally large breasts? Juicy white meat? Our foremothers would have been shocked!

Heritage Turkey Poster

The birds invited to the Thanksgiving table a couple generations or so ago were more likely to be a Standard Bronze or a Bourbon Red, a Narragansett or a White Holland. These were rather small, dark-meated birds with normal sized breasts.

Very few of these breeds survive today, but there are a dedicated group of farmers still raising them and working to restore their place at the Thanksgiving table. These old turkey breeds have dubbed "heritage turkeys" and are being marketed as a rather chic alternative to the industrialized, over-bred, factory-farmed Broad Breasted White turkey.

"Heritage" really means "old," but for us baby boomers, old is looking better every day. Old is respectable and honorable like fine wine, Model T Fords, covered bridges and Paul McCartney. Old is good. Heritage is best.

So, this year we're going to observe our heritage. We'll be serving up an small, flat-chested old bird for Thanksgiving... with lots of cranberry sauce.

by Michael Hofferber
Copyright © 2007 Outrider. All rights reserved.

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