I hate turkey.
There. I’ve said it. Does this make me a Thanksgiving Grinch?
When I was a kid my family only ate turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we ate it at a relative’s house. I was never impressed with it. And since my mother never cooked it herself—meaning there were no leftovers to endure in the weeks following—I didn’t have the repetition of, well, turkey gobbling, to make a turkey lover out of me.
Each year I’d find myself dodging the bird-of-honor in favor of foods with more flavor and better texture. And GIVING THANKS that in the space of about a month’s time I’d be done with this wretched turkey business for another year.
“Here hon, have some white meat!” I’d flinch as a well-meaning relative would fork a whopping dry-as-dust shingle of turkey onto my plate, taking up precious real estate that I’d intended for country ham (yeah, ham!), dressing (hold the gravy), blackeyed peas, wondrous ambrosia and those ubiquitous brown-and-serve rolls. And a slice of can-shaped cranberry gel-stuff. If only I’d known that the dark meat had better texture and more flavor, perhaps I could have learned to like it a little.
As an adult I’ve made my peace with turnips and lima beans, but turkey still leaves me cold. So I’m always the one signing up for anything-but-turkey for holiday meals at church and at friends’ houses. If I’m bringing meat, it will be a beef roast or a ham, because I’m sure there are others who are similarly unimpressed by turkey. And those meats always disappear, so I think I’m right about this.
But usually I sign up for a side. I’m no traditionalist on this score either. Typically I’ll bring whatever I’ve just discovered in the pages of Saveur or my new favorite cookbook (last year it was Maria Speck’s fabulous Ancient Grains for Modern Meals). This year for church–and for tomorrow’s feast–the side of choice is one I cobbled together on my own, featuring swiss chard, roasted squash, red quinoa, Israeli couscous, toasted pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries tossed in a golden balsamic vinaigrette.
And not only do I bring a side, but I fill my plate with them. Vegetables. In season or not, I don’t care. Just bring on those veggies, baby! Salads. It’s amazing the sheer variety of ingredients and their combinations that can make a dazzling salad, either savory or sweet or both. Casseroles. Ditto. All so varied and wonderful. (Usually wonderful. Some people are so phobic about salt that they don’t use any. Not even that merest breath of salt required to balance flavors.)
Sometimes a side will suffice for dessert. At this year’s Thanksgiving dinner at church my dessert was my pal Chuck Taggart’s amazing Pork ‘n Pork ‘n Pork ‘n Beans. It was just that decadent. (Chuck, God bless you and your Aunt Faye with the recipe!) This dish represented servings #2, 3 and 4 of pork for me that day. Yes, I dodged the turkey and fell face-down on the ham straightaway.
It was a lush and satisfying meal, replete with the variety flavors, colors and textures that make me happy as a clam. (mmm, clams…) If this aversion to turkey makes me a Thanksgiving Grinch, I’m sure there are others of my kind out there. And to all of you I say,
The Rockwell image comes from http://blogs.houstonpress.com, although I’m sure they pinched it from someone else, too.