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Nov 27, 2001 01:24 AM

Real Turkey

  • b

Did anyone read the article on turkeys in last weeks NY Times? It talked about how tasteless modern turkeys are and that there is a movement to resurrect the turkeys of our American heritage. I think it's interesting how a whole industry has sprung up to compensate for the blandness of the "modern" turkey. Flavor injectors, pop-up timers, Butterball turkeys (cringe), and a host of brining methods and recipes. We don't even know what real turkey tastes like anymore....

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  1. Can't the same be said about chicken? And tomatoes? And eggs? And cheese? And orange juice? And just about every other mainstream ingredient and food product in this efficiency-minded world?

    13 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      At least for most of those items you have listed there are small farms, or other artisanally driven individuals, who have either kept, or rediscovered, the joy and taste in the way things used to be.

      I don't think you can find that with turkey, at least not unless you take your trusty shotgun out in the field and really do it the old fashioned, and probably entirely politically incorrect, way. And I am not even sure we have wild turkeys running around in the hills of Los Angeles. (Oh, don't get me wrong, we have plenty of native turkeys, they are just all in the Hills of Beverly getting their feathers redone).

      1. re: Mike Kilgore
        Shepherd b. Goode

        Happily, wild turkey seem to be one of those resilient breeds that adapts to the presence of humans well, given half-decent protection from greedy over-exploitation. See link below for amazing resurgence of the birds in my very urban hometown; as a kid, we saw pheasant and the occasional grouse, but never wild turkeys.

        Locally, I was amazed to see a big flock feeding on the grounds of the VA hospital in Livermore recently.


        1. re: Shepherd b. Goode

          Cool turkey link - I added it to the my collection of Turkey links. Interesting that commercial turkeys are reportedly so stupid that they drown in the rain, while the wild version is so intelligent they are an especially difficult challenge for the turkey hunter to bring down. Talk about a gap in the gene pool!


        2. re: Mike Kilgore
          Vital Information

          You know one of the wierdest things I've ever seen...

          About 3 years ago, on thanksgiving, we were getting onto lake shore drive (in chicago) on the way to our eating extravaganza. Well, what do we see on the corner--ok, let me place the scene a bit better. Lake Shore Drive is a multi-lane highway that runs along Chicago's lakeshore. For most of the drive, it is bordered on both sides by Chicago's Lincoln Park. Chicago's Chile shaped Central Park (only on chowhound would I have to add, the country, not the new world fruit). We were getting on the highway at Foster, at the northern end of the park. In a grassy knoll between the ramp and the highway was...

          A turkey. A turkey wandering around Chicago on thanksgiving. Could it have been some kind of hysteria? Well, Ms. VI saw it too? We guessed it was one of the "sparred" turkeys, perhaps pardoned by hizzoner, but we had no idea really how it got there.

          To this day, and probably every year at this time, I will think of that turkey taking in the sites along Chicago's lakefront.

          And for those out there thinking this, no, I had no desire to get a shotgun and bring a second bird to dinner.


          1. re: Vital Information

            VI, that would be something that wouldn't be an everyday occurance, for sure. While off the subject of turkey, it made me think of one of the oddest sights I have ever seen, or probably ever will see, in my lifetime, (and it's even sort of food related?).

            I was driving on the Ventura freeway out near Woodland Hills in the SFV in the summer of 1966 or '67. Suddenly traffic began to slow for some problem off on the shoulder. As I got up to the reason for the slowdown I see the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile fully engulfed in flames, with Little Oscar, (a little person dressed in a chefs whites and wearing a chefs hat) running back and forth watching the Weinermobile go up in flames.

            It was like something out of a John Waters movie. One of the reasons I love LA, weird life imitating weird art.

            1. re: Mike Kilgore
              Vital Information

              Great story. As I am reading it, I'm thinking, I've seen the weinermobile before on the highway, what's so unusual...thanks for the laugh!

            2. re: Vital Information

              Umm, have to ask, was this a wild or an overbred domesticated turkey?

              1. re: Janet Calvin
                Vital Information

                >Umm, have to ask, was this a wild or an overbred domesticated turkey?

                would you know by sight?

                1. re: Vital Information

                  Wild turkeys look like the turkeys we drew in school. Brown/black, with the fancy tail feathers. Wild turkeys are also able to fly.

                  Bred turkeys have an enormous breast and can have white brown or black feathers. Because of the size of the breast domesticated turkeys cannot fly.

                  Link below has info on wild turkeys with picture. Sorry, but I couldn't find a picture of a domesticated bird in my brief google search.


                  1. re: Janet Calvin

                    Here's a picture of a domestic turkey. Y'all can provide the caption.


              2. re: Vital Information

                Well, your story is much more humorous than mine, but during a stay last month at the Orchid at Mauna Lani, three wild turkeys would beg for food under the balconies. It got me to wondering where these had come from - I dont believe that turkeys are indigeneous to Hawaii, but I could be wrong. Either way, I couldnt see anybody taking a shotgun to them as they had very pretty markings. Seemed to be more like the hotels "guests in residence".

              3. re: Mike Kilgore

                Synchronicity! Yesterday I got the following message from a colleague who lives outside of Sacramento:

                "FYI, on Friday morning, the day after TG, there was a large flock of 32 wild turkeys up at my place in the foothills. They thrive up in oak country of the foothills and are part of the community.

                Wild turkeys aren't native to Calif. They were introduced here from Texas in the 60's & 70's and have really thrived here in the Oak foothills. They
                are now a popular resident game bird."

                So there's the scoop on wild turkeys in California!

              4. re: Jim Leff

                I haven't found fresh-squeezed OJ that different over the years (I've never tried any other "kind"); backyard and farmers' market tomatoes vary in deliciousness depending on many variables--we certainly have access to many more varieties in the SFBA and in other food-conscious areas than years ago.

                Unless one grew up with backyard or local equivalent chickens, eggs have probably never been that terrific from the grocery store (my first egg in Mexico years ago was a culinary highlight of my life!). When I was a kid, turkey tasted fishy. My mother thought I was nuts, but years later I read about the fish-meal feed that affected turkey flavor.

                Feed, climate, weather, soil, freshness, variety, and more influence flavor. Perhaps memory/nostalgia too.
                Some things just taste better when grown in certain geographical areas--like NJ and Long Island corn and tomatoes.(Though many farmers have switched to the less-flavorful supersweets back there, corn designed to be grown in inhospitable areas, not there where the conditions are ideal for the real McCoy.)

                Last night we ate some plain boiled (live) spot prawns at Great Eastern in SF Chinatown. I've had them there many times, but for whatever reason, these were textbook examples--sweet,ocean-y, firm but tender. Sometimes they're just plain blah.