Talking Turkey With Delight

HAPPY EATER

December 04, 1991|By ROB KASPER

Here I sit all fattened up from Thanksgiving and spilling over with lots of stuff, some of it passing for wisdom.

I can hardly contain myself, especially in my old jeans. So I am compelled to show off what I recently picked up at the dinner table.

First of all, I have determined that a good indicator of when to stop eating turkey is when the gravy runs out. This cut-off point may fall after the turkey-sandwich sessions, or even after the turkey tetrazzini supper. But once the gravy is gone, about the only members of the household still genuinely willing to attack the carcass are the pets.

Second, thanks to technology, the follow-up eating sessions have gotten better. The microwave oven is not a very satisfying way to cook food, but it does a bang-up job of revitalizing a gravy-drenched turkey sandwich.

Third, a true test of good pie is whether it makes it past breakfast on the day following the feast. I polished off the last piece of pumpkin pie at about 10 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving. My wife and her sister had already had their breakfast hunks of mince pie. And as I savored the last bite of pumpkin pie, our 10-year-old arrived in the kitchen and complained that he had been wronged. The last piece of pumpkin pie, he said, belonged to him.

I took him aside and tried to dispense a bit of fatherly advice, that in our household it is the early bird who gets the pie.

The kid was not satisfied with this nugget of wisdom; he wanted some pie. Indeed, this kid has a high pie awareness.

The day before, as he sat at the Thanksgiving table next to his buddy Jonathan, my kid made a point of complimenting the pie maker, Jonathan's mom. This caught my attention because as a veteran dessert eater I know there is no better way to ensure yourself of getting a second helping than complimenting the baker. And before I could get my compliment out of my mouth, my oldest had piped up, praising the "terrific crust" of the pie. This kid could be competition.

Fourth, deboning the thigh is great fun. The technique of cutting the legs off the raw bird, then removing the thigh bone and filling the cavity with dressing not only makes turkey legs look appealing, it is also a kick. It makes you feel like a contributing member of culinary society. And it takes a whole lot less time than trying to cook the bird on a barbecue grill.

Fifth, one of the sweetest smells on earth is that of a turkey cooking in the oven. And one of the sweetest tastes on earth is that of a turkey morsel hot from the oven. As I stood in my kitchen, picking skin from the steaming bird, I was quickly joined by others.

The pie maker sauntered over for a bite of bird, as did the cooks, my wife and her sister. A tribe of children, numbering six, were drawn by the aroma and were given a few bites to "hold them until we sit down."

And as we all stood in the kitchen glorying in the bird, I thought of the errant editorial I had read that morning in the New York Times. In an attempt to be lively and with-it, the editorial writer had said that turkey had no flavor. Turkey was compared to a dull uncle who appeared at family feasts more out of a sense of obligation than of merit.

Nibbling on the bird and curling my toes with delight, I considered what I would say to the person who had mounted this attack on turkey.

I would avoid the mention of dullness. It is an area of legendary expertise for many editorial writers.

Instead I would suggest that the editorial writer choose more nebulous topics.

"Stick to writing about banking reform," I would tell the writer. "Banking reform is not something readers can try at home and prove you wrong."

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