It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and as we gather together with wonderful cheer, I see something awful at the table as I draw near. It’s something so bland and dry that it fills me with fear, and just the thought of its depressing flavorlessness summons a tear. I look at the other food with joy and love, and knowing I’ll at least have something to get my fill of. Because you see, the main course is so dreadful it hurts me, and all the sides full of flavor can’t make up for the turkey.
Thanksgiving and Christmas: two of the biggest holidays in the US where families gather and celebrate with a feast. Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s warm, cozy, and full of wonderful joy and amazing flavors like peppermint chocolate and eggnog. Then, on Christmas day, I get to enjoy the beautiful splendor that is Christmas dessert: pies, haystacks, cakes, and those amazingly underrated little peanut butter cookies with the Hershey’s kiss in the middle (personal favorite). But in the middle of both dessert times, there is the main feast, and usually that feast is centered around the bird: turkey. On this beautiful, wonderful, amazing, heartwarming holiday with family, we eat the blandest, dryest, most boring food in the world. Turkey is like the white bread of birds, the Adam Sandler of fowl, the Dallas Cowboys of holiday food, the Jason Statham of dishes; you know it’ll always be there to perform, but it’s not going to be anything special. It’s just…there. Like opening up Netflix and saying, “Oh, another Adam Sandler movie. Is that new, or are they just advertising it again?” And then you inevitably talk yourself into watching it because for some reason you think it’ll be comparable to Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore, and instead you get The Cobbler. Yikes.
So why… WHY do we settle for this bland bird? I know people will argue with me about this saying things like, “Oh you just haven’t had it cooked the right way!” or “You haven’t had it how my family cooks it” And they’re absolutely correct, I haven’t had it cooked the right way because there isn’t a right way to cook a turkey and make it less bad because that’s borderline impossible. I’ve been eating turkey for 27 years; I’ve had it almost every way that you can cook it, and I’ve even had turducken, which is far more enjoyable to say than it is to eat. I also haven’t had it how their family cooks it because, well, I’m with my family and eating it the way they cook it. But I’ll even cut it some slack here: fried turkey is good… enough. It’s not amazing; it’s just good. There, the best turkey I’ve ever had was just good. You know what’s better than good turkey? Okay chicken, decent brisket, meh gumbo, and even 5/10 jambalaya. Heck, I’d even take chicken strips over good turkey.
And I think many of you feel the same way, even if you’re scared to admit it like it’s akin to telling your child you’ve been lying to them about Santa for their entire life. I know this because, throughout my years of quietly hating turkey, I have observed something interesting about everyone’s holiday plates: there’s not much turkey on there. When there is, that person has inevitably piled an equal amount of cranberry sauce onto their plate because the TURKEY IS SO DRY THAT IT NEEDS A SAUCE TO MAKE IT PALATABLE. What I see on everyone’s plate instead of a lot of turkey is a ton of amazing sides because they are always more reliable than the turkey itself. Think about that next time you’re at a meal with turkey and you’re getting excited over the ham, the mac ‘n cheese, the green bean casserole, and the sweet potato casserole more so than the “main course.” Are you really excited for the turkey? Or excited for what it brings? Like when payday falls on a Monday: I’m not excited for a Monday, but I know I’m happy for what’s coming.
Additionally, turkey is such a pain to prepare and cook. It can take anywhere from 3-5 days just to thaw a turkey. DAYS! Then, let’s say you have a small 8-12 pound turkey: after 5 days of thawing it, you then have to cook it for up to 3 hours. So after 5 days and 3 hours of preparation, you get a wonderfully bland and dry course of disappointment for all to pretend to enjoy. You know how many chickens you can cook in that time? 70. It takes approximately 123hrs to prepare a turkey and only 1hr and 40mins to prepare a baked chicken. Why do we put ourselves through so much for mediocrity when we could do so much less work for so much better? And it is allowed: you can have Thanksgiving without turkey. I know it’s a radical idea, but I’ve seen it in action. After a wonderful Cajun Thanksgiving feast with some of my in-laws, I convinced my grandma to cut the turkey from the meal altogether and just make food we enjoy. She did, and it was wonderful. We had gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, and whatever else we wanted. What a wild concept: eating your favorite foods on a joyful day of celebration rather than settling for some bland meal because it’s tradition.
But go ahead, eat all the turkey you want. In fact, please eat all of it so there’s none left for my family gatherings. But don’t feel like you have to, and please stop lying to me about how amazing it is. It’s not. There’s better options. We don’t have to settle for mediocrity, and we shouldn’t during the most wonderful time of year.