Using the whole turkey.

I try to keep a list of things I want to blog about. Sometimes they’re specific (“crazy chips from Big Lots”) and sometimes they’re more vague. Case in point, I’ve had “using the whole turkey” on my list since I came home from my mom’s house over Thanksgiving.

I had kinda forgotten where I intended to go with that idea when my husband sent me a link to Bill Buford’s article in this week’s New Yorker.

The article is mostly about cookbooks that emphasize using offal (the animal bits most of us have stopped eating) but this paragraph reminded me what I was going to write about (emphasis mine):

“Why is it considered entertainment when a predator kills another animal in a wild-life film, Fearnley-Whittingstall wonders, ‘whereas the final moments of human predation of our farmed livestock are considered too disturbing and shameful to be made available even for information.’ The reader understands the point. Meat comes from an animal–a banal connection that has been obscured by the way supermarkets prepare and present our food–and the animal has to be killed. If you fear the sight of a carcass, you shouldn’t be eating from it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was a fairly hard-core vegetarian (and sometime vegan) for many years — if anyone was going to be squeamish about the Thanksgiving turkey carcass, it seems like it should have been me, right?

But instead, it was my omnivorous mom and sister who were eew-ing and ugh-ing over the turkey remains.

Once the turkey had cooled, I washed my hands, rolled up my sleeves and pulled the remaining meat off the bones by hand. I picked everything off, save some few tenacious bits clinging to the bones. As I filled two containers with meat (so my mom could throw out the bones — something that almost made me cry), I remarked on how much meat there was left on this turkey, and my mom said she doesn’t usually bother to get all the meat off a turkey. (Then she compared me to my great-grandmother in way I don’t think she meant to be flattering, but I still decided to take it as such.)

The last straw was when I offered to show my sister the inside of the turkey’s body, where you can see how the ribs and spine meet. I think it’s neat. My sister got grossed out and let the room — and my mom scolded me!

Now, I don’t think my mother reads this, but I still certainly don’t mean to be down on her or my sister. I think the way a lot of American want their meat is really summed up by something my mom said: “I just want to buy meat that’s completely removed from wherever it came from.”

And I don’t get that.

The more I think about it, the more it strikes me… disrespectful. Not intentionally, of course, but still. If you’re going to eat an animal, then the least you can do is, well, eat it. All of it. Not just the white meat, not just the bits you don’t find offensive — as much of it as you can.

Just please don’t ask me to eat tripe again.

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9 thoughts on “Using the whole turkey.

  1. Normally I’d be right there with you, picking every last bit off the carcass, making stock with the bones, and ohhing and ahhing over how the beastie is put together.

    This year I couldn’t even stand to watch the bird get carved. I think it may have something to do with being pregnant and my aversion to all poultry and nearly all meat. :)

    Please tell me you didn’t let them throw out the bones though! You could have taken them home to make stock!

  2. Funnily enough, it was being pregnant that made me go back to eating meat. After a couple months of being completely averse to anything with protein, I came home from grocery store with a half-pound of roast beef… and ate it all within an hour.

    I did not rescue the carcass. My family thinks I’m bizarre enough as it is; I didn’t need to add to it by packing up turkey bones to drive home 5 hours.

  3. Asians know of whence you speak. We eat every part of the animal except the oink/moo/etc. One of my first meals when I went home this time was pig liver and kidney soup with noodles. My last family meal my mom cooked for me involved chicken, pig stomach, pig intestine and pepper soup. I love tripe (though not Chinese necessarily – the best tripe I’ve ever had was in Florence. *swoon* I still dream of it sometimes.)

    About my only line is pig ear. I’m not squeamish about it, but I ate about 3 bites and concluded that I didn’t need to eat the rest. It was crunchy (not my favourite meat texture), and hairy. I can do without eating pig hair, I think.

  4. Oh, and in case it wasn’t obvious from the comment — I’m on your side with this one, both wrt people getting over themselves, and with the respect issue. That’s exactly how I feel about it too.

    I still remember being horrified when a girl from Florida said to me at camp one year that she could never eat whole fish or chicken because it “looked like an animal”. She only ate fish fingers and, I assume, chicken nuggets.

  5. I’m right there with you. For me though, my reaction to needing to use everything is from a desire to stay away from pre-made soup bases etc that don’t have much in the way of natural stuff in them. Going back to basics is what our family has been doing lately. I have actually carted a turkey carcass on a 6 hour drive so I could go home and make stock. It takes me two days to make stock. :p For those of you who throw out the bones, consider taking them to your soup kitchen, they will use them gladly.

  6. “Funnily enough, it was being pregnant that made me go back to eating meat.”

    Same here: hardcore vegetarian, didn’t even eat Junior Mints because of the gelatin kind of vegetarian, but hot dogs and bacon were the only solid foods I could keep down. Now I buy whole chickens and cut them up myself and strip carcasses and make bone broths without compunction.

    Also with you on the no-tripe decree…just thinking about it brings up odor memories of my Nana’s kitchen, that Sunday morning menudo reek.

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