It's Thanksgiving again, that festive turkey time when both fowl and family are known to get stuffed.
But there's more to the turkey than meets the eye, or the taste buds.
There is boned turkey, which is really Belgian hare, and Cape Cod turkey which is really fish.
There is Wild Turkey whiskey, after drinking too much of which a person may vow to go cold turkey.
F. Scott Fitzgerald introdued the turkey cocktail ("To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of angostura bitters, Shake"). Benjamin Franklin had high hopes that the turkey rather than the eagle, would be named the national bird. (His preference may have had something to do with the patriotic nature of wild turkeys -- when they are provoked the caruncles around their throats are said to swell to shades of red, white, and blue.)
There are staged turkeys, as in Broadway flops, and human turkeys, as in "You turkey!"
There are turkey vultures, which are blackish brown, wrinkly-headed buzzards, and turkey gnats, which are small black flies that bug turkeys and other poultry.
There is also a turkeyfoot, which is not half of a turkey's foot (they're called spurs) but a kind of grass.
You can make someone walk turkey by grabbing him by the collar and by the seat of his pants and forcing him to walk on his toes. And you can ask someone to dance to Tyrkey in the Straw , a tune that was Irish and then and early minstrel show stopper call Zip Coon before it made it to the square-dance circiut.
You can plant a turkey oak, eat a turkey fig and drink turkey coffee, none of which looks or tastes like turkey.
Some people can bowl turkeys -- three successive strikes. And of course, people go to turkey shoots, at which they may or may not shoot at turkeys.
Male turkeys are called toms, gobblers or turkey cocks, and remale turkeys are called hens. Baby turkeys are not called turkettes. They are called poults.
Every once in a while people talk turkey, which means they get down to brass tacks. This expression can reputedly be traced back to the early American days when Indians wanted to swap goods but colonists wanted only to talk turkey, a meat they hadn't met before.
To really talk turkey, though, requires a fluency in turkey trivia, such little known but fascinating facts as the following: OPTIONAL ORIGINS
There are various stories about how the turkey got his name. One version .Facts, From L1> is that an Indian tribe called the bird a "firke" and the word eventually translated into turkey.
Another story says that when the peacock, a relative of the turkey, was imported to Europe from India it was called by its Asian name, "togei." When the settlers landed they thought the bird they saw was the toegi. Over time toegi became tukki and tukki became turkey.
Yet another beginning could have been that the name turkey comes from the bird's vocabulary, which included such words as "tuck," tuckuh" and "kee-kee." In fact, a "gobble, gobble" may not be a highly popular phrase in turkey circles.
But what does it matter? a rose is a rose is a rose. And one man's togei is another man's turkey. FIRST FEAST
The first turkey day was held in, Plymouth, Mass., in 1621. Actually, it was a three-day feast and, some say, turkey may not have been on the menu. Most likely they didn't have pumpkin pie either.
The first feast was proclaimed by Gov. Willian Bradford in thanksgiving for an abundant fall harvest. But Thanksgiving didn't become an offically annually and nationally celebrated holiday until almost 200 years later.
The Pilgrims deserve some praise but it was really the 36-year effort of journalist Sarah Josepha Hale that prompted President Lincoln to declare the national celebration for the last Thursday in November 1863. Each year thereafter each president proclaimed the feast until Congress put it on the continuous calendar in 1941.
The turkey industry breathed a big sigh of relief that year. TURKEY TYPES
There were four or five varieties of turkeys in America around the time of the first Thanksgiving. Historians differ reguarding the number of these turkey types but they agree about their abundance. Wild turkeys were so plentiful that it was not uncommon to awaken to a chorus of gobblers in the backyard and hunters reported killing 30 turkeys in one day. Today the wild bird are much less boutiful. The breeders have taken over the holiday bird business.
For everyday purposes it is easier to classify turkeys into two categories: stupid and smart.
Wild turkeys are said to be the smart ones, at least according to outwitted hunters. These tricky turkeys have supposedly developed a sixth survival sene. They've learned to flatten themselves against the ground and to hide behind trees to confuse their potential captors. Their hearing is keen and their vision acute. The turkeys are so foxy that during one one Wisconsin season 1,100 hunters picked off only 18 birds.
Turkeys bred on farms, however, are apparently not as knowledgeable. They are so nervous and jittery that they sometimes have to be tranquilized. They are also very susceptible to moisture, and like some humans, have to be told to come in out of the rain. BIG BIRDS
The heaftiest live turkey tipped the scales at 75 pounds, according to the 1980 Guiness Book of World Records. That was in 1973, the same year that claims the heaviest chicken, named "Weirdo." Weirdo weighed in at 22 pounds, but he may be as famous for his ferociousness as for his figure: he reportedly killed two cats, maimed a dog and murdered his 18-pound son. How'd you like that chicken to come home to roost? HIGH FINANCE FOWL
The higest price ever paid for a turkey was $2,600. The 72-pound stag was purchased by the Thornhiill Poultry Packers of England on Dec. 8, 1978.
The previous premier gobbler, 71-pound 12-ounce "Mr. Chuckie IV" commanded $2,000 at a 1977 auction.
Historically, the best bird bargains were during the poultry-prolific colonial days when turkeys were marked down to 6 cents apiece.
Rumor has it that the turkey trot may have also originated around that time.
Turkeys are generally homebodies.They don't migrate and they get along fairly well together (with only occasional occurrences of cannibalism, stampeding and smothering) except during mating season when, like Clark Kent they go from mild-mannered to macho and it is every turkey for himself.
When toms are courting they strut their stuff and call for the nearby hens to come to them. The impressed females oblige.
At times a liberated hen will make her desires known first and these assertive acts will insure the tom's interest.
In fact, wild turkey hunters often lure their game by "making notes like those of an amourous hen." According to author and hunter Charlie Elliot, "This sound will sometimes set a silent old tom's genes to percolating and motivate him to reply with a lusty gobble to tell his intended that he's in the mood to solve her problem and his."
The turned-on turkey is thereby bagged by the language of love. GOURMET GAME
Truffled turkey, turkey Florentine and turkey stroganoff. These are just a few of the culinary crafts endowed upon turkeys and turkey gobblers. Other highlights include turkey with grapefruit and cherries, turkey slumgillion and turkey mousse. hostesses to: "Seed a large prone turkey, being careful to remove the bones, flesh, fins, gravy, etc. Blow up with a bicycle pump. Mount in becoming style and hang in the front hall."
The most popular turkey delight is, however, the simple sandwich. Unfortunately, most people are too chicken to serve it for Thanksgiving dinner. BIRD BUYING
In his book, Fowl and Game Cookery, James Beard, a dean of cuisine, offers this turkey tip: Don't choose a bird too large for your oven. You can't roast a turkey with one end of it sticking out in the kitchen." You might end up cooking your goose. THE PLUCKY PICKER
The turkey plucking prize goes to Vincent Pilkington who did in and defrocked 100 turkeys in 9 hours and 26 minutes. Which goes to show that a bird in hand is worth writing about. BIRD BOOKS
Among the poultry primers are these two terrific titles: Turkey Hunting with Charlie Elliot: The Old Professor Tells All About America's Big-Game Bird; and Backyard PoultryRaising: The Chicken Growing, Egg Laying, Feather Plucking, Incubating, Caponizing, Finger Licking Handbook.
There are also at least two turkey magazines, Turkey Call, "an educational publication for the wild turkey enthusiast," and Turkey World, a periodical for turkey producers, processors and marketers. And if you want more information there is the National Turkey Federation in Reston, Va.
All of these sources wll tell you more than you ever wanted to know -- and more than you could ever politely ask -- about turkeys. FOWL FUNNIES
Unlike elephants, turkeys have never been big as jocular subjects. Nonetheless, here are two turkey tales to tickle your drumstick:
Former Secretary of State William Maxwell Evarts once began an after-Thanksgiving-dinner speech by saying: "You have been giving your attention to a turkey stuffed with sage; you are now to consider a sage stuffed with turkey."
Q.Why did the turkey cross the highway?
A.To lay it on the line.
And that, as they say, is turkey talk.