There is the Christmas goose and the Christmas roast and even in some countries the Christmas fish, but for Thanksgiving, pride of platter is always held by the turkey.
In "Of Plymouth Plantation," Gov. William Bradford wrote of that first Thanksgiving in 1621 that there was a "great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many." And another colonist, Edward Winslow, wrote to a friend in England describing that first feast:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after more special manner rejoice together after we had: gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week. At this time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us and amongst the rest of their greatest king, Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted."
Though everyone over the age of 4 can tell whether he prefers white meat or dark, that may be as close as most people get to talking turkey. Hence, a brief introduction to Thursday's honored guest.
He (for usually it is the larger tom turkey we serve forth) is American, though he had to go to England to get his name. He had already been domesticated in Mexico when the Spanish found him there in 1518 and took him back to Europe. From there he quickly found his way to England. It must have been a year when one food novelty jostled out another, for it led the Baker "Chronicles" to exclaim:
"Turkeys, Carps, Hoppes, Piccarell, and Beer
Come into England all in one year."
The English took one look at the new arrival and decided that it resembled the guinea fowl, which they miscalled a turkey cock on the assumption that its place of origin was Turkey, not Africa. They called the new bird a turkey, too. (They later did the same with carpets, so perhaps they were simply fond of the country.)
With the bird named, the colonists loaded him on a boat and shipped him back to America, where his wilder siblings were already beginning to learn that fall is no time to be a turkey.
Wild and domestic alike were given a share in the new name and, if you are low on things to be thankful for, there is always the fact that on Thursday, you do not have to stand in a doorway and announce that Meleagris gallopavo is on the table, all ready to be carved.