Monday, November 19, 2012

The Sacrificial Turkey

Thanksgiving is such a pagan fete, it really is. Centered around the sacrifice of a very particular animal - the humble turkey - which we then brine-roast-fry-steam-spatchcock or whatever, we gather with large groups of family and friends, and feast on the sacrifice. It's a ritual of abundance, a harvest feast identical to the ancient feasts of pre-civilized times. Or ... wait ... are we civilized? You tell me.

When I worked for Whole Foods, Thanksgiving week was a nightmare for all of us engaged in stocking and ringing up the obscene amount of food that was purchased. It was the biggest week of the year for WF, so we did our best to rise to the occasion. Because I was in catering, my job during Thanksgiving week included long stints in the refrigerated trucks behind the store, stacked from roof to floor with freshly killed turkeys, sorting through them so as to provide the right sized turkey for each customer . Even worse than freezing my ass off in a truck full of dead turkeys was the job of carrying the turkeys to the counter where the customers picked them up. Turkeys are heavy and even in a bag, hard to gracefully handle. Even worse than that was working at the counter facing the customers who were frazzled and hence irritable. Those people, good lord. They complained if the turkey was half a pound too heavy for god's sake. We politely explained that there was no way to make a turkey gain only a certain number of pounds during its happy life frolicking on the free range. It took considerable self control to refrain from saying things we might later regret.

Everyone should work in retail for a couple of years, just to see. Good lord.

One year at Whole Foods, I learned to say "Kill them all," in every language spoken by the staff, which included Spanish, French, Woloff, Filipino and Nepalese. In so doing, I made it possible to say, to any fellow employee as needed, Kill them all in their native language. It never failed to lighten the mood.

It took years after I left Whole Foods to come into a place of balance about Thanksgiving. Last year I even hosted a party of six here at the chateau. I ordered a "heritage" (aka not bred to be so heavy in the breast that it can barely walk), free range turkey from Whole Foods. When I picked it up, I smiled broadly and was patient - just because. I learned that the common denominator among all Thanksgiving recipes is butter. It was fun.

This year my plans fell through due to a death in the family - not my family, the family who invited me. I'm left now to my own devices and feeling ironically sad that I won't take part in our national, over the top ritual of abundance. Poor little Reya. Can you hear the tiny violins playing?

I will roast a chicken, have a nice dinner. Earlier that day I have a date with Anna Karenina. Even when I was at Whole Foods, when I detested Thanksgiving, it was a day of abundance. This year it will be much quieter. That's ok, right? 



Rubye Jack said...

Actually, the thought of a roasted chicken and a good book sound much better to me than an over-abundance of food and relatives who drink too much wine in order to tolerate each other.
Have a good one!

Reya Mellicker said...


The Bug said...

I agree with Rubye. Although my relatives won't be drinking wine (good Baptists, don't you know). And I do like to visit them, but I get sort of hyper & crazy in such a large gathering. I wish I could sit on a throne & grant each of them an audience so we could just have a little talk with each other one on one. Ha!

Pam said...

Yes - it is O.K.
I'd light a candle for all those turkeys - but then I'm a vegetarian.
I don't think I could handle any job where I was ordered around by the public and always try to be particularly pleasant to hospitality staff, nurses, and those in retail - they have my admiration for their patience and tolerance.
I'm sure you'll have a good day, which is more than can be said for the millions of turkeys!! Looking forward to hearing how you decide to spent it - you seem to have more celebrations in the U.S. than we do in Australia. Opportunities for more exciting ways to decorate the house!

Kerry said...

Everybody should work retail at some point and everybody should wait on tables at an insanely busy restaurant.

Coincidentally, our Thanksgiving meal plan is identical to yours. Plans fell through & we're on our own. I will toast you with a glass of Pinot Gris from across the country, how's that sound? :)

Maybe we'll go see a movie too. Anna Karenina does sound divine.

Reya Mellicker said...

I will toast you, too Kerry!

And the turkeys - and all of you.

Dana if you can find an excuse to run errands, that's always a great way to escape from the energy for awhile. And everyone is so appreciative! Ha.

Washington Cube said...

I keep forgetting you worked at WF. One nice thing (I know) about their free range turkeys. They come from a local well known turkey farm out in Maple Lawn, MD where you can also go and get your turkey direct:

One friend was talking to me about brining this past week, and I told her I had never explored that method, because the turkeys that I buy are so incredibly fresh, they've never needed any additional help.

I love the "kill them all" thing. When I pick up my WF turkey on Wednesday, I'll ask the guy if he knows how to do least he might laugh.

The Pollinatrix said...

I feel blessed that I actually like everyone who's coming to my house this year.

"Ritual of abundance" - yes. And it's all relative. I did not buy the 75 cent per pound turkey from the mainstream grocery store, even though that's more in line with my general food budget. Instead, I went to the organic food market (no WF in this small town) and bought my free range organic turkey today and was faced with the agonizing choice between the one for $2.79 a pound shipped in from California or the local one for $4.50 a pound. I'm sorry, but as much as I believe in supporting local farmers, I can't afford an 80 dollar turkey.

By the way, I actually CAN hear the tiny violins. They sound like something from Anna Karenina.