Before, as a nation, we gorge ourselves on the flesh of 46 million turkeys or so this Thanksgiving — not to mention the incredible carnage inflicted upon this most unfortunate of fowl (unfortunate because it’s so darn delicious) come Christmastime — I’d like to take a look at the plight of the noble turkey.
For those vegetarians out there cringing at the very thought of the literal mountains worth of turkey being served up over the holiday season, I do sympathize. When I was an idealistic university student, I, too, was a vegetarian for a time (and even flirted with veganism for a while), although thanks to extensive travels and a weakening volition, I have long since returned to the carnivorous dark side.
But this article is about the turkey. As many of you undoubtedly know, this crafty bird was Benjamin Franklin’s first choice (over that lazy coward, the bald eagle) for our great seal. Yet despite championing the bird, the honored spot wasn’t meant to be. The turkey, which, according to Franklin, while “a little vain and silly,” was still “a bird of courage,” lost out to the much more attractive bald eagle.
Let’s be honest here. It’s really a beauty contest, when it comes down to it, as far as what we’ll eat in ridiculous quantities and what we’ll leave alone. Turkeys, while courageous, extremely cunning as far as their survival in the wild goes (not so in factory farms), and a whole lot brighter than most people give them credit for, are silly-looking animals. In other words, they’re all right to eat because they look stupid. For all we know, baby fur seals and koala bears are absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious — but they’re adorable, and save for the culinary perversions of poachers and the uber-rich, generally don’t make an appearance on our dinner plates.
So, when you sit down over a delectable turkey come the holidays and are giving thanks for the bounty you’re about to partake in, you might want to throw in a few words of gratitude to nature (or whatever deity you believe in) for making turkeys so incredibly goofy-looking. If they tasted the same on the inside, but outwardly resembled cuddly panda cubs or majestic falcons, digging into that extra piece of dark meat (for those of us who love all things cute) just wouldn’t be the same. Thank god turkeys are ugly.
Carl Pettit is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.