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THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO PREPARE A HOLIDAY BIRD

Thanksgiving 2004. We should all be thankful for turkey diversity. (Even if you can't say those two words five times in a row without stumbling all over yourself, diversity is out there.)

Assuming you're planning to cook or eat a big bird in some form Thursday, let us count the ways you can do it.

You can partake of a conventionally roasted bird. Fresh? Or frozen? One that is as pure as God made him, had the run of the farm and ate only organic grain?

Or one that has been injected with seasoned oil or brine somewhere along the way?

You can brine the bird to be really trendy. We never overlook a marketing opportunity in this country and a whole industry has grown up around brining turkey, with special bags and brine mixes readily available. Not to mention spruce branches. (See the story below about the dinner at the revered Inn in Little Washington, Va., and you'll see what I mean.)

You can deep fry the turkey. Firefighters may wring their hands but hundreds of hopefully cautious deep friers out there swear by the method.

You can wrap the whole thing in foil.

You can smoke a turkey for a very distinct taste.

And on the other end of the flavor scale, you can avail yourself of a takeout turkey dinner with white meat slices, white mashed potatoes and very pale floury gravy.

If you happen to be a vegetarian, you can enjoy tofu turkey.

If they were faced with this many options, the Pilgrims would be stunned.

Even side dishes can form the basis of discussion. Example: We all have outgrown the marshmallows in the sweet potatoes, haven't we?

Sure.

And then there is stuffing. Wow, is there ever debate in that department. Starting with the term itself. Is it "stuffing" or "dressing?" (This seems to depend on what part of the country you come from -- it's more likely to be dressing in the South.

The stuffing itself can be similarly varied. We all know about oysters, chestnuts, sausage and cornbread, but what about sweet potatoes? Apples and prunes? Sauerkraut? All viable alternatives that turn up in recipe books.

Then there is the eternal argument about whether to put the stuff in the bird or cook it alongside. This question will not be answered in our lifetimes.

One camp contends that stuffing cooked inside is more flavorful. Some people even think it makes the turkey more flavorful, as well. The other side says the inside path is not worth the trouble and can present a health hazard if not properly handled. (Not that just about any food can't be a health hazard if you don't use your head.)

For the ultimate stuffing idea, though, log onto www.whitecastle.com and find a recipe that calls for 10 you-know-what hamburgers. (Click on Fun, then Recipes and then Dinner.)

At least we haven't forgotten how to laugh.

My point: This is America and there's a perfect Thanksgiving dinner out there for most of us somewhere. (I wish I could say all of us, but I can't.)

So let us be properly grateful. Happy holiday.

And let us all have a wonderful day.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com