Turkey: Its history and how it became a “national” food in the USA



Benjamin Franklin liked turkey served with oyster sauce. The “first American”, as he was called for his struggles to establish the American nation, was so enthusiastic about eating turkey that he pioneered a new slaughter technique to make the flesh “Unusually tender.” He also “cultivated” a patriotic feeling for the bird itself. In a letter to his daughter in 1784, Franklin, one of the nation’s patriarchs depicted on the hundred-dollar bill, joked that the emblem of the new country should not be a bald eagle but a turkey, “a true original Native American. Or that he would not hesitate to attack a British colonial soldier. Many generations of Americans followed Franklin’s enthusiasm. More than 200 years later, a huge poultry dummy is watching the annual Thanksgiving parade in New York. Every year on that day, about 40 million turkey carcasses are eaten grilled, boiled with hundreds of variations of stuffing or even sauce. Few things look more American than this big bird. However, as its name suggests, turkey is cosmopolitan. Although the bird was native to America, it followed a circular route to become the official Thanksgiving meal. The history of the turkey as a sought-after food The Aztecs enjoyed turkey in layers over dog meat or cooked in sauce. Hernán Cortés, who the Aztec empire, was thrilled to see “chickens as big as peacocks” in the markets of Tenochtitlán. The homologous Spanish colonialists loved the taste of these strange birds, which were “incomparably better and more tender than those of the Spanish peacock,” according to Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés. So they sent them to Europe. Unlike potatoes and tomatoes, which took some time, this export from the New World was an immediate success. Until the mid-16th century there were turkey production facilities not only in Spain but in England, France, Italy and Scandinavia. European chefs experimented with colorful birds. In the most fancy cuisine the turkey was stuffed with oysters, plums, liver, truffles and chestnuts. In Renaissance Florence, Cosimo di Medici was very pleased with the appearance of the bird and commissioned them to make a sculpture of it. at the table some birds when they celebrated their first harvest and the locals brought deer. In 1612 the emperor Mugla ordered one of his subjects to go to a port on the west coast of India and buy a delicacy which he described as less than a peacock and which when it gets hot his throat looks like “he was adorned with red coral.” How he was called “turkey” Most people only knew it came from afar – and the first names were based on speculation about its origin. they called it dinde, a corpse of a dent bird or “chicken of India”. The English called it guinea fowl. These similar but much smaller birds had crossed into Europe from Africa. Some people believed that they were brought by traders from the Ottoman Empire (commonly referred to as Turkey) and named the birds “turkie hennes”. The demanding gourmets in Europe finally managed to find out where each bird came from and the smallest bird was named “franco”. But the word “turkey” had a prestige – the Ottoman Empire was a gateway to all kinds of exotic luxury goods from the East – and the larger bird was called the “turkey” turkey. century, ignoring the origin of the bird, they took the turkeys with them to America. Most of the turkeys eaten today come from these poultry – the wild turkey had almost disappeared from the continent by the end of the 19th century. The turkey took a little longer to settle in its place in the heart of American national myth. In the 19th century, a journalist, Sarah Hale, campaigned for National Thanksgiving, and in 1863, Abraham Lincoln made it a public holiday. What to Celebrate Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Day is a annual traditional holiday of North America and specifically of the USA and Canada, which opens the festive season that ends with Christmas and New Year. In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the 2nd Monday in October, while in the USA on the 4th Thursday in November – this is the most famous Thanksgiving date in the world. It started as a celebration in which the Creator is thanked for goods of the annual harvest and today, in addition to an opportunity for the whole family to gather around the table, it is also a celebration in which everyone is thankful for what they have gained over the years. In fact, dinner traditionally begins with everyone saying a word for which they are grateful and followed by a prayer, during which usually those sitting at the table hold hands. In fact, it has been established that the President of the USA every year “release” (from the slaughter) to a lucky turkey on Thanksgiving through a special ceremony, which is broadcast live. With information from the Economist.



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