And I don’t mean the country with Istanbul, in it. Which has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Namely:

Christmas Birds

Food historians tell us that the practice of serving large, stuffed fowl as the center-piece of a Christmas meal was borrowed from earlier cultural traditions. Roast swan, pheasant, peacock, or goose was often used.

The larger the bird, the more festive the occasion.

Big Bird

The domesticated turkey is a large poultry bird. It is descended from the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), found in the area bounded by the present-day Mexican states of Jalisco, Guerrero, and Vera Cruz.

Ancient Mesoamericans used the meat and eggs as major sources of protein, and the feathers for decorative purposes. The Aztecs associated the turkey with their trickster deity, Tezcatlipoca – possibly due to its unique appearance and mannerisms.

Funny-looking critters, aren't they?

Most domesticated turkeys are bred to have white feathers, because their pin feathers are less visible, when the carcass is dressed. Brown or bronze-feathered varieties are also raised.

The fleshy bump on top of the bird’s beak is called a snood, while the flesh underhanging its beak is the wattle.

The female bird is referred to as a hen, and the chick as a poult. In the United States, a male turkey is called a tom, while in Europe, it is known as a stag. The average lifespan of a domesticated turkey is ten years.

To Europe, And Beyond

The 16th-century English navigator William Strickland is believed to have acquired six turkey birds from Native American traders, during his travels. Strickland brought them to England in 1526. He also adopted a family coat of arms showing a turkey cock as the family crest – one of the earliest known pictures of a turkey.

The birds were farmed, and began to increase in popularity. English farmer Thomas Tusser notes the turkey being among foods eaten at Christmas, in 1573. A document written in 1584 lists “turkies, male and female” among supplies to be shipped to future British colonies in the New World.

Domestic turkeys were taken to mainland Europe by the Spanish. Many breeds were developed in Europe, like the Spanish Black Royal Palm.

For many years, though, turkey only graced the kitchens and tables of the rich – in England, at least. The goose still held pride of place at Christmas, well into the 19th century.

Today, the majority of families in Britain will enjoy a turkey, with their Christmas meal. And turkeys are traditionally eaten as the main course of Christmas feasts, in much of the world.

Eaten, How?

The basic technique is to wash the bird, then stuff its internal body cavity with a savory mix that may include spices, herbs, nuts, ground or processed meats (like sausage), and fruit. The turkey is then roasted in an oven for several hours, until its skin turns golden brown.

Once cooked, the bird is served with a selection of vegetables, sauces, and other adornments.

Sounds dry and technical, right? The meat, too, probably.

Okay. How about these variants?

In Wales, leek and onion sauce may accompany the turkey. Leeks (a plant related to the onion), onion, cloves, breadcrumbs, milk, nutmeg, and bay leaves are blended to create a thick and creamy sauce.

From Scotland come rich tatties and neeps – a traditional dish made with mashed potatoes, Swede (a kind of turnip), carrots, onion, and butter, garnished with cloves and black pepper.

Ireland offers us turkey with a whiskey glaze. Whiskey and honey are blended with a dash of orange juice to give a tasty sauce that you can spoon or brush all over the skin of the bird.

Christmas turkey, British-style

Hungry, now? Good; so am I.

I’ll see you, in a few.

But, Rudolph’s on his way. So, keep it here.

Peace.

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