Why I Will Never Buy An Heirloom Turkey Again

Note:  If you are sensitive about animals, squeamish about raw food, or easily offended, this post is probably not for you.

Second Note:  I tried to find some images to include with this post, but they were frankly all too grotesque.  I figured if I couldn’t stomach it, I wouldn’t make you try.

So the Thanksgiving party is usually at our house, and for me, a big part of the fun is cooking the feast.  Yes, I allow other people (my mom, my mother-in-law, any friend or family member who offers to do so) to bring some of the dishes.  What’s really fabulous is when they ask what they can bring — my response is typically to ask what their speciality or favorite is — and then they bring what they said they would so we don’t have duplicates of one thing and nothing of something else everyone was counting on.  We do a pretty traditional turkey meal with fairly traditional sides and a bevy of extraordinary desserts, including — you guessed it — traditional choices.  There are some things I just like to do in a nostalgic way because so much of the fun of the holidays includes the ritual of it all, passed down through the generations.

This year was a little different.  Because some of my guests were vegetarian and some kept kosher and some were lactose intolerant, I tried to do as many of the sides and desserts as I could vegan.  That was actually really fun!  I like to experiment in the kitchen and sometimes am even successful.  (Sometimes I am not.  We shall not go into detail about the disastrous fettuccine alfredo episode of 1993, not at this time.)  This time around I was able to cook with vegan versions of milk, cream, cheese, butter, and sour cream, and the food turned out splendidly.  The two exceptions were the cheese on top of my three corn casserole — which was sill delicious but whose topping was nothing like actual cheese — and the turkey.  And the turkey’s problem had nothing to do with the vegan butter alternative I was using to prepare it.

Now, I normally make a pretty darn good turkey, or it’s at least as good as a turkey can possibly be.  It’s not nearly my favorite type of meat, or even my favorite type of poultry.  When I prepare a whole turkey, which is only on Thanksgiving, it usually is moist and tender and flavorful and yummy.  I start with a fresh bird, then prepare it with a butter massage, and next soothe the herbs into it, taking care to tap into the Native American portion of my ethnicity by explaining to the turkey that I’m really, really grateful for its sacrifice.  Then I roast it in a bag with root vegetables.  Delectable-ish.

This year, though, I decided to get fancy.  I ordered, for the first time, a heritage turkey because the person taking my order at the Holiday Hotline at Central Market assured me the flavor was way better even than the organic turkey I normally get.  It was rather more expensive, too, but I wanted to get something that tasted incredible, so I did it.

Well, everything would have been fine, except that when I opened the turkey bag Thursday afternoon, a bizarre and unexpected sight met my disbelieving eyes.


That’s right:  small, wet, black tufts of feathers poking out of the skin and, from one wing, out of quills you could have dipped into an inkwell and written a letter with.  My turkey had not been fully plucked.

There’s a new wrinkle, I thought and called my husband into the kitchen.  When he appeared, clearly on his guard from the slightly shrill tone of my voice, I said, “Look at this turkey!”

He looked at the thing for a brief moment and said, “Well, that’s authentic.”

We set to work pulling the feathers out.  Some came easily, and some…let’s just say a vise grip and the phrase “get medieval on it” were used.  At one point my husband disappeared and then came back and set to work again, and when I looked over, my favorite and very stylish red tweezers were in his hand.

“Those are my nice tweezers, aren’t they,” I said.  It wasn’t a question.  There were plenty of ordinary tweezers he could have used, but of course these were better.

He gave me a look.  “They’re made of metal and can be washed.”  His tone added the admonition, Get over it.

I’m not squeamish about very many things.  Sure, I don’t particularly care for zombies, but raw food I can handle with no difficulty.  This, however, was a bit much.  Although I felt really colonial, the extra step cost us forty-five minutes.  During the process, I began to grow a little anxious from the tediousness of it all, and when it was done, I realized I’d forgotten to put the onions and carrots and potatoes and celery into the roasting bag.  So, unfortunately, the turkey ended up being on the dry side, too.

Ugh.  Nothing worse than dry turkey, except realizing it’s your fault.  I’m glad everything else was delicious.

Next year, I will go back to my usual turkey and cook it in my usual yummy way.

Or, I will make Cornish game hens instead.  We shall see.

14 thoughts on “Why I Will Never Buy An Heirloom Turkey Again

  1. Rilla

    Thanks for the warning. I am cooking the Christmas Eve turkey, and a heritage turkey sounds wonderful. But, I think I’ll just stick with the organic. Still, it’s always good to have a story to tell. And, you’re the only person I know who served a turkey which had it’s feathers plucked with tweezers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think I’m stuck on the fact that you prepared the bird with a vegan butter alternative. Why? No vegan is going to go anywhere near a turkey, no matter the mode of preparation. Might as well use real butter.


  3. Pingback: For Thanksgiving This Year… – Sappho's Torque

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