“What a shocking fraud the turkey is. In life, preposterous, insulting — that foolish noise they make. In death, unpalatable — practically no taste except a dry fibrous flavour reminiscent of a mixture of warmed up plaster-of-paris and horsehair. The texture is like wet sawdust and the whole vast feathered swindle has the piquancy of a boiled mattress.” (William Connor, The Daily Mirror, 1953)
I ate turkey last night. I have to say, Mr Connor, it tasted nothing like mattress (though I confess I’ve not eaten one, boiled or otherwise). It was, in fact, delicious — due in large part to the expertise of the cook. An Arizona native and seasoned celebrator of the American Thanksgiving, my friend did her turkey proud. The gravy, the stuffing, the cranberry dressing … it was all delightful.
Apparently the wild turkey is native to North America, though its Mexican cousin has proved more adaptable to domestication. The imported turkey began appearing on European tables as far back as the 16th century. In France, Queen Marguerite of Navarre is known to have raised turkeys at Alencon while 66 turkeys were served at a feast for Catherine de’ Medici in 1549. Following trend, the majestic turkey soon became the choice for English Christmas fare. Astute local farmers began breeding them for profit. From August each year, great numbers were driven to London on foot from as far afield as Suffolk and Norfolk.
That said, the poor turkey never adapted well to the cold and damp of this new home. It is said the two English breeds that developed, the Norfolk Black and the Cambridge Bronze, have never quite matched their ancestors. Perhaps, in truth, Mr Connor’s displeasure with the bird has been long reciprocated.
Sir William Connor (1909 – 1967) was a columnist with The Daily Mirror (UK) who wrote under the pseudonym of ‘Cassandra’.