Joe DiMaggio enjoys his Thanksgiving dinner in New York. Nov. 27, 1947.
There you are, gathered with relatives ‘round the Thanksgiving table. Your spouse is carving up the bird, the kids are fidgeting in their dress clothes, your workaholic brother-in-law is glued to his iPhone, Uncle Jimmy is deep into the good scotch, and your mom is chattering on about how she hopes the stuffing didn’t dry out while she was helping your sister make the gravy.
Then it happens. Someone mentions President Obama. Or taxes. Or Rush Limbaugh. Or voter suppression. And suddenly, your dad is ranting about socialism while Aunt Myrtle lectures your sister about the ho-mo-sex-ual agenda. Your brother-in-law stops texting long enough to make some crack about pro-rape Republicans, which sends Uncle Jimmy lunging for the carving knife.
“This is my first time singing into a turkey leg,” says Westbrook, the 12-year-old singer of “It’s Thanksgiving.” “I’d never seen anyone do it, but I guess it’s just like singing into your hairbrush … but with a turkey leg.”
[Yup. We interviewed the singer and producer of the risible holiday anthem ‘It’s Thanksgiving,’ which, mmhmmmm, was made by the guy who brought you ‘Friday.’]
That’s Compton-born rapper Coolio, speaking to nwk tumblr Jess Bennett in a 2009 interview, during a press tour for his then-new cookbook, Cookin’ With Coolio. Bonus fact: The book has a section called “Appetizers for That Ass.” brb going to Amazon.
Until about the middle of the last century, most of the turkeys eaten on Thanksgiving would have been what we now call “heritage breeds,” including the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, White Holland, Naragansett, and Jersey Buff varieties. These turkeys are gorgeous, hardy creatures, developed in Europe and America over hundreds of years and rich in flavor. Though they are the ancestors to the Broad-Breasted White, a sort of made-up breed that arose in the 1960s with the advent of industrial turkey farms (the Broad-Breasted Bronze was mostly abandoned because its dark pinfeathers put off consumers), they bear little resemblance to that now ubiquitous bird in taste or texture.
Today more than 99 percent of turkeys sold in America come from the roughly 270 million raised on factory farms each year. These birds are bred to be so literally broad-breasted that by the time they are 8 weeks old, they are too fat to walk, much less procreate—every Broad-Breasted White on the market is the product of artificial insemination. They are kept in giant barns, given antibiotics to prevent disease, and fed constantly so that they reach maturity in almost half the time it takes a heritage turkey. The result is bland, mushy meat that we have come to equate with tenderness, but in reality processors inject the dressed birds with saline solutions and vegetable oils to improve “mouth feel” and keep the oversize breasts from drying out.
Julia Reed’s history of the Thanksgiving turkey is like a fine meal.