AN ODE TO MR. MELEAGRIS GALLOPAVOS
Thanksgiving is coming. Can I be honest with you? I don’t like anything about the featured guest: Le Turkey. I don’t like cooking it. I don’t like the way it tastes. I don’t like the way its leftovers hang around forever. I don’t like the way the remains keep popping up for months on end in soups, casseroles, burgers, salads, tetrazzini, pot pies, and even tacos! However, I love Le Turkey’s sidekicks: gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes (no marshmallows, please), mashed potatoes, stuffing (oh my God, do I love me some stuffing!), pecan pie with tons of whipped cream. I can’t imagine celebrating T-Day without those hip-expanding yummies.
My hatred of the turkey goes deeper than the culinary, however. When I was four years old, my mother took me into a place where they sold nothing but live chickens and turkeys. The room was the size of a one-car garage, the floor was barely discernable beneath the dust and debris, and the birds’ squawking was deafening. The poultry was in wooden cages and they were stacked against all four walls from floor to ceiling with a spillover of cages forming a fowl island in the middle of the store. If you could survive the smell, the patrons would choose a live bird to be slaughtered on the spot, and it would be taken home to be plucked and cooked. On this particular day a turkey, who stood taller than me, escaped his habitat and proceeded to terrorize me by chasing me around and around and around the butcher shop while pecking at my head and chubby legs until it drew blood. My nightmares revisited that hellish scene of turkey-on-chubby-little-Black-girl-violence for years to come.
Recently, I told some vegan friends of mine about my hatred of turkeys and my history with that one bird, and they said, “Oh my God Woman, you have turkey bias! You’re a turkey bigot.”
“Not really. I simply believe that the only good turkey is a dead turkey, but it doesn’t mean I have to like eating them. You don’t eat turkeys.”
“We don’t eat turkeys because we respect the turkey. We don’t eat anything that has a mother. We are all one on God’s great Earth. If you make peace with his animal planet, peace will be yours in return. For Turkey’s sake, Girlfriend, you can’t judge an entire race of turkeys by one bad fowl encounter. You’ve got to get out and get to know a few turkeys—to know them is to love them. Find out who they truly are—not to eat them, but to become one with them. You’re a communicator. Go find some turkeys and interview them.”
Well, that is what I did. It was a tad difficult because it seems the turkeys are on the lam—trying to avoid execution this week. However, I found a rebel group leader (Mr. Meleagris Gallopavos) who agreed to be interviewed via email if I did not reveal his whereabouts. So, I sent him a truncated copy of the Proust Questionnaire (a parlor game from the late 1800s made popular by the essayist and novelist Marcel Proust) that is usually used to access the true nature of humans. I figured it should work just fine on a bunch of jive-time turkeys.
PROUST ?: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
TURKEY: Thanksgiving is abolished from the land, and ALL Americans become vegetarians.
PROUST ?: What is your greatest fear?
TURKEY: Celebration of Thanksgiving becomes a monthly holiday.
PROUST ?: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
TURKEY: That turkeys are such chicken-shits. We should have led a revolution against the eating of our kind as soon as we got wind of this whole Pilgrim/Indigenous People dinner party event back in the day. Nipped this T-Day sucker right in the bud.
PROUST ?: What is your current state of mind?
TURKEY: Shear panic! Every year approximately 45 million turkeys are eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. That’s 675 million pounds! You do the math: it’s only a matter of time before the butchers catch up with me and mine.
PROUST ?: On what occasion do you lie?
TURKEY: Whenever it suits me. I’ll throw a brother chicken into the oven in my place faster than you can say gobble-gobble.
PROUST ?: What living person do you most despise?
TURKEY: The Farmer in the Dell. He takes a wife, a child, a nurse, a cow, a dog, a cat, a mouse, and even some cheese, but he never once saves a turkey. He had the political power as a farmer to change the genocidal trajectory of the turkey, but he did nothing. Well, I say “Hi-ho, the derry-o” to his sorry-ass.
PROUST ?: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
TURKEY: Duh! “Gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble…”
PROUST ?: What or who is the greatest love of your life?
TURKEY: Oh Lord have mercy, my babies-mama! That chick heard my matting call from over a mile away and came running. She fell in love with my engorged snood, and the rest is history, Baby.
PROUST ?: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
TURKEY: Being butchered, feathers plucked, and roasted at 350 degrees for five hours. Not to mention being smothered in a brown sludge that humans call gravy.
PROUST ?: Which historical figure do you most identify with?
TURKEY: Benjamin Franklin. Supposedly, he proposed that the turkey become the national bird instead of the bald eagle. (Actually, that story is a myth, but whatever.) He never slandered the turkey at least, but he sure ripped the Bald Eagle a new one: “…the Bald Eagle…is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly…[he] is too lazy to fish for himself.” So there. Why isn’t the Bald Eagle the juicy choice of slaughter for Thanksgiving?
PROUST ?: What are your most marked characteristics?
TURKEY: My eyes. They can see three times better than humans and I can see in color. My strut. I can run at 25 MPH. My feathers. To date, I have 5, 500 feathers! I am truly marvelous!
PROUST ?: What do you value in your friends?
TURKEY: That we are birds of a feather who flock together. In the wild, we have been known to travel in groups of 200 or more.
PROUST ?: What is it that you most dislike?
TURKEY: That my name is blasphemously used, and I don’t deserve that shit. If something is a dud, it’s a “turkey.” If a Broadway show fails, it’s called a “turkey.” If a human suddenly stops doing drugs, it’s called going “cold turkey.” In the seventies, an entire TV character’s main form of getting a laugh was when he called someone a “jive-turkey”—meaning, a fool. George Jefferson “moved on up to the East Side with a deee-luxe apartment in the sky,” but he ruined my family’s life by using our name in vain.
PROUST ?: Finally, what is your motto?
TURKEY: TLM. Turkey Lives Matter!
Whatever you eat for Thanksgiving, it’s not the meal that matters as much as it is the gratitude of being together. I implore you to put aside the rancor, the resentment, past hurts, and old grievances. What matters are the hugs, the smiles, the hope, the love, and the joy shared over a meal—be it turkey or tofu. Let’s be thankful for each other because if the last two years have proven anything: we are not guaranteed a tomorrow.
Eleanor Tomczyk is an author and a satirist who is an award-winning voice-over performer. In 2011, she created the blog, “How the Hell Did I End Up Here” which features mostly satirical posts that have thousands of readers around the world—although she was recently banned in Pakistan (for real!). Tomczyk’s three books were featured in a recent book festival: “Monsters’ Throwdown,” “Fleeing Oz,” and “The Fetus Chronicles—Podcasts to my Miseducated Self.” Currently in her 70s and living life like it is freakin’ golden, she is a consummate storyteller and much sought-after motivational speaker. If you don’t believe me, just ask her!
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