Monday, March 13, 2017
Gobble, gobble, the vocal turkey says.
Simple yet noble is the humble turkey. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin declared the bald eagle "lowly" in nature, while the turkey was more respectable. Columbus discovered this uniquely American bird on his 4th voyage to the Americas, and the Spanish brought them back from Mexico. They found they actually enjoyed eating them.
So why is an American bird named after a country in Eastern Europe? It seems that once Spain brought over these big birds they began to raise them on poultry farms far and wide. There was an odd but somewhat similar looking bird with white polka dots on its black feathers and flesh over its beak (called a "snood," if you're interested). It was called Guinea fowl, supposedly referring to a region of Africa.
There was also a bird called a Turkey cock, from the country of Turkey, of course. Somehow, the Turkey cock was brought to England and got confused with our American bird, which they then began calling "turkey".
Turkeys are funny looking and sociable beings amongst their own kind. The ruffled flesh (partly) around and below their throat is called a "wattle," and changes to red when the male "tom" turkeys are trying to attract turkey hens. But if they are afraid the wattle can actually turn blue!
Guinea fowl, who they've been confused with, are also good eating, I've been told, said to be low in fat and high in protein. And if you raise the guineas they are said to be guard dogs and keep trespassers out of your yard.
And this past Thanksgiving two really lucky white turkeys named Tater and Tot had their lives spared. They were pardoned by President Obama, then were transported to some property at Virginia Tech. Lucky birds!
I'll end this with a funny phrase I learned as a kid: Turkey slipped on Greece and broke some China. (Get it?)