The True History Of The Christmas Turkey Dinner

1225 words - 5 pages

Most people assume that the traditional turkey dinner began with the first Thanksgiving; but as it turns out, that story was manufactured in the late 1850s or early 1860s and has no basis in fact. The true Origins of the Christmas Turkey Dinner with All the Trimmings date to the Puritan period of the US colonies (circa 1630s) and a little known story first recounted by Ben Franklin. Legend has it that the American Indians, in an effort to discourage the white settlers from encroaching on their hunting grounds, told the settlers that only certain indigenous ground fowl were edible, among them the small wild quails, chickens and pheasants which ranged free in the wilderness around the early settlements. They were notoriously hard to catch, and much smaller than their contemporary descendents, so it took a lot of them to make a decent meal. The Indians figured the settlers would get so fed up with trying to catch the measly little things that they would pull up stakes and move elsewhere. The plan almost worked until a clever tanner named Barnabus Quigley devised a simple but effective snare. Essentially it was a leather bag with a drawstring set in a pit. When the bird fell into the bag, its own weight would cause the drawstring to cinch tight and keep the bird trapped. As it was a live trap, the settlers began to set aside some of their catch for breeding purposes. This established the first domesticated poultry farm in the colonies. One day, Quigley was checking his trap line when he came across a strange sight. A large, ugly bird with a bald head and a grotesque bag-like wattle hanging at its throat was caught in one of his snares. The bird was so large only its body was actually in the bag. Its head stuck out and was pecking wildly at the ground around the snare in its desperate attempts to free itself. Quigley had never seen such a bird before, but had heard the Indian legends of the tir-kee, meaning great bird with the poisonous bite. (He, of course, had no way of knowing that the Indians only made that story up to keep the settlers from eating their favourite game bird.) He approached what he took to be the dangerous bird and clubbed it with his walking staff. Not knowing what else to do with it, he took it home to his wife and flopped it across the table. "What am I to do with that?" she asked. "Prepare it for our supper," Quigley said. He secretly worried that the meat was as poisonous as the bite was reputed to be, but didn't share that concern with his wife. "I'll not eat that abomination," his wife protested, "for it is loathsome unto my sight and unwholesome food fit only for the devil." "Woman, you will prepare this foul fowl for our supper! You shall not question me!" Quigley's wife set to her task with a grim determination, convinced that the merest touch of the bird itself would send her into painful convulsions. She hauled it out of the leather sack, and tentatively plucked a...

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