Turkey: How to save it from disaster

Image copyright Oxford University Libraries Image caption Carol Ann Duffy, poet laureate, writes for the BBC about the edible fruit

Thanksgiving comes late in the year now, and along with the turkey comes the whole list of foodstuffs that we feast on every year.

While you might think they are one and the same, most of them do not follow the same chemical and cooking processes that produce something like a roast, and can cause potentially serious harm to our health.

They call for careful cooking, and a cold bag of turkey or a whole bird can contain anything from up to 40% fat, to nasty chemicals, to leftover crusty bread.

I have been putting this turkey preparation question to some of Britain’s top chefs for some months now, and they all have different reactions to the subject.

What I have found most interesting is that all agreed that if you want to ensure the most delicious roasted bird this year, always follow the same recipe you would for any turkey dinner, and most importantly, you need to eat it within 48 hours.

Meanwhile, I want to apologise to all of you who made it past that 48-hour limit and ate your turkey piecemeal instead.


Carol Ann Duffy


Image copyright Jonathan Swift Image caption Hardy Hardy celebrated in the manners and manners of the 16th Century

The world’s pre-eminent tamer of tabbouleh, butler, and recipe-maker Jonathan Swift would surely have acknowledged the ingenuity of people who serve up their perfectly cooked turkey as a dish you could eat straight from the oven, just as you could to make it with a joint of bacon.

In the second book of his Girl with a Pearl Earring, Dickens introduced us to a rather over-heated turkey warping with spices and evil spirits, which he tended to guess early on in the cookery.

To allay our fears that the cooking house might catch fire if we decided to try this ourselves, he even advised us to take our turkey outside to dry out and warm it.

During 18th-century America, elegant settlers in the colonies figured out how to preserve the bird for further eating, by flambéing it in a dousing of alcohol.

Since then, many homages have been made to the glory of the bonfire, and the turkey has become a symbol of that primal consumption.

The turkey is the symbolic “bird of Thanksgiving”, and represents that point in the year when even those who might not necessarily be grateful to be alive and free can come together to give thanks in the public sphere.

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