Talking Turkey

Damon Runyon

You can have my share of the turkey.

In my opinion it is the most overrated critter for eating purposes in kingdom come but the most striking example we have of the power of propaganda.

This has reached a point where all our citizens endeavor to eat turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas including members of tribes that cannot possibly have any natural gustatory affinity for the bird and probably think they are merely obeying some law of the land.

I am seizing upon this particular time to express myself on the subject of the turkey for the reason that there is such a shortage of the fowl that the turkey producers and dealers are selling all they can lay their hands on and therefore will not care what I say whereas in times when they find themselves with an over-plus they would scream that I was knocking their industry.

Nothing is farther from my mind. I just do not happen to care for turkey except as I shall explain later, and I think that our supposed national taste for turkey is the result of some intimidation. I mean our people who would rather be dead than out of fashion have been induced to believe that at certain seasons you either eat turkey or you are plumb out of style.

The newspapers and magazines publish pictures of the turkey as regularly as clockwork disclosing it as a beautiful and regal thing whereas it is rather homely, in my judgment, and they depict small boys apparently avidly devouring drumsticks or legs of the turkey, the most unpalatable segments of the fowl imaginable.

Just now the newspaper and magazine vogue in turkey pictures is of soldiers nibbling at turkey meat with an implied relish that I can scarcely reconcile with what I hear of Army cooking especially when it is common knowledge that few restaurant chefs have ever been able to cope with the turkey and that the only place where it is ever properly prepared is the American home. Or rather some of them.

Little children who do not get turkey on holiday occasions are made to feel less fortunate than millions of others of their kind and are apt to be most unhappy about the matter and I am always regretful that I cannot go among them and cheer them with the assurance that they are really pretty lucky, especially if they have chicken or duckling or young goose as a substitute.

These fowl I hold above turkey gastronomically and as far as I am concerned it is also out-ranked as food by pheasant, grouse, quail or even squab except as I have suggested above under certain circumstances. I am thinking now of baby turkey which must be broiled to be of any account and which is properly cooked and served in only a few spots in the United States.

One of these is the famous Colony restaurant in New York City, an establishment infested largely by the Bong Tong, where broiled baby turkey may have originated as a regular item of restaurant cuisine.

I have heard that the late O. O. McIntyre who was a steady customer of the Colony was its first pronounced booster and mainly because of his fancy it was kept on the menu.

It is served at the Colony with a sauce composed of mustard and applesauce which may strike some of my readers as slightly bizarre but which I assure them is quite a thing. One other restaurant to my knowledge is making a special point of broiled baby turkey and that is Mike Romanoff’s in Beverly Hills though the introduction was attended by an unfortunate happenstance.

If seems that Joe Malatesta, the maître d’hôtel of the Romanoff premises approached a picture producer whose current offering was putting people to sleep and said: “A little baby turkey perhaps, sir?” Well, the producer thought Joe was being insulting and got up and excited in the highest dudgeon seen in Beverly Hills in many a day.