Home / Opinion / Op-Ed / As a leftover, turkey ranks atop the pecking order

As a leftover, turkey ranks atop the pecking order

Of course I understand there are at least two sides to every story. Doesn’t everybody? But it never occurred to me that there was a negative view of what I considered a wildly popular topic. The topic is leftovers, the remains of the dinner that made its debut last night and then is warmed over and reappears tomorrow or the next day.
I’ve always believed leftovers were a bonus, a positive aspect of dining at home. So you can imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that a man I know won’t eat any leftover food, whatever it may be. At his house there is no debate. He rejects the concept of leftovers, whether the article in question is a main course or a dessert.
He doesn’t discuss it or apologize for his policy. He has been happily married for years and sometimes assists in the shopping and the preparation of food. His wife apparently became accustomed to that pattern years ago and has adjusted to it. When they shop they are careful to buy precise quantities, amounts that they have discovered will provide them enough for just one meal. If they should miscalculate, the wife accepts the responsibility for consuming the remains.
"He just doesn’t like leftovers and never has," she once explained when the topic was being discussed by a small group. "I think it goes back to his childhood. Is there anything wrong with that?"
Wrong? No, there is nothing wrong, but he certainly belongs to a group we can describe as exceptions to the rule. I’ve found that I often enjoy the leftovers even more than the initial serving. I think it is fair to conclude that turkey is the most reliable source of leftovers, surpassing beef, ham, macaroni and cheese, or any other comestible. The mention of turkey is timely because today and Saturday many readers will be confronted with the leftovers from Thanksgiving. That not only entails the turkey, but the stuffing, the squash, the casseroles and the other side dishes.
Turkey probably provides more leftover meals for a longer period than any other single food item. We now are into the season when turkey gets top billing, that festive period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. For days following those holidays, families are still enjoying the remnants of their turkey in one form or another. Foodies tell me that turkey is one of the most American of dishes since the wild turkey, Meleagris gallopa, is native to North America.
That was a wild turkey. The ones that elude hunters are survivors. The domesticated birds like the ones most of us are familiar with are not survivors. They are victims. Until a few years ago, turkey had just one big season, October through December. Now turkey takes many forms, with sales year-round.
In the United States, we consider turkey to be one of the most American dishes, but there is an international aspect to the bird. History tells us it was introduced to Europe in the early 16th century, imported by Spaniards via Turkey. When I was in Turkey a few years ago, I wondered how the Turks prepared the fowl since there are new recipes presented each year. I asked our guide, a well-informed man named Orhan. He had no idea what I was talking about; he had never heard of a bird named turkey.
I later learned from the Turkish Cultural Center that in Turkey the turkey is known as "hindi" and is a highly esteemed dish, either freshly roasted or in subsequent appearances. My own experience with leftovers has been positive, but I have never been regarded as a fussy eater.

Dick Hirsch is a longtime contributor to the Opinion page.

11/28/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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