Our traditional American Christmas Dinner is centered around a turkey or ham, right?
My maiden name is Carver, so of course at times someone would make the joke about carving the turkey, Mr. Carver. Or some other stale crack! When I was very young we had many Christmas dinners at my Grandpa Carver's home, and he would carve the turkey at the table. This is something I have never learned to do well...my husband's family always carves, slices, pieces up the turkey before the whole group comes together to eat and we do not get to see the big bird all in one piece on the table. I remember one year back in my childhood someone provided a duck for the dinner. That was a novelty in our non-hunting family! The meat was all dark and there was so much fat cooked out in the bottom of the pan! That was the first time I heard the phrase "tasting game-y". Or was it? How could a duck taste game-y? I must be getting confused.
One thing my family always enjoyed at this special dinner was Brown-n-Serve rolls. For their 25th wedding anniversary, my father gave my mother a silver-plated swan-shaped electric bread warmer that us children loved to see on the table. She kept it in a special cloth to keep the tarnishing down...it is awful hard to polish if it gets neglected too long. It is very intricate. I suppose I will get to inherit it?
Back to the turkey...You know in the old stories we read about Christmas feasts, they always seem to mention a goose. "Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat..." and in A Christmas Carol, "There never was such a goose." The old Hans Christian Anderson story, The Little Match Girl, mentions the "splendid roast goose on the table". Have you ever had roast goose? What about the Victorian meal of roast swan? This is really hard for us to imagine today. When we lived in Ringwood, we did raise swans, Black Austrailians, Mutes, and Trumpeters. We had an incubator and everything.
This is a picture of our pond with two trumpeters...When we moved here to Oklahoma City we brought them to a secluded gated community that was built around a little pond, named Hidden Valley. (The sheriff lived there and gave us permission.) Sometime later we went to check on them and SOMEONE had removed them to we know not where. One neighbor told us they were too territorial and would chase anyone walking around the pond. The sheriff did not find out who had taken them...these are very expensive birds, a mature bird is worth one thousand dollars, so it was quite a loss for us. Once when one of our swans died we joked about eating it- what an expensive meal! We did NOT eat it...
I found an interesting passage in a Christmas book today about Christmas Turkey in Scotland. "The focal point of the traditional sumptuous meal on Christmas Day in England and Scotland is the turkey. Although the bird is called "turkey", it originally came from Mexico, not Turkey. However, it was Levantine merchants who first imported the bird in the sixteenth century, and the English named this strange animal after them. At first the Mexican turkeys looked more like guinea fowl rather than the well-fed Christmas bird of today. But soon several Norfolk farmers began breeding them, and it took only a few decades for the bird to attain its present impressive size. In the seventeenth century, English settlers took some prime specimens along when they emigrated to America.
"Not quite so far, but almost equally arduous, was transporting the turkeys from Norfolk to the London Christmas market. Soon after the harvest, as early as the end of August, the dealers began the long trek with the birds. The roads were unpaved and muddy and often the birds would actually get stuck in the muck, so many of the traders supplied them with footwear by wrapping sackcloth or leather strips around their feet. Because of these problems, the turkey wasn't exactly inexpensive, and even at Christmas the only people who could afford one were those who were able to spend more on one holiday dinner than what many others might earn all year. Not till the end of the nineteenth century, when improved roads and better storage methods had been devised, did prices become more affordable." from the book, Christmas with Rosamunde Pilcher.
Who in America would have thought that the lowly turkey of today was once so expensive?!