A Second Slice Of Turkey

The rough rule of thumb is if you are feeding up to nine people, you should allow a pound of turkey per person, while for ten or more an allowance of 0.8lbs should suffice. Whether there would be enough meat to go around was not a concern for Philip Cook of Leacroft Turkeys Ltd in Peterborough who reared a turkey which, on December 12, 1989, tipped the scales at a whopping 86-pounds, claiming the crown for the world’s heaviest turkey. Named Tyson it was auctioned for charity raising £4,400. I wonder how long it took to carve it.

A man who knows a thing or two about carving is Paul Kelly. On June 3, 2009, at Little Claydon Farm in Essex he took just 3 minutes and 19.47 seconds to carve fourteen portions of breast meat, each weighing at least 150 grams, and place them on to 14 separate plates. His technique, which he claims is fool proof, is to cut along the breastbone to remove the breast meat before cutting it into slices.

Paul is also the world’s fastest turkey plucker, holding the record for plucking three sixteen-pound birds ready for the oven in eleven and a half minutes. The record for plucking a single turkey was set by Vincent Pilkington from County Cavan on November 17, 1980. It took him just one minute thirty seconds. When the two battled it out by plucking two turkeys each in April 2014, it was the Irishman who prevailed.

And why is it called a turkey? To add to the confusion why is it known in Turkish as hindi, meaning Indian, while in French it is dinde, from India, and in Dutch kalkoen, a Calicut hen?

Before turkeys arrived on the scene, guinea fowls were imported through Constantinople and known as Turkey coqs or Turkiye hennes. Traders from Constantinople were also involved in the importation of what we know as turkeys into England. One theory goes that the naming the bird after the Turks was an indication of its exoticism and non-indigenous status.

For mainland Europeans, though, perhaps Turkey was too close to home and the more distant India provided a better representation of the exotic. Or was it just a hangover from Columbus’ misconception that he was sailing to the Indies rather than America? Or did the English name derive from the Turkish military uniform of a red fez and a dark cloak? No one knows for sure.

If you enjoyed this, check out More Curious Questions, available now.


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