Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A THANKSGIVING FABLE: IN THE SOUP





Al the Turkey gobbled with his friends in the farmyard where they all lived. They gobbled about who had the prettiest feathers, and about the quality of birdseed. 

But mostly they gobbled about how lucky they were not to be chickens. Chickens, all turkeys knew, were cowards. Sure, chickens crossed the street, but nobody ever knew why--and chickens probably didn't know either. Dumb clucks!


But the main reason these turkeys believed they were lucky not to be chickens was because humans bred chickens to be eaten as food. Or forced to lay eggs that would be soft-boiled, hard-boiled, poached, fried or scrambled.

A large rooster named Rufus overheard the turkeys gobbling as he sauntered by, pecking corn kernels. "Ha!" the rooster clucked. "You'll all get yours. Thanksgiving is coming soon."


"Thanksgiving?" gobbled Al the Turkey.


"Uh-huh," Rufus clucked, in a language only fowl could understand. "I can tell by the leaves. They're orange and yellow, and they're falling from the trees."


"But what is Thanksgiving?" asked Al the Turkey.


"When all the leaves have fallen," clucked Rufus, "Thanksgiving will be here. And when that happens--ha!--fried chicken is not on the menu."


"N-n-no?" gobbled Al. "Pork chops?"


Rufus clucked with laughter. "Guess again, gobble-face."


Something about this rooster's cockiness worried Terry. "You m-m-mean...?"


“You got it, butterball," clucked Rufus. "Stuffed oven-roasted turkey!" With that, the rooster eructed a triumphant "cock-a-doodle-doo" and moseyed off, clucking with delight.


"Did you hear that?" gobbled Al. "What are we gonna d-d-do?"


The turkeys glanced around nervously, shaking their snoods. The trees would be barren of leaves in a matter of days.


"Let's go see Ted Turkey," said one of Al's friends. "He'll know what to do."


Ted was the toughest turkey on the farm—reputed to be the smartest, too.


The young turks surrounded Ted, and Al conveyed what Rufus Rooster told them about Thanksgiving. "R-R-Rufus is trying to scare us, isn't he?" Al’s eyes begged for hope.


For a long moment Ted was silent. "No," he gobbled. "That rude rooster told you the truth. You will all be eaten at Thanksgiving," he said bluntly. "Sorry," he added.


The turkeys were gobble-less. It was Al who finally found his gobbler. "B-b-b-b-b-but...you're still here, Ted."


Ted flapped his wings. "Darn right, I am. I'm too tough to eat."


"Can't we t-t-toughen up like you?" asked Al.


"Too late," gobbled Ted. "Thanksgiving is upon us and you birds are tender as can be. The only question is how those humans will prepare you."


Al puzzled this. "Prepare us? What are the ch-ch-choices?"


"Ch-ch-choices?" Ted squawked with laughter. "You don't get no ch-ch-choices. The humans decide on preparation."


"Preparation?"


"Chances are, oven roast turkey, stuffed with chestnuts," said Ted. "A side of cranberry sauce. Or maybe smoked turkey breast and mashed potatoes covered in giblet gravy."


"G-g-giblet?" asked Al.


"Internal organs," gobbled Ted. "Liver and kidneys, mostly."


Al gasped.


A few of the younger turkeys started to cry.


"Or could you wind up as turkey salad sandwiches." Al cocked his head. "And I hear they're making turkey pastrami these days. And turkey dogs. And turkey burgers and turkey bacon."


"What about t-t-turkey soup?" asked Al.


Ted considered this. "Yep. That's a possibility."


"If I'm going to end up d-d-dinner," gobbled Al. "I want to be t-t-turkey soup."


Ted gobbled with mirth. "I told you turkeys already, you can't decide nothing. Whether you get roasted, fried, boiled, broiled, barbequed, smoked, micro-waved or souped, you have no say, no way." And with that, Ted flapped off, gobbling gaily about Christmas.


"What's C-C-Christmas?" asked Al.


Ted called back, "You won't need to know."


A few days before Thanksgiving, the trucks arrived.


Word had already gobbled round the farmyard about the meaning of trucks. What trucks meant was this: It was time to flap your wings and scram. Because trucks were there to take all the tender, terrified turkeys to the abbatoir--a fancy French word for slaughterhouse.


Alas, a high fence surrounded the turkeys, so scramming was not an option.


Rufus Rooster watched in glee as all the turkeys--except tough Ted--were chased aboard trucks.


Al got squashed in tight with the other turkeys, no space to turn around. All he could think about was: If I’m going to become a meal, I want to be turkey soup, even though all the other turkeys laughed when he talked about that.


The turkeys were crying, not laughing, when they drew near the abbatoir. The smell of poultry death hung foul in the air. Al tried to hold his breath to stifle his fear.


Al's truck ground to a halt. Its back doors opened and, one by one, the turkeys were grabbed and hung by their feet from a metal shackle and rail that carried upside-down turkeys to the stunning tank. Here, turkeys were dunked headfirst into electrified water that knocked most of them out cold. The lucky ones did not wake up for the next step: a throat slashing by a mechanical blade. After this, turkeys bled to death before reaching the boiling water.


Fortunately for Al, his soul had departed to turkey heaven by the time he reached the boiling tank. And good thing, too, since processing came next. And no self-respecting turkey would want to remain conscious for processing.


Some turkeys were blast-frozen whole. These butterballs would end up stuffed and roasted. Other turkeys were carved up with a large knife and packaged into parts, including giblets.


Al got tossed into a giant cauldron with carrots and celery and spices, left to simmer, then canned and dispatched to Safeway.


Al’s wish had come true. Turkey soup.


Moral: Relax. Quite often things turn out just fine.