The first time I made a turkey was when my parents came to visit for the holidays about a year after I was married. My Father, the ultimate turkey carver, had even brought his own flint sharpener all the way from Michigan.
Mother always bought a turkey that weighed between 12 and 14 pounds, and it had to be a hen. When I looked into the frozen food compartment at the supermarket the only turkeys I saw were those labeled “Young”. Not a word about Hen. I picked out the one that weighed exactly 13 pounds and brought it home. I owned 3 cookbooks: The Boston Cookbook, The original Settlement Cookbook and The New York Times Cookbook, written by their food editor, Craig Claiborne. What I didn’t know then was that he would become my mentor and close friend who 20 years later would endorse my first cookbook. Following the instructions written the same in all three, I let the turkey thaw in the refrigerator. When it was still very cold, I removed the wrapping, washed it well under the wings and legs and rubbed it all over with salt and pepper. Then, I melted some butter and rubbed it in well until it was nice and creamy. When I took it out of the oven, I was proud as a peacock. It was an absolutely gorgeous shade of deep brown.
I carried it into the dining room and placed it in front of my Father. He held up my freshly sharpened knife and began carving. Each piece was perfect. The juices ran clear. The white meat was perfectly white. Then, he removed the leg and thigh, and everyone let out a gasp. What was that funny looking bag inside my beautiful turkey? Then, he reached into the neck and pulled out another bag. My Mother said, “You didn’t wash the inside of the turkey? You didn’t take out the bag with the liver and gizzards or the one with the neck?” Then she turned to everyone at the table and said, “Oh well, she will learn.”