Mystery of turkey shortage solved

“Have you heard there is a shortage of big turkeys?” he inquired, leaning in to whisper as we shared the solemn, quiet time before Mass began.

Given the circumstances, it seemed a strange question but this is a good buddy and I know him to be sort of, you know, random. For purposes of this column I will call him “Greg.”

He noticed my eyes skeptically surveying the congregation. “Don’t even go there,” he cautioned, “we have only one seat reserved here for a big turkey, and you are sitting in it!” Lions 1, Christians 0.

Greg settled into what appeared to be either devout prayer or nap time, but the damage was done. Consider. A country that can put a 60-inch widescreen in the living room can’t produce a 16-pound turkey for the Thanksgiving table even though it’s had a whole year to prepare?

I could think of little else.

Roberta was one of the readers this Sunday and by the time my wife got to St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians where he talks about eating free food I had already decided if there was a shortage of fat turkeys it had to be somehow tied to the Obama health care website.

While Eddie was leading us in “Glory to God” I remembered reading most of our Thanksgiving turkeys are provided by a company named Butterball, which, coincidentally, is the nickname of another buddy of mine. In the interest of anonymity, I will simply call him “Jack.”

Jack excels on zeroing in on the story behind the story and I knew he would have some theory on why a company that routinely produces 1.3 billion pounds of turkey meat each year all of a sudden is saying, sorry, folks, we are about to kill the golden goose. Wrong bird, but you get my point.

Totally preoccupied with the turkey shortage I just blanked out when the collection basket sailed on by. How did this turkey tradition get started in the first place, I wondered?

Duck was part of the menu when the Pilgrims gathered for that first Thanksgiving in 1621 at Plymouth Colony. So why not duck as the holiday mainstay?

I thought about that during the Gospel reading and was guessing the Turkey Lobby back then must have gotten to the governor and lined his pockets in return for making gobble-gobble the official bird.

Perhaps history suggests this is exactly what happened and the ensuing political tension had warring interests making accusations against one another.

It is said that two Tea Party Separatists took the floor at the Plymouth Town Meeting and threatened to shut down our fledgling country if turkey were chosen as the featured Thanksgiving fare.

That is historical speculation, of course, but nonetheless Turkeygate was weighing heavily on me. I tried to pay attention to Father Al’s sermon. It was a homily based on the Gospel according to Luke.

Tough sledding. My mind kept wandering to candied yams and eight choices of homemade delights, including Aunt Bertha’s — it’s-not-Thanksgiving-without-it! — Pickle and Peanut Butter Pie with Yogurt. (“No, Aunt Bertha. Yum-yum, but take it home. Really! We have so much left over pie here we’ll never eat it all!”)

Hurrying home to research I discovered Butterball is claiming the shortage is caused by a dearth of turkeys in excess of 16 pounds. All of a sudden, it seems, turkeys are losing weight.

Poor diet? Shoddy exercise routine? No one knows. Calling Dr. Oz.

I think I know what is going on. Private enterprise has figured out a way to sell half as many turkeys and make twice as much money. God bless America.


Ned Cantwell — — hopes his readers, who are definitely not big turkeys, will enjoy this day with their families.

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