As I think back on family holidays they are never the calm orderly affairs you see depicted on TV or in movies. In fact it’s more like a three ring circus when we all get together. The first Thanksgiving my husband met my family was the year that my cousin decided to fry a not completely thawed turkey. It should be sufficient to say that it didn’t end well. The fire department will be happy to know that he now has frying a turkey down to an art.
I got a good laugh out of this humorous account of “How to Carve a Turkey” that was published in a Junction City newspaper in November of 1877. This seems much closer to my experiences than the happy holidays depicted in the pages of those magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store. With the stress of the holiday season upon us maybe a good laugh is just what you need as you think back to the first time you met “the family”.
The article begins, “in many households the prospective son-in-law would be called upon to carve the turkey, the “old man” observing with a fiendish leer that he cannot do better than to learn now, so that when he has a house of his own he can do the honors. Invariably there is no escape, and as the victim has to yield, he may as well do so gracefully.”
It was suggested to the “prospective son-in-law that he would do well to observe, after careful examination, that the carving knife was dull, thus insuring a safe retreat in the event of disaster, a thing that a “good general” always makes provision for.”
The next aim would be to make the guests so fearful that none would again ask you to perform this task. “First, you should ask who cooked the bird whereupon your future mother-in-law will reply that she did so. As this is an ideal opportunity to put the lady down, you should state that the bird is quite tough and overdone.”
“With a little care one can hack the bird so that he looks like the ruins of a nitroglycerine explosion. Once dismembered you should be sure that you have garmented the tablecloth with grease in at least seven different places.”
“If the dish is at all greasy, you can, with a little nerve, and plenty of leverage, send the bird flying through the air to a distance of several feet so that it lands in the lap of a lady. If you do this, do not mar the effect by apologizing; merely ask for the bird back.”
“An expert can also, while breaking up the carcass, send a shower of dressing over the entire party. By judiciously following these rules you would be certain to inspire your hosts with such terror” that they will never again ask you to carve the turkey.
No matter how your holiday turns out remember the best part of the holidays is the family and the stories you will have to tell your friends. From all of us at the Geary County Historical Society have a safe and happy holiday!