Unpopular Opinion: Turkey Is Good

Illustration for article titled Unpopular Opinion: Turkey Is Good
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I hadn’t realized exactly how thoroughly I’d been influenced by the onslaught of anti-turkey propaganda until making a Thanksgiving shopping list with my wife this morning. (It is weird that we’re still planning to purchase and cook a sailor’s buffet of food despite the fact that no one will be in our house except for us and our children—both of whom would rather eat pretzels and pancakes than literally anything we plan to make? Let me answer that: Yes! It’s weird as fuck!)


While going over the meats we planned to add to the list, I questioned whether turkey was necessary. “How bout some hens and a steak?” I argued. Which is fine! Some hens and a steak would make a delicious centerpiece of any meal. I’d even watch a cartoon about sentient meats and gentrification called “Some Hens and a Steak.” But I was intentionally neglecting to mention turkey, as if I was trying to make some sort of point about the uselessness of it and my self-conscious subversion of expected holiday meat consumption norms. Basically, I was being the sort of turkey hipster Jenee Desmond Harris called out today.


So when my wife asked about the turkey, I started to construct a rationale for the dismissal of it (“It tastes like cat balls,” “It’s hard to cook,” “Other meats have more swag,” etc.) but stopped myself when realizing it was all lies. Turkey is fine. Turkey is better than fine. Turkey is good.

I get it, though. The case against turkey mostly rests on the presumptuousness of its inclusion on Thanksgiving. Turkey is the undisputed king, the straw that stirs the drink, the meat prince that was promised, and it has retained that status, unchallenged, for decades. But turkey is not the best meat, and the centering of turkey becomes a meta-commentary for the cultural centering of mediocrity. Why the fuck do we allow turkey this privilege, when hen meat, chicken meat, beef meat, pork meat, deer meat, and goat meat are each arguably better meats? Definitely sexier. This sentiment is not wrong, but it induced a zeitgeisty overcorrection where turkey shifted from “essential” to “trash”—a feeling that neglects to consider turkey’s most valuable function: playmaking.

While it does exist, physically, as the star, turkey’s primary role is decidedly supporting. It’s a meat that brings out the best of the other dishes. It will not overpower the yams or the mac and cheese or the greens, but it will exist in a delicious symbiosis with them. It is also the most versatile of the main meats. Turkey sandwiches. Turkey salad. Turkey soup. Turkey pot pie, my nigga? Shit! Turkey is the Gary Oldman of meats—capable, relatable, adaptable, overqualified, and vaguely racist.

I’m done writing now. Goodbye!

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


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Turkey tastes like napkins, like the guy from Brooklyn 99 said (at least I think that was the show). He wasn’t exaggerating even slightly.

  • Prepped for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s dry and soulless (aka tastes like napkins); ham runs circles around it in that setting.
  • As a lunch meat, it’s slightly more moist, but equally as soulless; literally everything else at the deli is an infinitely better choice.*As a sausage, well, I’d rather eat a tire after it’s just done a burnout.
  • Turkey bacon is actually not awful, but real bacon is again vastly superior.
  • Turkey burgers vary in quality to a ridiculous degree, almost as badly as vegan meat substitutes. One time, it’s juicy and delicious, and other it tastes like turkey sausage (see above).