The Turkey

Our Review of the Week traces the history of the wild-turned-commercialized bird that has become synonymous with Thanksgiving and the word “gobble”

The turkey : an American story

Smith, Andrew F. Illinois, 2006
224p, 0252031636 $29.95, 9780252031632 $29.95

The Turkey is an interesting, amusing history of a popular food, so popular that Thanksgiving Day (US) is sometimes referred to as “Turkey Day.” Smith gives some background of the native American bird and its domestication, travel to Europe, and return to America as a farm animal. How it became “turkey” is discussed, including various theories that Smith explains as unrealistic. The domestic birds’ history varies from being basically left to run free, like cattle and hogs, to being used to destroy tobacco hornworms and being raised in close confinement. Smith discusses the fate of the wild turkey as well, which has thrived but has not again become so big it could not fly, as was noted by some early European Americans. Of course, he also mentions the social side of “turkey”: the turkey trot, the Broadway turkey, and other uses of the word. Part 2 is a selection of recipes from cookbooks of the 17th to the early 20th century. Written for a popular audience, there are citations to Smith’s sources for those who want to read more.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels.
Reviewer: N. Duran, Texas A&M University
Subject: Science & Technology – History of Science & Technology
Choice Issue: Mar 2007