We all read and talk about the importance of buying humanely treated meat raised by farm families that still care about their animals, their land, and their community. Some of us dedicate our lives to it--either to finding people who do that and trying to bring them to wider attention or by getting up every morning and actually tending livestock and lend.
Two of those people are now on the site, with some of the most moving and sensible images and words I've seen on heritage turkeys. Lisa M. Hamilton, a writer and photographer who specializes in sustainability-minded farms around the world, documents a recent project in Sonoma County joining Slow Food, the good group RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions), and a local 4-H club to save endangered birds by raising and eating them. Teenagers in 4-H spent the summer raising birds, and just this weekend was the time to slaughter and dress them.
The spare, weathered barns, fields, and teenagers and grandparents Hamilton shows joining forces bring home the lessons of supporting local food as no amount of our preaching can. Without needing to point it out, she shows us hope and community. That's a lesson I'll be thinking about this Thursday--but whatever you're thinking about, please look at those pictures.
The always passionate and engaged Nicolette Hahn Niman provides the practical payoff to the long and good guide she started last week, telling you exactly what to look for at your market if you haven't bought your turkey yet. It's full of good advice about what catchphrases like "organic" and "free-range" and "antibiotic-free" mean and, especially, don't mean, and the phrases you should pay the most attention to--advice always good to bear in mind when buying meat. Plus she gives a link to her own go-to guy, Dan Barber, on how cook heritage birds, a question friends have been asking me, and I've been pointing them there. (It was Dan who introduced me to Lisa Hamilton--as always, he's central to what we're thinking about farming and sustainability.)
My own go-to gal on roasting meat and birds is Barbara Kafka, who this morning posted a note on her own Web site full of her usual independent-thinking, contrarian thoughts about how to roast the bird you buy: forget brining now and forever (hint--think kosher birds); don't baste; don't even dream of teaching yourself to truss. Stick a turkey, heritage included (she just told me she long ago put in her order for two Bronzes) on a roasting pan and into a 500-degree oven, legs to the rear. "Squiggle" it around on the pan after 15 minutes so it doesn't stick to the rack. Then just wait until it's done, following the roasting times in her book--yep, there's the catch, you need to buy the book to get the timings. It's worth it. Her post on the next page.
Meanwhile, the Web is full of other advice. I always go for the writing, and I'm following Sam Sifton, who's answering questions on his own New York Times blog in his droll, right-there way. Who can resist an answer that starts this way, turkey be damned?
As the pretty girls say in the movies, turning the book readers down for the prom and blowing off the kind boys who won't feel joy for a decade, when the lacrosse stars have gone to seed: Timing is everything.
Not me. Even if my own Thanksgiving timing involves logistics I haven't started thinking about. Hamilton and Niman will get you thinking about this week and beyond.
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