October 27, 2010
The Hunter’s Job: Carving
By T. Edward Nickens
There may be other deeds more laden with American pomp than carving a Thanksgiving turkey—folding the Stars and Stripes comes to mind—but there aren’t many that train so keen a spotlight on a single moment, a single person, a single act with a knife in hand. The bird has been in the oven long enough to send its aroma wafting through the house, and now the gathered clan sits at the table, gawking at all the wedding china and silver that has emerged from the attic on a schedule similar to that of Halley’s comet. All eyes turn to the turkey. Cue up Norman Rockwell. And don’t screw it up.
By now you should have paved the way for a civil service. Go ahead and decide which kids get the drumsticks before you say grace—no use ruining the meal with a fistfight right out of the gate. Let folks know they shouldn’t eat till Grandma first lifts her fork. No cursing. No ketchup bottles on the table. And honestly, it’s a celebration, so if little Johnny wants to slip a whoopee cushion under Grandpap’s seat, where’s the harm?
But know this: The very act of carving a turkey—especially a wild turkey—changes the game at the table. It’s the moment when something—the essence of which is undeniably, unabashedly wild—transfigures into the very building block of civilization: human food. Each of us closes that circle with a fork.
It’s a metamorphosis worthy of a moment’s contemplation, at the least, and worthy of the giving of thanks. And for the sake of Ben Franklin and all things pure and true, forgo any blade that comes with a power cord sticking out of the handle. —T. Edward Nickens