23 November 2015

Turkey Tendon Redux

When I first started this blog (which now seems like a long time ago!), I shared a story about a particular Thanksgiving tradition in my family.  To this day, when I tell people the story, they are a) puzzled, b) amused, and c) confused.

In the last few days, I've been reading other blogs and a lot of people are writing about how they are getting ready for the big day.  So here is a version of the previously mentioned story, one of Thanksgivings Past, when one of the biggest highlights occurred the night before.  Now that I am a vegetarian, I don't miss having turkey, but I do kinda miss pulling turkey tendons ...


When I first moved to Philadelphia, a notice in the Food Section of the Philadelphia Inquirer caught my eye. They asked readers to submit a brief story about unique family Thanksgiving traditions. Three stories would be published on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I knew I had something truly unique to send them.

My father, who grew up on a poultry farm, was the family expert on Thanksgiving turkey. The night before Thanksgiving was always a big night. After cleaning the turkey, it was time for the event of the year: tendon pulling! According to my father, if you pulled the tendons out of drumsticks before cooking, it made them easier to eat. We got the pliers out, and everyone got ready to take their turn. At the end of the drumsticks, there are often small holes, with pinkish-white tips sticking out. Those are the tendons. You take the pliers, hold the drumstick tightly, and try to pull the tendons out. It’s fun for the entire family!

I have never met anyone else who even knew about turkey tendon pulling, so I decided this story would be a perfect candidate for the “unique” Thanksgiving tradition the Inquirer was seeking. I figured if my story wasn’t chosen, the others that were published would have to be really unusual. So imagine my extreme dismay when I opened the Food Section on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and read the winning entries.

Story #1: A woman whose mother had been in the hospital on Thanksgiving had taken a complete dinner to her so they could have their holiday meal together. Her mother died shortly afterwards. Every year, she continues to take an entire meal to that hospital for any of the nursing staff that has to work on the holiday.

Story #2: A couple who were in the military and stationed in Germany one Thanksgiving invited their German neighbors to celebrate with them.

Story #3 (supposedly the best) was about a woman whose son had the flu one year during the week of Thanksgiving. The night before, to cheer him up, they had baked special pumpkin cookies together. Even though the boy was now 20-something, he still made sure he could be home the night before Thanksgiving to bake cookies with his mother.

These stories are heartwarming, feel-good stories; they may reflect lovely traditions. But am I the only one who doesn’t find them unique? The Tim suggested that maybe the Inquirer didn’t think my story was true, being "weirdly unusual."  Now really, could I have invented something that good? Maybe it was too unique for the Inquirer; they probably felt it would be more appropriate for the New York Post; right under a headline like “Family of Five Fancies Festive Fowl Fun!”


My memories of turkey tendon pulling are happy and fun ones.  Yes, it was gross, but we were all so focused, that was secondary.  I think that even if I *could* do it today, I would be completely grossed out, so it's probably better if it remains in my memory ... :-)

NaBloPoMo Day #23


Araignee said...

I would have picked your story for sure because I love to read about other people's unusual traditions. It's those odd little memories that make the holidays so special. My grandmother always served orange Jello with mayonnaise on top for Thanksgiving and even though my family thinks it's horrific we have it every year. It's that connection to the past that makes it so important.

Anonymous said...

Oh what does the Inky know anyway .......that was a story the Bulletin surely would have published. ;-)

So . . . shall I assume that Tofurkey is on the menu on Thursday?

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving no matter WHAT ends up on the table.