Turkeys are the centerpieces of the conventional Thanksgiving supper and are as American as apple pie and Coca-Cola. This hen appeared in the Americas around one particular million years back right before arriving in Europe, becoming a favorite at the royal court docket of Louis XIV and across the French kingdom!

Turkeys had been lengthy a source of confusion for Europeans. Christopher Columbus, who uncovered the species in 1502, named them gallinas de la tierra, Spanish for “land chickens.” In his letters, the conquistador Hernán Cortés described chickens that were being “as significant as peacocks.” This conflation persists in the scientific identify for the wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, from the Latin conditions gallo (rooster) and pavo (peacock), and Meleager, a hero in Greek mythology related with the hues purple and black. In the meantime, when the cartoon Gauls Asterix and Obelix unintentionally landed in North The united states in the quantity The Excellent Crossing, they nick-named these weird birds “gobblers”!

Asterix and Obelix discover America’s beloved bird. © Goscinny-Uderzo/Hachette

The American fowl arrived in Europe aboard Spanish galleons in the early 16th century. Adopted as a rare and unique foodstuff, turkey before long outshone peacock at prestigious dinners and delighted foodies with its tender, refined, white flesh. In 1534, writer François Rabelais bundled a poule d’Inde (basically “a hen from India,” which is how turkey obtained the title dinde in French) on the menu of a feast he explained in his novel Gargantua. Fifteen many years later on, 66 turkeys ended up served at a banquet organized by the town of Paris to celebrate the coronation of Queen Catherine de’ Medici.

In an hard work to meet expanding desire, Marguerite d’Angoulême started a poultry farm at her Château d’Alençon. Domestic turkeys were being also bred at Versailles and Louis XIV, who adored them, gravely entrusted their care to a “turkey captain”! The Grand Siècle then noticed turkey show up in recipe guides. In The French Prepare dinner, which heralded a change from medieval to modern cooking in 1651, chef La Varenne geared up poulet d’Inde in stews, casseroles, served with raspberries, and stuffed with mushrooms, truffles, artichoke hearts, squabs, sweetbread, and ram kidneys!

Turkey also affected a further French gourmet by the identify of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. After his exile in the United States for the duration of the Revolution, this attorney and politician went on to write The Physiology of Flavor (1825), deemed to be the initially get the job done of culinary literature. (We also have him to thank for the expression, “Tell me what you consume and I will explain to you what you are.”) In his reserve, he describes a coq d’Inde hunt in Connecticut and humbly accepts that “the turkey is surely one of the most wonderful existing made by the New Planet to the Old.” He then refers to two dishes that, two centuries on, are however mainstays of French Xmas dinners: turkey stuffed with chestnuts and turkey with truffles!

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“To roast a turkey”: Julia Baby on the established of her cooking exhibit, The French Chef, in September 1971. © Paul Little one/Courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard College

France is now the world’s third primary producer of turkeys soon after the United States and Germany. What is additional — as tradition dictates — French turkey dishes have motivated Americans foodies. Martha Stewart stuffed her Thanksgiving turkey with chestnuts and celery, though triple Michelin-star chef Daniel Humm, who heads the Eleven Madison Park restaurant in New York, prepares it with black truffles, brioche, and foie gras. There is even a recipe for young turkey with truffles in the extravagant and autobiographical Alice B. Toklas Prepare dinner E-book by Gertrude Stein’s previous lover in Paris, published in 1954. The substances involve three lbs . of melted pork excess fat, pretty much two kilos of entire truffles, and 1 bay leaf!


Post released in the November 2020 concern of France-Amérique. Subscribe to the journal.