This isn't the year to swap the Thanksgiving turkey for cedar-plank salmon or a tofu bird. Americans have experienced enough change lately. Thanksgiving is the time to hold fast to dependable traditions. So you need a turkey. But you don't have to be boring about it. Are you the proverbial hunter for your family? Why not bring that metaphor to life with a real-life turkey hunt? Wild turkeys aren't as ditzy as their drown-in-a-puddle domesticated cousins. They have a keenly developed sense of sight and are challenging to bag outside of spring mating season. Before grabbing your bow and arrow, check your local hunting guidelines, get yourself a hunting license and find a state-approved hunting area. For those new to the sport, experienced Maryland hunter Mark Devey advises, "Be sure wherever you're going, the turkeys are there." Though I always agree with a man holding a shotgun, Devey's advice is good for anyone who wants to put a turkey on the table. The best birds sell out fast, so secure your bird sooner than later. If you prefer to purchase your turkeys pre-killed, how about a heritage bird? Heritage turkeys are defined as those that can reproduce without assistance, grow slowly and are able to live a long, productive life. Which makes them healthier than most American banks. Visit Heritage Foods or Local Harvest to select from a dozen breeds. Read about the different types, then buy the turkey directly from the site. Or choose from a variety of nearby farms and take a drive. Sure beats a trip down the frozen food aisle.
Alternatively, choose a "turducken," that crazy Cajun matryoshka composed of a chicken stuffed in a duck, stuffed in a turkey, layered with two types of stuffing. Turduckens are very easy to cook and slice simply, like a ringed meatloaf with wings. If you're worried that all this stuffing might require you to dislodge yourself from the Barcalounger, have no fear! There's no need to debone and stuff the birds yourself. There's only one Martha Stewart and chances are she's not coming over for dinner. Order the pre-fabbed bird online at Cajun Grocer. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you can buy a couple of baby turkeys and raise them from birth. Try some Web hunting-and-pecking to find a nearby poultry purveyor, or have the eggs shipped from Meyer's Hatchery. Of course, you'll have to build a pen, feed the birds and keep them safe, but in four to six months you'll be ready to slaughter your own. Though it's too late for a homegrown bird this year, if the Dow continues to drop, they might be your best investment for Q4 2009. And though the turkey is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving, it's not the whole point. When asked what he likes about hunting, Devey says: "The best part is being able to get outdoors, get some exercise, enjoy times with friends and family." The same goes for Thanksgiving. It's not what you're feasting upon, but with whom you're feasting. Enjoy the family and the feast.