The Marilyn Monroe of Thanksgiving Turkeys

In 2006, I wrote a blog piece about the Legend of the Black Turkey. Every year it seems to get more random Internet hits. Last year, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, I was interviewed by a reporter for the Boston Herald. He had stumbled upon my blog and wanted some details on the turkey story. It was a pleasant interview, and he said the article would appear the following week. I checked online every day, well past Thanksgiving, but the piece never appeared. A full year later it shows up. Here it is:

by Kerry J. Byrne, The Boston Herald

Earlier this month we looked at the craft of smoked turkeys with barbecue champion Chris Hart; earlier this week it was the fine art of deep-fried turkeys. We close out our turkey triumvirate with the legend of the black turkey, one of the more curious food stories I’ve ever encountererd. Here’s the legend, based largely on a piece we published in the print Herald last year before Thanksgiving:

Writer Morton Thompson died long before the age of the Internet—July 7, 1953, to be exact. But he created a foodie phenomenon that percolates around the web more than a half century later.

It’s the legend of the black turkey, a charred-skin bird that’s painstakingly prepared during a day-long drunken boozefest with friends but that produces delectable, mahogany-hued meat so tasty and tender that it’s spoken of only in reverent hyperbole.

“Thompson’s turkey is to turkey as Miss Monroe is to women, as (Bobby) Jones was to golf,” wrote Richard Gehman in his 1966 book, “The Haphazard Gourmet.” Versions of the story are found in seemingly random places, from the website of an Australian Christian missionary, to more typical food blogs, to the best-selling 2003 novel, “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” which was turned into a movie in 2009.

Thompson wrote about the black turkey in a 1945 collection of short stories called “Joe, the Wounded Tennis Player.” He had served it at some point to famed essayist Robert Benchley (the grandfather of “Jaws” author Peter Benchley), who kept alive the story after Thompson’s demise.

“It’s far from a hoax,” said Craig Smith, who’s written about the history of black turkey at his blog ( “Anybody who’s ever tried it said it creates the most amazingly tender, delicious turkey they’ve ever had.”

Here’s the short version of how to prepare the allegedly delectable black turkey, with links to recipes below:

Take a “huge” turkey, simmer the giblets with herbs, spices and cider to create a basting liquid.

Start drinking, preferably a gin cocktail called the Ramos Fizz.

Then make an elaborate stuffing of fruit, herbs, spices, bread crumbs, ground veal, ground pork and butter. Fire the oven to 500 degrees and create a “stiff” paste of egg yolks, lemon juice, onion juice, spices and flour.

Now move on to martinis.

When the oven’s red hot, add the stuffed bird and keep drinking martinis until it starts to brown. Lower the oven to 350, remove the bird, coat it with paste, return to oven, let the paste set, and continue the process until all the paste is used. Then baste the bird with the liquid every 15 minutes, enlisting drinking buddies in the effort.

The skin will darken until it becomes a black, cindery crust. The fall-off-the-bone tender meat will range in color from golden brown to mahogany.

You will be very drunk by this time.

“It’s like cooking a turkey in crockery or clayware. It creates its own casing and locks in all the juices,” said Smith, the black turkey historian. “It’s a legend that’s only grown and that people talk about with awe.”

Look for black turkey recipes in completely random places, such as John Mark Ministries, Big Daddy’s Kitchen or the illustrious food blog,

If you ever actually attempt to make one, shoot us a note and let us know how it goes…you know, after you sober up.

Categories: Food and Diet, Fun, Holidays | 7 Comments

Back, Back, Back

Remember those Six Unspectacular Things? Well, Iyov picked up my gauntlet, answered the question twice as well as anyone else (well, twice as much), and then did some research. He traced back each nominee’s nominator. He goes back twenty-four degrees of separation before he comes to a dead end. It’s like a huge game of Telephone. To know someone who knows someone who knows someone who . . . well, some of those links backward are delightful, and some are downright disturbing. Check ’em out. Even if you dislike memes as much as I do.

Categories: Fun | 2 Comments

September Songs Receives Prestigious Arte y Pico Award

The Prestigious Arte y Pico Award

The Prestigious Arte y Pico Award

I am beyond honored. I am verklempt. I am . . . wow, that thing is really gaudy, isn’t it? . . . At any rate, my writing experiment from last year, September Songs, was just named as one of five recipients of the prestigious Arte y Pico Award bestowed by Indigo Bunting, the genius behind Route 153. (I am not contractually obligated to use the word “prestigious” every time I mention the prestigious Arte y Pico Award, but I think it adds so much to the name, don’t you?)

Indigo wrote:

Admittedly, this blog was alive for only one month: September 2007. When Sewa Yoleme joined the Dancing About Architecture project—a song a day project—he committed for exactly thirty days. And what a thirty days it was. This blog is like walking into a classroom of musical history and culture.

Continue reading

Categories: Art, Fun | 2 Comments

Six Unspectacular Things About Me

I have been tagged by Indigo Bunting. I guess that means I’m It. It’s some kind of meme, I understand, though I’m not altogether sure I know what a meme even is. At any rate, here are six unspectacular things about me:

  1. I never sneeze fewer than nine times in a row, and frequently as many as fifteen times. The average is twelve or thirteen sneezes.
  2. My chin jumps when I’m under extreme stress (high emotions, prolonged tension on a job, tremendous concentration on a pinball or video game). I came out of the womb with my chin jumping; my mother says that was how she knew I belonged to her, since her chin jumps, as does one of my brothers’. Her father’s did too, if I recall correctly.
  3. Continue reading

Categories: Fun | 11 Comments


Last night I put Mom to bed, and went off to my office to watch the season finale of Torchwood, a sci-fi TV series I’ve been following. Essentially, Torchwood is about a pseudo-governmental agency dealing with an interstellar rift or wormhole, one end of which is in Cardiff Bay, Wales, while the other end floats freely through timespace and attracts all sorts of unsavory creatures and items. It’s rather like the Hellmouth idea in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In this rather silly episode, the rift has been fully opened, and a gigantic demonic creature has emerged and is wreaking havoc on the populace, as gigantic demonic creatures are wont to do, so the series hero decides to sacrifice himself by zapping the monster with bioelectric energy. The energy is building and building, the hero is getting weaker and weaker, the monster is screaming and flailing, and just as the electricity reaches its peak—

BOOM! The house shakes, the windows rattle, the lights go out, the smoke detectors go off, the computer’s UPS starts beeping, and Mom’s oxygen concentrator starts sounding its high-pitched alarm to indicate a loss of power. Something has exploded outside, very close by.

Clearly all that electrical zapping on television had rather far-reaching effects. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Fun | 9 Comments


Just in case you missed it over on my other blog (which I think a lot of people did because it was sandwiched in between a couple of regular daily posts), I thought you might enjoy this little weekend musical offering. It always makes me smile. Maybe it will make you smile too.

It’s a spectacular version of “Mambo” from Bernstein’s West Side Story as performed in the Proms at Albert Hall by Gustavo Dudamel & the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra:

Categories: Fun, Music | Leave a comment

Your Fantasy Dinner Party Guest List

You and seven guests.
They must be alive as of this writing.
Who would you invite?
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Categories: Fun | 8 Comments

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