I put a leftover turkey carcass in my backyard for Thanksgiving this year.
Because, when you think about it, Thanksgiving is more about leftovers than anything else, really. Leftover turkey. Leftover cranberry sauce. Leftover stuffing. Growing up, every breakfast I had for a week after the holiday was leftover pumpkin pie.
In terms of the turkey carcass, though, this year was the first that I hosted Thanksgiving myself and, in the end, I was surprised with the task of having to dispose with the rather unglorious leftovers of what was once turkey in recognizable form. According to one of my guests, the remains of this bird—that travelled all the way from the US to stare me down with the question of his meaty skeleton—are good for making soup stock.
However, being in Europe and all, my fridge simply wasn’t big enough to accommodate all the leftovers that my bountiful Thanksgiving harvest produced, and the promise of future soup didn’t warrant the space the big guy would take. Instead, my fella and I somehow came to (the completely sober) conclusion that the best thing to do with him was simply to put him in the backyard for any Dublin wildlife that wanted him.
Things have since gotten a little out of hand though.
See, the turkey wanted to go home. He was, apparently, very indignant in the first place when he was sacrificed to the Thanksgiving gods and shipped off to Ireland back in October. He wasn’t upset at the dying (not everybody can be like Drumstick and Wishbone, who were always insufferably pretentious anyway) because at least he knew that it was going to be for Thanksgiving rather than some weird, like, springtime thing where you just end up saran-wrapped in a sandwich in some grocery store in (probably) Minnesota. He was going to be the center piece of a good, American family’s dinner table. The hero of a Norman Rockwell painting.
But, somehow, he ended up in the Irish-bound batch, cooked by my novice hands, and tucked into some corner of counter space so that (only) two Americans, an Austrian, a Spaniard, and an Irishman could carry him over to a kitchen table barely able to accommodate five plates alone. When he didn’t even make it to leftover-status soup stock, but unceremoniously left out in the cold for a dumb American’s idea of a Helpful Vulture Figure Carrying him away into the night, the turkey reached his limit.
Almost needless to say, he hopped my fence and has since joined both a pack of Dublin pigeons and seagulls. He’s a double agent for the two warring groups (all dating back to the infamous Supermacs Garlic Cheese Fry Incident of 1997), just trying to see who can hook him up with the cargo loader of an American-bound ship first. I hear he’s a real killer: five pigeons and six seagulls thus far. Someone told me he even got a cat, but I’m not completely convinced. This is all, of course, in addition to the countless amount of food he’s stolen from children in Saint Stephen’s Green, number of tourists he’s shit on along the Liffey, and statues’ heads he’s looking menacingly down upon the world from. His favorite is old man O’Connell on O’Connell Street from which, I hear, he actually writes some excellent confessional memoir poetry and love sonnets for the (probably now) leftover soup stock back home who he used to share a good gobble with at the farm.
I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines, and this is all means by which I hope to say sorry for letting this monster out on the city. To say I’m sorry I didn’t give my leftovers their due respect.
Thanksgiving after all, and this year especially, is all about the leftovers. Respecting the ceremonious, continuous consumption of our food ad infinitum: leftover turkey and leftover cranberries and leftover potatoes and leftover pie and leftover stock. Don’t forget the stock; I know I never will again. Leftover plates we’ve emptied too. Leftover scents hanging around the kitchen. Leftover wine spit onto the floor from laughing and then forgotten, growing hard and sticky for later.
Leftovers from our past. Leftovers from creating a holiday. Leftovers from 19th-century attempts to make the mythological base for a young country’s exceptionalism. Leftovers from a history commencing at white invasion. Leftovers from the memory of foods native to America before they met the British recipe. Leftovers from forgetting. Leftovers from writing forgetfulness as heroism. Leftovers from learning heroism in such innocent tasks as popsicle pilgrims and tiny handprinted turkeys. Leftovers still stuck in crafting paste. Leftovers of a sense of home lost to so much time adrift.
Leftovers trying to get back home no matter what it takes.
Leftovers asking if home is a place from the top of O’Connell’s head.
Leftovers asking if it’s, instead, the simple sentiment that home can be found at the dinner table.
Leftovers implying meals to come. Leftovers asking how you will build your home from the bits and pieces of any culture that you (somehow) still have left.