Friday, November 27, 2015

Talking turkey with a "weekend wiggle" and a bit of feasting history

Wild turkeys cavort and forage at our Montana place, High Chaparral, in Stillwater County on the river.

This proud turkey is commercially grown,
and much plumper than our Montana wild ones.
WE'RE TALKING turkey here. Through year's end, most of us will enjoy a meal or two of the critter that Ben Franklin suggested be our national bird.
Turkey dinner.  Turkey curry.  Turkey and dumplings. Turkey casserole. How about my grandmum's weekend turkey wiggle. I'll share the recipe.  My favorite edible part of the holidays is left-overs. Nothing like a sandwich with cranberry sauce and mayo, maybe a little chutney. But do try the "wiggle."
If your Thanksgiving table featured turkey
you are among 46 million Americans;
33 million more of us will eat turkey 
on either Christmas or New Year's.
If you didn't have turkey dinner on
Thursday, don't worry. The bird shows up in stores and on menus and dining tables through Chanukah, Christmas and into New Year's and even Easter.
SO HOW did the tradition of eating turkey during the holidays develop? Historians tell us it probably did not derive from the Pilgrims who may or may not have eaten turkey for their "Thanksgiving."  They probably ate venison, and they'd have used their fingers.
After Scrooge sees the light, in "A Christmas Carol,"
he has a turkey delivered to the Cratchit home.
Turkey's top ranking as preferred holiday fare also stems from the fact that Turkeys are easy to raise, fresh, fairly cheap and can feed a crowd. In the U.S., 46 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving, 22 million on Christmas, 11 million on New Year's and 19 million on Easter. In 2014, U.S. diners ate 736 million pounds of turkey.
AMERICA'S PREFERENCE for poultry at celebrations dates back to frontier days. A bird could be slaughtered without serious economic sacrifice, while butchering a cow was a serious decision for a rancher or farmer.  Since commercial beef wasn't widely available until the late 19th century, a chicken or turkey made more sense for a holiday meal.
The classic menu of turkey with gravy, stuffing, and plum pudding was popularized by Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," published in 1843 and widely read in the U.S. Some culinary historians believe Scrooge's gift of a Christmas turkey to the Cratchit family cemented the turkey's place at the center of the holiday meal.The Victorians also enjoyed turkey, and lobbied Abe Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
Olive Nystul's turkey wiggle
was a family treat, served the
 weekend after Thanksgiving.
IF YOU LIKE turkey, you'll enjoy my grandmother Olive's "Weekend turkey wiggle." Why did she call it that? Because you could rely upon having it the weekend after Thanksgiving, and because the noodles wiggle and wave as the ingredients are mixed!
2 lb (4 cups) leftover turkey meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 c turkey or chicken stock
1 l/2 c uncooked white, brown or wild rice or 3 cups uncooked noodles
1 can (14 oz) chopped tomatoes or three fresh ones, diced
2 medium onions, chopped (add two cloves of diced garlic if desired)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 c green olives and 1 c black olives, chopped
¼ c pimentos, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in butter or olive oil (if using canned, drain juice but hold to moisten casserole if needed)
16 oz package frozen peas, mixed veggies or corn -- your choice
1 can of mushroom soup or cup or so of leftover turkey gravy
Gran Nystul's Weekend Turkey Wiggle
 delights with its flavor -- and memories.
(Gran improvised with the ingredients; use what you have. That's the beauty of "wiggle.") 
PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to brief boil. Transfer to buttered casserole pan, cover with foil, and bake 30-40 minutes until liquid is mostly absorbed but casserole is still moist. Top with croutons or crumbled leftover stuffing. Sprinkle with grated or shaker cheese-- gouda, gruyere, parmesan and sharp cheddar are all good choices.

UP NEXT: While we're on the subject of food, Hornblower's the way to go 
for fine food and ambiance if you're looking to celebrate a special occasion
or holiday on the water. We'll visit a recent birthday celebration aboard
Hornblower in 
New York. Hornblower also offers specialty cruising, dinner
and cocktail celebrations in San Diego, San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento,
Newport Beach, Marina del Rey  and Long Beach. Remember to explore,
learn and live and catch us weekends for fun travel tips and adventure worldwide.


  1. I gave a giggle at the wiggle for it reminded me of my grandmother's turkey wiggle, too. She always put sliced green and black olives on top -- and the cheese melted around those. So pretty, tasty and a lovely memory. I'm making this recipe now as I failed to write down my own family's.
    Thank you for this fun remembrance.

  2. Fun talking turkey with these lively writers/photographers. Love grandma's dress -- looks very 1940s. I was there!

  3. I made this for dinner last night and the kids and I loved it! Thanks for sharing! Your grandma looks lovely. :)

  4. A fine, fun way to finish off the old bird.
    Didn't realize the connection to "A Christmas Carol"!
    Makes sense.