Drumsticks, thighs, slices of juicy white breast meat, dark meat, white meat, everyone has their favorite part of the Thanksgiving turkey. When we were kids, my brothers, cousins and I would stand around my grandmother’s dining room table gazing in awe at the huge, golden brown bird gracing the center of the table, the aroma sweeter than fresh-cut alfalfa on a hot July day. The house was filled with extended family and the warm smells of freshbaked dinner rolls, pumpkin pies, mountains of dressing and all the other traditional trimmings blended into an unforgettable perfume. Kids were fed first. With plates in hand we marched past the table where adults filled our plates with mashed potatoes and gravy, scalloped corn, green bean casserole and of course, turkey and dressing. Grandma carved the The best part of the turkey is. . . turkey. “Who wants a drumstick?” she would ask. “I do, I do,” would come a chorus of voices. When the drumsticks were taken, it became a choice between white meat and dark meat. To me it was all good, but my favorite came later. At an early age I discovered my favorite part of the turkey was the leftovers. Leftovers are best served between two slices of bread. After dinner, Grandma and my aunts would usually divide up whatever was left on the platters and in the bowls. These leftovers were spooned into plastic whipping cream and butter tub containers saved just for this purpose. After feeding our hungry crowd, our share of the leftovers was usually a few bites of each item. I could barely wait to get home so I could make a turkey sandwich. With three brothers there was generally enough leftovers for one turkey sandwich, if I was lucky. And quick. It was a treat to be savored. Holiday meals were usually at one set of grandparents or the other, so Mom rarely cooked a turkey meal. One year, though, Dad brought home a big turkey at Christmas and Mom roasted it as a New Year’s dinner. A whole turkey in our house. Now we would have leftovers and plenty of turkey sandwiches for sure. When we had finished eating, Mom covered the turkey with aluminum foil and put it on our back porch to safely cool before deboning. We had an enclosed back porch with enough room for a freezer, coat rack, shoes and boots. An unheated back porch in central Illinois on January 1 was a sure-fire way to cool food. Unbeknownst to any of us, one of the barn cats had come to the house and somehow slipped onto the porch. When Mom went to get the remains of the turkey some time later, the cat was sitting in the middle of it, feasting away. All those delicious leftover turkey sandwiches were gone because of a calico cat. I have hated cats ever since. To this day I could go straight from pulling the bird out of the oven to turkey sandwiches. Crafting a real, honest-to-goodness Thanksgiving turkey sandwich is an art form. The basic sandwich is two slices of bread with thick layers of cranberry sauce, turkey and turkey dressing in between. Each bite is pure heaven. And then there is the deluxe turkey sandwich. This is a slice of bread with a thin layer of mayonnaise topped with turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing, pickle and black olive slices finally covered with the second slice of bread. I have a sister-in-law that looks on in disgust when my brother and I each build ourselves one of these masterpieces. But, then she is the one who eats peanut butter with bread-and-butter pickle sandwiches, so she has little room to talk. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy those leftovers.
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