The English language, especially that version spoken on the North American continent, is endlessly quirky. While every language has idioms, I would wager that American English may have a bit more than its fair share. Take, for example, cold turkey, a commonly used phrase. These days it refers primarily to the immediate cessation of some sort of addiction without substitutes, or quitting cold turkey. Yet how turkeys got into the situation is a tad puzzling. Are there folks addicted to eating turkey? If so, what’s the problem? Did some 60s devotee smoke dried turkey feathers? Are the local turkeys experiencing a lack of body heat?
Theories abound of the term’s original definitions. The Historical Dictionary of American Slang in 1910 defined cold turkey as an outright, irretrievable loss. The American cartoonist, Thomas Dorgan, used the term in 1920 to mean without embellishment. In 1921, a British Columbian newspaper referred to a cold turkey treatment, which sounds suspiciously like a cold shoulder treatment. As late as 1978, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist claimed it represented the goosebumps of “cold burn” which the withdrawing addict displays, so like the skin of a freshly plucked turkey.
In our house, cold turkey means leftovers. Old friends tell of their family tradition, a contest of the most creative Dagwood using Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers. One of the rules is that the builder must eat the sandwich in its entirety. For other folks, Thanksgiving leftovers means “making a hash” of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy and veggies. Still others look forward to using the remaining turkey in a casserole. There’s always turkey soup, which like all classics, never gets old.
So if you still have a bit of the sliced turkey leftovers in the fridge, perhaps some of the stock, or maybe you saved the carcass. If so, try this week’s recipe, Creamy Turkey Tetrazzini, an American creation named for an opera diva of the same origin. The recipe works for chicken leftovers as well.