I love turkey soup, but the experience of breaking down the carcass of a 23 pound turkey so that half of the remains will fit inside my inadequate stock pot is an exercise in coming face to face with one's own mortality.
The endless labyrinth of skin, roots of feathers remaining in the pimpled, fatty skin, layers of muscle, perimysium (ooh, new word), cartilage, tendon, bone... the popping of joints and the snapping separation of vertebrae. The greasiness of it all. Using my fingers to pick the meat, so we can consume it later. This is enough to make turkey soup less appetizing. All the parts of the turkey: drumstick, wing, thigh, and breast-- they all become unrecognizable as I become more and more disoriented by the insides of the bird and as, part by part, they disappear into the pot. The bones in the wing are impossibly large-- the size of three or four chicken drumsticks, and I find myself both awed and disgusted by modern farming methods. I turn what is left of this creature over and over on the cutting board, trying to figure where there might be another deposit of meat I may have missed. And, sure enough, I keep finding more. We can easily eat for a week off this thing, and my cousin took home at least three pounds of meat on Thanksgiving.
About half the bird is now dismantled in the pot on the heat. The rest will go into the freezer for the next batch. I can only hope that if I can keep the stock clear, spoon off the fat, and create small enough morsels of meat that by the time I eat the soup my imagination will have separated itself from this gruesome process. Perhaps a squeeze of lemon and several handsful of fresh parsley will help.
Random Dickinson Inspiration:
Soup is the Thing with feathers
In storage in the fridge
With most of the feathers Plucked
And greasy pimpled skin
It sat-- once--in Confinement
Ate steroid-soaked grain all day
And never stopped to Thank--
For its bounty in its Breast
Its heft weighs on Extremities
Unconscious-- to the pot
to Feed the family for a year
Consumed-- consumed-- we eat.