A Much More Respectable Bird

Good old Benjamin Franklin. His opinion of the turkey was quite interesting:

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

This is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his daughter, lamenting the choice of the Bald Eagle as the national bird of the US. His view of the Bald Eagle was … well:

For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labor of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…

So, there we are.

Good to know that the bird brining away in the fridge is “most respectable”, a “bird of courage” and does not have a “bad moral character.”

Just imagine it were otherwise – the horror, the horror!

4 thoughts on “A Much More Respectable Bird”

  1. Ah, I will eat our holiday bird with even more gusto, just knowing it is respectable. I think one of the reasons the eagle was chosen is simple looks. Turkeys are quite ugly. They are also quite stupid.

  2. Never mind the ugly – but stupid they certainly are.

    Or can you imagine a flock of eagles sitting in a pen, getting fattened up and then being turned into Thanksgiving birds?

    Any eagle worth his talons would shriek with laughter.

  3. Now that you mention it – during medieval times and up into the renaissance swan was quite a popular dish for the nobility. It has been mentioned that in ancient Rome the well off ate flamingos and even parrots.

    But in all my research over the years (as a self-styled food historian) I have never found one single recipe for eagle. The reason might simply be that the eagle has always been held in high regard as a superior bird, a symbol for kings and such. Or maybe we do not like to eat predators – with the exception of shark and alligator.

    I personally would think that any eagle after 5,000 flight hours is just tough and dry-tasting.

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