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by Jerusha Klemperer

For a few years now, as part of my job, I have been preaching to others about eater-based conservation and the joys of keeping biodiversity alive by eating heirloom varieties, and heritage breeds. Conventional turkeys are not bred for flavor, don’tcha know; they’re bred for big boobs and fast maturation, and ability to freeze well; and blah blah blah and yup sure, I hear ya.

Finally this year I myself cooked not just a free range bird but a heritage one–an American Bronze from Frank Reese’s Good Shepherd Ranch in Kansas. Which for me is a bit like a football fan saying he ordered a football and it came from Brett Favre’s backyard where Brett Favre himself stitched the pigskin together with his own two (giant) hands.

I proudly served the beautiful 9 pound bird at the Thanksgiving feast called by one enthusiastic guest “the most delicious, least emotionally complicated Thanksgiving I’ve ever had!” And I found that I was suddenly my own target audience; this bird was weird. There was no light fluffy, watery breast. It didn’t taste like any turkey I have ever eaten before, and of course that was unnerving.

But by bite three I was won over by this flavorful, tenacious, lean meat, and finally understanding this idea of “real turkey flavor,” that heritage bird proponents talk about. My initial dislike helped me understand how deeply ingrained our food preferences are–we like what we know, and what we know is a Butterball. If I am to be any kind of spokesperson at all for the importance of re-shaping our palates, I must begin with myself, no?

*This post originally appeared on Jerusha’s blog.