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American Turkey Hotline

Thanksgiving in America is here again, and aside from friends and loved ones, the turkey is the most important part of the festivities. For unexpected poultry problems, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is offering cooking, and at times moral, support.

A myriad of fall leaves are scattered on the ground outside. The in-laws have come in from out of state, and everyone is happily eyeing a fresh-baked turkey on the dining table. The man of the house starts carving, but wait, even though the bird is enormous, there’s almost no meat on the bones. What do you do?

It might sound like a strange nightmare, but this is one of the many problems the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line has responded to over the last thirty years. In this case, the team of more than 50 professionally trained, college-educated home economists offered a simple solution: turn the turkey over.

Beyond cooking a turkey upside-down, the Butterball website lists an amusing collection from the 100,000 or so questions the hotline receives over the holidays every year. A woman from Ohio once called in for tips on how to prepare an especially tender turkey breast. Turkey Talker Marty Van Ness, a seventeen-year veteran of the hotline, answered the call but could barely hear the voice on the other line. When asked if she could speak up, the woman confessed that she didn’t want her husband to hear the call from the other room. Looking forward to tender Thanksgiving leftovers, he wasn’t too happy that she had forfeited a whole turkey for a turkey breast that year. Van Ness gave her a few tips to make sure the meat would be tender, and suggested she could always buy another turkey breast for the leftovers.

Turkey Talker Astrid Volpert, who offers her tips in English and Spanish, received a different kind of hidden call one year. While preparing a turkey dinner for an entire fire station, a New Jersey fireman didn’t know where to put the meat thermometer. Volpert explained the best technique and then mentioned that he could find more recipes on the website. This caught his attention at first, but after considering his “macho” image with the other firefighters, he decided to keep his culinary curiosities a secret.

Men behind the oven can find themselves in a strange place on Thanksgiving. In her twenty-four years as a Turkey Talker, Mary Clingman once took a call from a new father a few hours after the birth of his first child. When he was at the hospital with his wife, he had forgotten about the Thanksgiving turkey in the fridge. He was worried that it had been thawing too long, so Clingman asked how much it weighed. “The turkey or the baby?” he responded. After a clarification and a quick calculation, Clingman assured him that everything would be fine.

Not every caller has such luck. Turkey Talker Diana Jimenez, who holds a master’s degree in dietetics, once took a call from a man who said that his turkey was on fire. When he asked what he should do, Jimenez tried to find out exactly what had happened, to make sure it wasn’t a prank call. The man explained the situation, and Jimenez kindly replied, “Sir, I think you should call your local fire department.” After all, the Turkey Talkers don’t have the answer to everything.  


By Editor Will Cade

Available in English and Spanish, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-288-8372) is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST during November and December for North American callers

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