Sticking to the bones of tradition!

The chorus of the Hank Williams Jnr. hit Family Tradition goes as follows: “Don’t ask me Hank why do you drink, why do you roll smoke, why do you live out the songs that you wrote? …I said leave me alone, singing all night long, it’s a family tradition”. Inference being – to me at least – that there’s often no explanation for the traditions which exist within familial circles.

That Williams articulated such feelings in that manner mat allude to something else as well however. Namely, the importance of maintaining long held family customs. Now, Christmas means many things to many people. The positive elements of which have been outlined here before.

There’s no doubt, though, that, for many people, it tends to be a period of profound struggle. Personally, as has been stated here previously, the better bits tend to revolve around the abundance of sport – and horse racing in particular – which populates the agenda of amusement.

It may surprise some to learn that there is also a culinary concoction which is an especial, beloved element of that particular time of year. Namely, my mother’s own homemade boiled turkey bone soup. I’d love to be able to say that yours truly would be the one to keep the practice going down through the generations. As has been previously intimated however, letting these wheels loose in a kitchen would represent a recipe for unmitigated disaster.

In essence, the name of the delightful delicacy explains what it’s all about. It is, though, a process which is yearned for every year. Perhaps even the headline highlight of that particular couple of weeks annually. From what can be deciphered, it basically boils down to (excuse the pun) carrying out that exact operation on what remains of the Christmas turkey when it has been shorn of its meat content – or most of it.

The last point there is seminal. On occasion, a packet of chicken soup has been known to be added to the mix. Indeed, over the festive season most recently passed, one of a wave of local kitchen kings advocated infusing a quantity of ‘packet’ vegetable soup to the nosh up.

That, however, would cross a negative line and deprive the soup of some of its beloved authenticity. In fact, the additional consignment of chicken soup has been dispensed close to home in recent years. Simply because it appears that the remnants of meat from the turkey carcase that now find their way into the broth would either be engulfed by or dissolved into the additional ingredients.

Granted, there are circumstances which are not about to be expanded upon here that make the preservation of such traditions a necessity as much as anything. Perhaps, though, in a not so stark way, having been back on the farming scene in a meaningful way in the last couple of years has enabled a view of something which many might deem trivial from an angle which proves it to be anything but.

In conversation with a neighbouring farmer over the Christmas period, the point was made that milk producers need a price of 30c/l to make a margin. In the beef sector, €4/kg is generally accepted as the equivalent figure. Where the relevance of that relates to a turkey centred story is solely from cognisance of the fact that the Christmas period surely represents peak production – and therefore profit – season for turkey farmers. Also those who produce trees for that season.

Often, pondering is engaged in as to whether the consuming public appreciate the often elongated, laborious process involving in the preparation of the products they purchase. Turkeys are a case in point. Allow me to explain…

Years back when all the family were still in the home place, it used annually end up in a competition between my brother and I for the legs of the turkey. Often, but not always, it ended one apiece. All that came back to mind most recently when considering the amount of food people tend to waste nowadays.

It’s never a problem close to home but one can’t help feeling that – sadly and worryingly – in the case of the Christmas turkey in some places there’s more of it thrown out than actually used. Admittedly, there’s  a degree of tedium in having the same thing repeatedly – unless it’s porter!

Seriously, though, a little bit of imaginative creativity goes a long way towards making the mundane appear appetising again. Over the course of several quantities of the substance referred to above during the festive season, numerous interesting serving suggestions were happened upon. Very few, if any, referred to using right down to the remains of the carcase.

I’m sure other people in some places do, but it’s not something you hear of very often. So, for a variety of reasons, hope would be that, here at least, we’ll be sticking to the bones of a family tradition for a long time to come.

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