Tuesday, November 24, 2015

TOP STORY >> Some calls are real turkeys

Leader staff writer

Sometimes the turkey at Thanksgiving is not the bird going in the oven, but the person preparing the bird.

Everyone has heard those hilarious turkey hotline stories.

They have even made David Letterman’s Top 10 list, but are they true or just great holiday humor?

They are true, according to Tara Groberski, a 12-year veteran of Butterball’s hotline. With a degree in home economics, years of work in the food industry and many sessions at Butterball University, Groberski fields thousands of calls during the turkey season, and the No. 1 question is about thawing.

“How to thaw? I forgot to thaw, now what do I do? How can I thaw quickly?” she said.

Of course, in her 12 years on the line, she’s had her share of unique calls.

“There was a lady whose turkey fell into a cactus, and she wanted to know if it was still OK to cook even though it had cactus needles in it. No, I don’t know how it got into the cactus,” She said.

Groberski said hotline consultants are always on the side of food safety, “and, since I’m a turkey expert and not a cactus expert, I couldn’t tell her it was safe.”

In a similar incident, a woman had her turkey thawing outside and feral cats found it. “They had gnawed through the plastic in places, and the woman wanted to know if it was still OK to eat,” she said.

That turkey turned out to be a treat for the cats, but not the cook.

The Butterball hotline, which has been in operation for 35 years, receives about 10,000 calls on Thanksgiving Day alone.

Here are some more of those unique calls, verified by Snopes.com and Groberski:

• Butterball turkey experts still talk about the Kentucky woman who called in 1993 to ask how to get her dog out of her turkey. It seems the woman’s Chihuahua had dived into the bird’s cavity and become trapped there. The woman tried pulling the pooch and shaking the bird, all to no avail.

A Butterball economist finally suggested the woman carefully cut the opening in the turkey wider to release the captive canine.

No word on what happened to the turkey or on any longtime psychological trauma to the dog.

• A woman called the hotline to complain about her bird’s not having any breast meat. It turned out the woman had the turkey upside down.

• Then there’s the one from the woman who couldn’t find the turkey she buried in a snow bank, and the call from a guy who wanted to know how to carve his bird with a chainsaw, and a mechanic who worried about using motor oil as a baste.

• Another caller told the operator she had always cut the legs off the turkey before putting it in the oven, thinking that was the method everyone used, because that is how her mother had always done it. As she later learned, her mom’s oven was particularly small, necessitating that particular maneuver.

• And there was the worried mom who failed to notice her children playing near the oven-ready bird. The kids decided the turkey’s cavity was a good place to park toy cars. Their mom didn’t discover the bird was doubling as a garage until after the turkey had been roasted. (Luckily, the cars were metal and not plastic.)

• A confused cook called the Butterball line a number of years ago after cleaning her turkey because she wanted to know how to get the metal pieces out.

“Apparently,” said one of the Butterball economists, “she had scrubbed her bird with a steel scouring pad.” In a similar call, a West Coast woman who had taken anti-bacterial precautions too far called Butterball to find out how to get the bleach she’d used off her bird.

• Other strange, but true, hotline accounts, include the newlywed who had a small, apartment-sized range and was worried the turkey would get larger as it cooked (similar to a loaf of bread rising) — she was fretting she wouldn’t be able to get it out of the oven after it was done.

• One of the more unusual questions handled by Butterball’s operators comes from those who have mistaken a well-traveled joke for an actual recipe: They call to ask if they can pop popcorn in the turkey’s cavity during the roasting process. (The joke’s punch line is: “You know the turkey is done when the popcorn pops and blows the rear off the bird.”) And, no, you can’t do that. It won’t work.

If you run “a-fowl” this Thanksgiving, the turkey hotlines are still open.