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It's almost turkey time
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Turkey day is approaching and it is a wonder time.

For reasons passing my understanding, turkey is a meal we tend to put on the table only on Thanksgiving Day.

You can buy turkeys most of the year, but you seldom hear of people cooking a turkey dinner in February or August. It may be that the turkey is just too special to cook for an ordinary meal.

Fried chicken may be a staple for Sunday dinner but the great and glorious turkey is reserved for one day, which no doubt makes the turkeys happy and is a cause of consternation for all chickens great and small.

Selecting the right turkey is an important assignment, ranking just ahead of picking the proper pumpkin for Halloween and right behind getting the perfect Christmas tree. The main difference is that you can't eat the Christmas tree, although I have a cousin in Tennessee we're not too sure about.

Finding the right turkey is made even harder during campaign season when we have more than the average number of turkeys running around. Generally speaking we are not allowed to eat the two-legged variety.

The important factor in picking the Thanksgiving bird is to remember this is one time when size does matter.

If you are responsible for the bird and get one too small you could find a horde of ill and hungry family and friends huddling in the kitchen thinking of ways to utilize common kitchen utensils to perform what would be considered an invasive procedure if you were in the hospital.

Few things will cause more dismay than a man prowling around the table picking at the turkey platter for one more piece of meat only to find nothing but bones. It should be noted a man seeking more turkey will not be placated by an extra helping of sweet potatoes.

And if you don't have enough turkey for leftover turkey sandwiches, then woe be unto you.

At the same time, you do not want to buy a turkey so big it will not fit in whatever device you are using to cook the critter. And while turkey leftovers are important, you don't want a bird so large you end up finding turkey meat in the refrigerator on Easter. The rule of thumb here is not to eat meat once it has reached the point where you really don't know if it started out as white or dark.

Cooking the bird is, naturally, the prime directive of the day and the options are varied.

While smoked turkey and deep fried turkey are both wonderful there are few things that evoke nostalgia and pleasant memories more than the smell of turkey in the oven drifting through the house.

The key here is to make certain the bird is cooked. While you can get away with an overcooked and somewhat dry bird - just throw on a little more gravy - a bird that looks ready to fly off the table will not be greeted with great enthusiasm.

And if someone decides to eat it anyway, the enthusiasm you will see from them will be later in the evening when they demonstrate great foot speed to the bathroom.

The only other major mistake in cooking will be the yahoo we read about at least once every year who decides to drop the 20-pound frozen turkey into the five-gallon vat of hot cooking oil. This usually results in no turkey for Thanksgiving and a call to the fire department.

So select and cook your turkey with care and kindness and appreciate its sacrifice on the great American holiday.

The only thing that might make Thanksgiving better would be if we could cook some of the two-legged kind, but I'm pretty sure they would not be fit to eat.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at