Thanksgiving: The case of the missing giblets

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line experts cheerfully assisting other clueless clucks like myself. Oh, the stories they could tell!

I’m not proud of it, but yes, I admit it. Many, many years ago I myself called the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line® ladies looking for help.

It was my first time cooking the Thanksgiving dinner myself, and because I was entertaining only a few people, I’d selected one of the smaller birds from the grocer’s freezer case.

Trouble was, after I’d gotten the net-wrapped item home, impatiently waited for it to defrost and then carefully washed and patted it dry as directed, I couldn’t find the expected giblets packet. I’d extracted a slimy plasticized packet of gravy from the dark recesses, but couldn’t locate the giblets. Weren’t there always giblets?

So I did the first thing that any sensible, albeit inexperienced, cook would do. I called my mother.

My mom had been roasting a Butterball turkey for Thanksgiving for as long as I could remember, and found my confusion highly amusing. She insisted that the giblets were inside the bird. “There’s always a giblets packet tucked inside,” she laughed, “Look again, it’s got to be there.”

Let me say right up front that there are only so many places that one can look inside of a turkey. No giblets were to be found.

A second call to my mother only made the situation worse. I got a lecture on how unbelievably bad it would be to cook the turkey with the missing giblets package still inside. Visions of giving my very first Thanksgiving guests food poisoning and the trip to the emergency room flashed before my eyes.

I looked again. No giblets. I couldn’t figure out what to do. I re-examined the sink where I’d washed the bird, clawed my way through all of the netting and wrappings, and even looked inside the garbage disposal.

Then I noticed the little 1-800 number printed right above the “Safe Handling Instructions” on the discarded Butterball label.

A pleasant and cheerful woman answered my phone call. The patient and non-judgmental way she listened to my confused and by now slightly panicky story was a wonderful calming influence. She said that she suspected she only needed to ask me one question: had I bought a whole turkey or a turkey roast?

I checked. I’d bought a roast. “Roasts only come with gravy packets, they don’t have giblets packets. You don’t need to worry, you haven’t lost anything!”

Talk about relief! When I was done laughing nervously at my own stupidity and offering profuse thanks, I apologized for being so very clueless. The Turkey Talk-Line® lady chuckled and assured me that my question was actually very common, and most definitely not the silliest thing she’d ever heard before.

Myself and my mom with the remains of a Butterball on some holiday involving turkeys. Taken over 100 years ago, as now my hair color is the same as my mom’s here.

In fact, by their standards, my dilemma was pretty low on the Thanksgiving turkey mayhem meter. Butterball began dispensing helpful hints to callers back in 1981, and today their year-round Turkey Talk-Line® receives over 100,000 poultry-related questions from perplexed cooks in November and December.

Manned by more than 50 professionally trained home economists and nutritionists who claim that no question is too tough, the Talk-Line®’s experts have answered calls ranging from the proper way to stuff a turkey to how to cook for a whole firehouse, and even when to start roasting the turkey so it’s ready by halftime.

And although I must admit to my shame that I lost non-existent giblets, at least I can claim that I have never lost a whole turkey! Butterball Turkey Talk-Line® expert Sue Smith reported that a caller from Colorado “wanted to store her turkey outside since it was below 40F degrees out. Well, there was a snowstorm and 10 inches of snow fell. She forgot all about her turkey and called to say she couldn’t find it!”

Since frozen turkeys don’t come equipped with GPS locator chips, it is not known exactly how the caller expected Butterball to help her find her missing bird. Butterball expert Mary Clingman says that Talk-Line® experts could only offer the suggestion that the woman plant a red flag in the snowbank next to her bird next year.

And then there was the call from the man whose turkey was on fire. Talk-Line® expert and registered dietitian Diana Jimenez spoke to the gentleman whose urgent question understandably was, “What should I do?’ After asking him about what happened and ensuring it was not a prank call, she kindly answered, “Sir, I think you should call your local fire department.”

Here’s hoping that everyone locates the turkey (and the giblets) and can celebrate a family-friendly Thanksgiving flame-free, but just in case, you might want to write down this number: 1-800-BUTTERBALL


One Response to Thanksgiving: The case of the missing giblets

  1. Patricia Bell says:

    Great story! Happy Thanksgiving!

    “It takes struggles in life to make strength; it takes fight for principles to make fortitude; it takes crisis to give courage and singleness of purpose to reach an objective.” –Walt Whitman

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