Did you know that in the early days of America’s independence, Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird instead of the bald eagle? Even though the bald eagle was chosen, the Turkey which is native to North America has become an American symbol of Thanksgiving.
How did the turkey get its name?
I found several explanations.
Theory 1 – The Native Americans called the turkey “firkee”. If that is true, I wonder which tribe? (It sounds a lot like the vegetarian substitute for turkey that is made of soy. It’s called tofurkey.)
Theory 2- When Columbus reached America, he thought he landed in India so he dubbed the Native Americans, Indians. He believed the the bird that he saw which we now know as the American Turkey was a type of peacock. In the Indian language, Tamil, ‘peacock’ is ‘tuka’.
Theory 3 – The Turkey may have received its name because when it is afraid, it makes a call which sounds like “turk-turk-turk”.
Theory 4- “When Europeans first encountered turkeys in the Americas, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guinea fowl (Numida meleagris), also known as a turkey-cock that was imported to Central Europe through Turkey. The name of the country stuck as the name of the bird.
Which one is true, if any? I have no idea. If you’d like to see some detailed information about history of the turkey, you can find it here.
Historically, there has been a lot of confusion about between these kinds of birds from related, but different, families. This confusion is reflected in the scientific word for turkey which is Meleagris Gallopavo. Meleagris is a guinea fowl, gallus is a chicken, and pova is a peacock. Thus, the scientific name for turkey is a combination of guinea fowl-chicken-peacock.
Guinea Fowl-Chicken-Peacock, Turkey Centerpieces
Keeping this turkey name confusion in mind, here are some turkey, peacock and other bird carvings that are great for decorating your Thanksgiving table.
This peacock was carved by one of my student/customer, Debbie Cheeseman who has her own catering company in Alabama. I love how she made this peacock. With a few changes in color, this same idea would make a great Thanksgiving centerpiece.
Debbie carved the neck and head from daikon and then painted it blue. She carved the body from a honeydew melon using the corrugated u-cutter, much like I teach in my Watermelon Flower lesson which is part of my Vegetable and Fruit Carving 101 Course. For the feathers she carved daikon and soaked them for 24 hours in cold water with blue dye. They are held in place with toothpicks. I think it’s lovely.
Turn this Peacock into a Turkey
To make this same idea look like a turkey centerpiece, you could use a cantaloupe for the body and color the neck, head and feathers shades of brown, and gold. Add some red sweet bell pepper carve to look like the red floppy skin at the neck and you have a lovely looking turkey. You could surround the carved turkey with some yams carved to look like flowers or tiny pumpkins and fall leaves to complete the look.
Great job on your carved peacock decoration. Thanks for sharing your great idea.
A Few Other Turkey Centerpieces for Thanksgiving
Here are some other carved turkey centerpiece ideas that you might find useful.
Here is a turkey that I carved from kabocha squash with a yellow squash neck and head.
Here are some simple birds that I assembled from acorn squash and yellow squash with carrot beaks. You can see a short video on how to create these birds by clicking here.
To garnish your serving dishes you might want to make these easy to carve apple birds that are taught in my Hearts and Roses video lessons.
Here’s another take on a Thanksgiving turkey inspired edible centerpiece. This is a bread and cheese plate put together by my daughter-in-law. It’s a cute creative idea isn’t it?
The following turkey carved from a large pumpkin was made by Jim Morgan. Click on the following link to see a few more turkeys carved from pumpkins, on one of my previous blog posts.
If you are in part of the country where watermelons are still available, you can make this simple bird watermelon basket. This one was made by Cary Thornton.
Here are some more great Thanksgiving Centerpiece Ideas and decorations.
And you can see more Autumn Pumpkin and Carved Squash decorations here.
I hope this article gives you some fun ideas for making a carved turkey centerpiece to decorate your Thanksgiving table.