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Decorative Turkey Centerpieces for Thanksgiving

peacock idea for carving a turkey

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.

Carved diakon and honeydew peacock by Deborah Cheeseman

Carved diakon and honeydew peacock by Deborah Cheeseman

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.

Carved peacock - side view

Side view of carved peacock by Deborah Cheeseman

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

carved yam flower

Carved yam flower taught in Nita’s Vegetable and Fruit Carving 101 course would make a pretty garnish for a carved turkey centerpiece

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.

kabocha squash turkey

Turkey centerpiece carved from kabocha squash by Nita Gill

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.

easy acorn squash birds

Easy acorn squash birds by Nita

Apple Birds taught in Nits'a Hearts and Roses video lessons

Apple Birds taught in Nitas’a Hearts and Roses video lessons

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?

Edible Thanksgiving Turkey Centerpiece

Edible Thanksgiving Turkey Centerpiece made by Monique Gill

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.

Carved Pumpkin Turkey by Jim Morgan

Carved Pumpkin Turkey by Jim Morgan

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.

Watermelon Bird Bowl made by Cary Thornton

Watermelon bird fruit salad bowl 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.

Learn to carve like a pro

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4 Responses to Decorative Turkey Centerpieces for Thanksgiving

  1. rose November 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    >>>>>> its so wonderful<<<<<

  2. toyin williams November 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    thank you for sharing .Iwould like to know when you can give the class on the thanksgiving center pices .thank you

    • Nita November 13, 2013 at 8:21 am #

      The Apple birds are taught in my Hearts and Roses lessons. There is a short video showing how to do the quash birds. The link is in the blog post above. The yam flowers are taught in the Yam and Turnip flower lessons in the 101 course. Of the remaining centerpieces in the post, which is the one you would most like to learn? If I can’t have a video ready for this year, I can plan for next year.

  3. barbara November 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    very nice this turke

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