Now then: turkey. My current living quarters is more or less right next to a Safeway, so the majority of my lunch meat consumption has consisted of Safeway-approved brands such as Oscar Mayer, Land-O-Frost and Oscar Mayer. Now, there are varying levels of quality amongst these brands' sub-brands (Oscar Mayer seems to have about seventy different classifications of meat), but even accounting for this, I've come to realize that these meats of lunch have something in common, specifically as regards their turkey. They all have a turkey flavor that does not necessarily taste like an actual turkey. What I mean by this is: have you ever had grape soda, or grape candy? It all has a very distinct "grape flavor" that doesn't taste anything like grapes at all. If you eat a grape Chupa Chups, you'll be able to identify the grape flavor for sure, but should you actually consume an honest-to-God grape, you'll note that said grape tastes nothing at all like "grape flavor." They should just follow Dave Chappelle's lead and call that flavor "purple."
With this in mind, the Safeway lunch meats share a quality of "turkey flavor" that I only recently noticed bears only a vague resemblance to the experience of eating a legit turkey. They taste like I expect turkey lunch meat to taste, to be sure, but not actually like turkey, per se. It's a strange expectation to have; I mean, if you bought a grape Jolly Rancher and it tasted like a real grape, wouldn't you be kind of freaked out? I don't know. I'm not your caregiver.
Now picture this: it's a few days after Thanksgiving. You always end up spending the time surrounding Thanksgiving enjoying a plethora of turkey-related meals: Thanksgiving dinner, of course, as well as Thanksgiving dinner redux, turkey soup, and for lunch, turkey sandwiches.
These turkey sandwiches are always amazing. Big slabs of turkey meat with mayo and whatever the hell else you feel like slopping onto your bread, these concoctions are an enchanting culinary experience, made all the more so by the fact that they are roughly infinite times better than the turkey sandwiches we eat constantly throughout the year. But why? Isn't it all the same meat? One would think so, and yet these post-Thanksgiving sandwiches are like ambrosia compared to our serviceable but bland lunchtime standards. I've never questioned it, though. I've always just enjoyed it.
Fast forward to today. My family is going through what 90s hard rock band Stabbing Westward might refer to as our "Darkest Days." Now, things have been decaying for a while, not unlike an elk corpse lying in the hot summer sun. A few years ago, Thanksgiving reached its pinnacle, and for the first time I can recall, there was no verbal abuse or sulking all day. Unfortunately, by definition it's all downhill from the pinnacle, and each successive year we have grown more and more fragmented and outright dysfunctional. This is sad, because Thanksgiving was always the one time every year my immediate family and I could get together and be relatively civil (Christmas always involves outside parties and/or drama or some sort). Now, I'm forecasting this year as the first time that doesn't happen. unless something drastic changes. Obviously, the greatest tragedy to come of this is that I may not be getting a hand-carved turkey sandwich this year. This realization has made this paragraph hard to write, as my tears are making the ink run on the page. I should really stop transcribing things on parchment with a quill pen.
So I was in need of some lunch meat the other day, and for once I got up the gumption to sojourn beyond Safeway into the hallowed halls of Trader Joe's. While gazing upon their wall of cured, packaged meats, my eyes fixated upon the smoked turkey breast. It looked delicious, and more importantly, was the cheapest option available. After paying for my food with a combination of pocket change and somewhat torn two dollar bills, I whisked away my poultry and headed back to the dark recesses of my apartment.Here's a photo reference (of the turkey, not my apartment) for all you visual learners.
By the way, it really is "easy open," just as the package promises. Once the next of my regularly scheduled meal periods rolled around, I took out a semi-stale loaf of bread (use it 'till it's moldy or gone, that's how we do it) and assembled myself a turkey sandwich. I was, of course, expecting to be greeted by the usual turkey-based bird product flavor that I have come to associate with packaged turkey. I took a bite, and...what's this?
Like Jack Skellington in Christmastown, my eyes were opened to a whole new experience. As in, this here is a packaged lunch meat that, get this, actually tastes like turkey. It tastes like it was sliced off of a bird, not a loaf of compressed animal parts. It sounds simple, but it's actually quite amazing, and I feel like this is the sort of turkey I never even knew I should have been expecting all these years. That's right, this turkey changed my perception of all packaged turkey, and now that I've seen the Matrix for what it is, it's hard to go back. There may be no more family Thanksgivings for me in the future, but now I know that I can have a turkey sandwich that actually tastes like turkey without roasting a bird myself in my comically minuscule oven. And for that, Trader Joe's, I salute you.
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