Two and a half years ago I went nearly cold turkey on a Lenten dare to give up meat for 40 days. Much to my surprise, I learned to love being a vegetarian and have mostly eschewed chewing the animal fat ever since. The reason I spurred myself to become vegetarian, however, was because of the industrial treatment of meat in today’s broken globalized food system. I credit Tom Philpott’s reporting: I loved steak and pepperoni pizza, but I found I hated the stinking waste lagoons; the degradation of air, water, and land; and the chemical-inflated livestock even more.

My serious lack of funds for buying sustainable meat sealed my fate: Vegetarian am I!

chocolate turkey breedOne sketchy bird: A “Chocolate” heritage breed turkeyPhoto: Porter’s Rare Heritage TurkeysHowever, I now find myself staring down the most celebrated seasonal food holiday on the calendar, and my reasons for skipping out on a sustainably raised bird have flown the coop. I’m a vegetarian for environmental reasons, and darn it, I’m going omnivore this Thanksgiving with a certified organic, heritage breed turkey. Ordered from Tiny’s Organic, the central Washington farm which runs my Community Supported Agriculture program, my turkey was “allowed to forage and exercise and do what turkeys do when they have lots of space.” Taking the “eat it to save it” route for preserving heritage livestock, my roommate and I decided on the “Chocolate” variety, a “very rare breed whose history is ‘sketchy.'” How could we resist a “sketchy” turkey?

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I do believe I’m putting my values where my mouth is. However, my brain has gone missing: I offered to undertake roasting my first turkey for a big group of friends. Everyone knows the turkey is everything, and this turkey virgin finds herself in a peck of trouble.

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Once I get this spectacular bird, how do I cook it without a plastic bag and one of those red pins that pops out when it’s done?

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay says I should cut up the turkey instead of trying to roast it whole. New York Times writer Kim Severson suggests “dry brining” a heritage bird and avoiding stuffing it. Local Harvest is of the opinion that a high-heat bout in the sauna with a rosemary maple butter massage is just what the turkey doctor ordered. My mom suggested an aluminum foil tent over the turkey breast, but I’ve also heard you can create a tent from parchment paper.

chocolate turkey cupcakeI’d know exactly what to do with this chocolate turkey.Photo: Bisayan ladyIf I don’t need to slow-roast a saline solution-injected, “enhanced” turkey boob, then how many hours should I give myself to prepare and cook this small gobbler (just over 10 pounds)?

Panicked, I also realized my kitchen is woefully unprepared: I don’t even own an actual roasting pan. Or one of those fancy meat thermometers. Will I be fine with one of those big, generic aluminum pans? A shoddy 9×13 inch pan with a baker’s cooling rack on the bottom (gotta get one of those too)?

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To whom do I listen? What do I do when this frozen bird shows up on my doorstep? What was this vegetarian thinking?