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Basting the Bird: 1940

Basting the Bird: 1940

November 28, 1940. "Mrs. T.L. Crouch, of Ledyard, Connecticut, pouring some water over her twenty-pound turkey on Thanksgiving Day." Happy Thanksgiving from Shorpy! Medium format acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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A Kalamazoo ~ Direct to You

Mrs. Crouch uses a Kalamazoo "President" stove. The version with a Utility Shelf had a price of $79.90 in the Kalamazoo 1934 catalog. And yes, it had a thermometer built into the oven door. Watch video for some looks at the inside.

Preheat oven to (blah blah blah)

Before 1917, recipes didn't give oven temperatures in degrees, because there was no reliable way to measure or control on that basis. In 1917, Gus Baumgarten outfitted his gas oven with a thermostat. His experiment attracted the attention of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who promoted thermostats nationwide. Nowadays it's hard to imagine not having a dial or digital control that you can set and forget until the timer goes off, but this lady was still using a wood or coal stove in 1940. It might have had a thermometer built into the oven door, as many stoves did in the early 20th century, but that required constant diligence.

Tall turkey

Judging by eye, I'd guess the pan lid sitting on the stovetop does not fit over that turkey.

Mine was a waterless bird

I'm firmly in the non-basting faction -- with anything, but least of all with water. Too much work. I must say that my 22-lb bird turned out so perfectly this year, I myself wonder what my secret is. I think it's that I bought a high-quality product and did a refresher course on how to serve a juicy, crispy-brown-skinned turkey that makes everyone's mouth water. (Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, then cut the heat to 375 right after putting the bird in. That way it gets done in less time, and is deprived of the opportunity to dry out.) The result exceeded my expectations. For Christmas, however, we will have ham.

Water? Water!?

I've heard of basting turkeys with stock, wine, butter, and oil, and I know some people don't baste at all. But I've never heard of basting with water.

I hope my comment doesn't start a argument between pro-basting and anti-basting factions.

Happy Thanksgiving

One of the very best parts of Shorpy (aside from the photographs, of course) is the spirit of community amongst the commenters. Let us all sit down at our virtual table together, whatever our views, and commit to the mutual wish for a resumption of our normal world and the usual Thanksgiving next year, where we can all sit together, cheek by jowl, in peace and good health.

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