I had the chance to interview a long time Butterball Turkey Talk-Line expert Janice Stahl, whom I must say has the best taste in clothes ever. I totally went out and bought the sweater she was wearing the day I met her at Butterball University. I’ll spare you the details of the first ten minutes of our conversation which was all about our mutual love of ruffles and layering and get to the turkey talk.
Casey: Well hello there Janice! How are you and the world of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line?
Janice: Oh just fine! Spent my day there today eating turkey! Did you get your new sweater? (Insert more sweater banter here.)
Casey: (sweater sweater sweater) So Janice, let’s get down to business. What is the number one mistake first time turkey cookers make?
Janice: Oh that’s easy. Overcooking the turkey! Get a thermometer! So many turkeys would be saved if more people would just utilize a thermometer. (Remember, your turkey is done when the thigh is 180 and the stuffing is 165.)
Casey: I just happen to have four different thermometers. Let’s just say it stems from a paltry poultry incident from 2002. So next, if a first time cook calls the talk line INSISTING! on making a 14 step turkey recipe that has been passed down seven generations. It sounds grueling and over complicated. Do you help them through the recipe or do you gently persuade a less drastic approach to their first turkey?
Janice: We are always here to help the caller through what they want to do. We don’t know about their traditions or their lifestyle, all we can do is help them make whatever turkey they choose to the absolute best of their ability. We’ll tell them all we know and hope they have the confidence to prepare their turkey how they want it. Some calls can take up to a half an hour, other times people will call back at different stages, the Turkey Talk-Line is here for anyone as often as they want to use it when it comes to preparing their Thanksgiving meal.
Casey: Now what do you think is the best way to cook a turkey?
Janice: The good old traditional Butterball open pan method. Works like a charm.
Casey: Now what’s your favorite way to cook a turkey?
Janice: Oh man, I love a good deep fried turkey. I also love to prepare it out on our grill.
(Insert several minutes of oohing and ahhing over the glory that is deep fried turkey.)
Casey: What are some of your favorite questions?
Janice: I helped an elderly man who had recently been widowed. His wife had taken care of their Thanksgiving turkey for over 40 years, I was able to walk him through all the steps so that he could take over the tradition and honor his wife and the memories they had made throughout all of their Thanksgivings together. Those are the best calls, when you feel as if you’ve been invited into someones home and become a part of their holiday. The calls from new brides are equally great, especially when there is a demanding mother-in-law involved.
Casey: What about some of the more off the wall calls? I KNOW there are some.
Janice: One of my favorites is when people ask completely un-turkey related questions, although you have to give them the benefit of the doubt, they are Thanksgiving related. A regular one question is asking about the difference between a sweet potato and a yam (I have no idea.) and other people call asking how to prepare their Thanksgiving hams. And you know? If we can help them? We will.
Casey: What’s the best money-saving tip you’ve learned over the years?
Janice: Ask for help! Have family and friends pitch in with side dishes. I know I love to contribute, you can either delegate specific dishes or just let people bring what they are the most comfortable with. It will save you a lot of time and a lot of money in the end.
Casey: What about time-saving tips?
Janice: Obviously making side dishes beforehand. Either in the days or weeks ahead, freezing or storing them so when Thanksgiving comes you can pull it all out, thaw and reheat. Of course before you go making 16 cups of stuffing be sure you have somewhere to keep it at the proper temperature. Ask neighbors if they have space in their fridge or deep freeze.
Casey: Ooh, so we both live in the Midwest, so we both have fridges right outside our back doors! Mine’s huge! The size of my backyard! I learned that little trick from my mother-in-law.
Janice: Oh no no no, that sounds great in theory but it’s going to be 60 degrees here in Chicago tomorrow, the weather is just too unpredictable to rely on storing things outside, best to plan ahead to make sure you have room.
Casey: Ah yes, fickle mother nature. Well what about you? Any traditional dishes you don’t make because no one actually likes them? Any traditions in your own family?
Janice: It’s a tradition in our family to serve dumplings, sauerkraut and duck right along side our traditional Thanksgiving fare. In the East they’re big on oyster stuffing while a lot of the country really seems to like sausage stuffing, although I grew up with ground beef stuffing instead. Thanksgiving is the only holiday where the foods are traditional all across America, almost a given for any family. If we can help them make that turkey right, everything else will fall into place.
Janice in the pink in the sweater I now own in oatmeal talking turkey with the AP on our first day of Butterball University.
I can’t thank Janice enough for chatting with me again over the phone, as well as her excellent taste in accessories. Whether you get Janice or one of the other 54 Talk-Line experts when you call 1-800-BUTTERBALL, all of them will be dedicated to you getting the best meal, and most of all the best turkey possible for YOUR Thanksgiving meal.