Ironically, despite being native to North America, the domesticated turkeys that graced the tables of the Pilgrim Father's first Thanksgiving dinner in 1620 had travelled out with them on the Mayflower from England. Turkeys first reached Europe in the 1520s, brought back from their native Mexico to Spain and distributed throughout the Mediterranean by Turkish merchants. They were a hit, and quickly became a favourite food for the richer classes. As early as 1585, turkey had become a Christmas tradition in England. Then, as now, the flat, fertile plains of Norfolk, grew the best birds and breeders set to work to produce a heavier breasted, more docile version of the wild bird.
The Norfolk Black and the White Holland were both English breeds re-introduced to America, and most domestic turkey now consumed in the USA derives from these two breeds.
Lobster, seal and swans were purportedly on the menu for the first Thanksgiving. Not turkey? Not likely. Not anymore. Today, the word Turkey is practically interchangeable with Thanksgiving, and the bird is not just part of the meal – it's arguably the most important part. As such, selecting a turkey should be paramount in your preparations