Emmett Watson’s Thompson Turkey


As a kid growing up in a Seattle home with a P-I subscription (and later the Times), every Thanksgiving for many years I read a familiar recipe: Emmett Watson’s Thompson Turkey. Watson printed it in his column every year, and though I’m sure it was just an easy way to slack for a column, and I’ve never actually cooked or eaten a Thompson Turkey, the recipe itself is part of the Thanksgiving ritual, right down to the closing lines: “You do not have to be a carver to eat this turkey. Speak harshly to it and it will fall apart.” Another local columnist, John Owen, had this to say about the Thompson: “A Thompson Turkey emerges from the oven neither white nor dark. It is usually charred blacker than a newspaper columnist’s soul. ” Jean Godden, another P-I columnist and now city councilperson, said “No one has ever eaten a Thompson Turkey and lived to tell about it. But that’s understandable because no one has ever actually baked one of the things either.”

So. Has anyone tried it? Anyone dare? I don’t eat turkey anymore or I would have tried it by now. Really.

4 thoughts on “Emmett Watson’s Thompson Turkey

  1. Not only have I done a thompson turkey but I served it to guests and we all lived to tell about it. It was about 4-5 years ago when we had just moved to a new apartment and had our friends coming over.

    I looked at the link you attached–I don’t remember the part about the pineapple and the excerpt doesn’t include the VERY crucial and liberal application of Ramos Gin Fizzes to the cook while the bird is in the oven. Otherwise, the part about colman’s mustard etc is all correct.

    The bird does come out completely black but as I recall, it was juicy and tasty.

    Funny you should bring it up–I mentioned it to my husband when we were brining our 30 lb bird this week.

    For more information, try doing a search on Chowhound…….

  2. Thank you so much..we have the Thompson Turkey every year, my daughter took the recipe to Germany to share with her hosts on Thanksgiving, we have spread the “TT” far and wide and friends and relations have all helped with the bird and taken the recipe with them to start their own traditions….I know of a family in Overland Park, KS trying their first “TT” this year. It is fun, involves the whole family, and is the BEST turkey ever. With the fifteen minute basting, all are required to hang around the kitchen, and so the game boards come out, and we all actually INTERACT. Good fun, good food, team work, and a carbon covered disaster turning into a culinary masterpiece — how AMERICAN IS THAT?? Anyway, I lost my own recipe in a move this year, so thanks for the post.

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