E. Jason Wambsgans/TNS

Let’s talk turkey. Not the gobble-gobble sounds turkeys make when conversing with their peers, but rather the idiomatic meaning of "talking turkey."

According to Michael Quinion, British author, etymologist and webmaster of World Wide Words, a site devoted to linguistics, the phrase "talking turkey" is American in origin. The earliest date it appears in print is 1824, but Quinion suspects the phrase is probably much older, dating to the early colonial period.

One explanation of the phrase’s origins associates it with turkey negotiations between Native Americans and early colonists. Native Americans were so accustomed to colonist seeking turkeys, it is said their greeting was always something to the effect, "You come to talk turkey?"

With Thanksgiving two weeks away, it is time to talk turkey, both in terms of getting down to the business of planning a menu, as well as selecting a bird. As in the past three years, turkey shortages have been predicted this year due to avian influenza. Butterball, America’s No. 1 turkey producer, has assured turkey enthusiasts that while the supply of fresh turkeys may be diminished, an ample supply of frozen birds will be on hand.

If a bird with a more prestigious pedigree is desired, there are numerous producers of organic birds. Perhaps the most famous organic, free-range purveyor is Willie Bird. Owned by the Benedetti family, which has produced prima donna turkeys for the past 50 years, Willie Bird is available directly from the company or from Williams Sonoma.

The average-sized bird found on most Thanksgiving tables is 16 pounds, according to Butterball. A 16-pound Willie Bird will set you back about $150.

Although not a turkey-brining enthusiast in the past, I concede that brining is the way to go, whether making your own brine or buying a ready-mix concoction.

My problem with brining is finding a pot large enough to accommodate a 16- to 20-pound bird, while not displacing brining liquid into the bottom of the refrigerator.

Turkey selection is only a small part of the advance preparation for the Thanksgiving meal. Perhaps no other holiday meal is as labor-intensive, given the scope and diversity of the menu. Most cooks start their preparations days in advance. Candied yams, green bean casserole, mac and cheese, pecan pie, cranberry relish, congealed salad and cornbread dressing with giblet gravy all play integral roles in the Thanksgiving repast.

When serving such a diverse menu, it is safe to offer a diverse selection of wines, but I am making a radical departure from my historic Thanksgiving wine recommendations.

For less complicated wine service, a number of wine professionals are recommending Lambrusco, an Italian, slightly sweet, fizzy red wine to serve with the entire Thanksgiving meal. Lambrusco is a type of wine made from the Lambrusco grape in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

Some might remember Riunite, a jug-format Lambrusco still available at your local grocer, but I recently tasted two better-pedigreed Lambruschi by Cleto Chiarli.

Grasparossa di Castelvetro is a slightly sweet Lambrusco, while Vecchia Modena Premium is dry. Both are in Champagne-type bottles with easily removable corks. Beautiful in color, I would serve one of each and let guests decide what they prefer.

These wines are reasonably priced in the $11-$15 range at Tyson’s Fine Wine and Things in Golden Springs.

Contact wine columnist Pat Kettles at