SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
People are adjusting their Thanksgiving plans, staying away from large gatherings and, as it turns out, large turkeys. You may pause here to insert a joke about BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music. NPR's Emma Peaslee has the story.
EMMA PEASLEE, BYLINE: Tonya Nash can count on one hand the number of family Thanksgivings she's missed.
TONYA NASH: We drive from Georgia to Texas every year. It's a family tradition that actually started before my boys were even born.
PEASLEE: She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, but they look forward to celebrating with his family in Houston.
NASH: It can be 20 to 30 people.
PEASLEE: But that big family is part of the reason they're staying home. Her youngest son is high-risk for COVID-19. So while a lot of things will be different this year, Nash is determined to have one thing be the same.
NASH: I'm the only one in my family that likes turkey, so I just got a very small turkey. And I'm going to get a ham 'cause everyone in the family typically eats that a little bit better.
PEASLEE: It's different than the nearly 20-pound turkey they might have in Houston. But even if she's the only one eating it, Nash is adamant.
NASH: You have to have turkey.
PEASLEE: She's not alone. Butterball surveyed about a thousand adults in September. They found that 30% plan to celebrate with just their immediate family. That's twice as many compared to most years.
RONI MCDANIEL: Hi. This is Butterball Turkey Talk Line. How can I help you?
PEASLEE: Roni McDaniel and her daughter, Coren Hayes, are Butterball experts. They've been fielding questions about Thanksgiving for weeks. And they're noticing a difference in what people are asking.
MCDANIEL: You know, oddly enough, they are looking for smaller turkeys. What about you, Miss?
COREN HAYES: They are looking for smaller turkeys. And I'm getting more questions about availability in general. Where can I find a turkey? Where can I go?
PEASLEE: Questions like that might indicate another trend - first-time hosts. McDaniel and Hayes are used to working with newbies, including one caller who accidentally bought a chicken instead of a turkey.
HAYES: And he seemed very sincere. How do I, you know, cook this and make it seem like a turkey to my guests because I really don't want to mess this up?
PEASLEE: Hayes told that caller to just come clean with the guests.
While the Butterball Talk Line can answer the question of how to cook a smaller bird, it's not as easy for farmers to make the adjustment.
(SOUNDBITE OF TURKEYS GOBBLING)
PEASLEE: Rachel and Joe Shenk raise turkeys on a small farm in Newport, N.C.
RACHEL SHENK: Sometimes, once you get them going, they just keep, like, (imitating turkeys gobbling).
(SOUNDBITE OF TURKEYS GOBBLING)
PEASLEE: They're hearing a similar refrain from their customers.
SHENK: I want the smallest turkey you have.
PEASLEE: But for the Shenks and other turkey farmers, once the turkeys are hatched, there's not much they can do because a smaller turkey isn't just a turkey on a diet. It's a turkey born on a completely different date. And that's a decision they would have had to make months ago, long before people were canceling their plans because of a surge in coronavirus cases. So the Shenks are helping their customers get creative.
SHENK: And so then I have to go back and be like, well, would you be OK with a half-turkey?
PEASLEE: And it turns out they are, because while half a turkey isn't exactly Instagram-worthy, it's certainly not the weirdest thing about 2020.
Emma Peaslee, NPR News, Newport, N.C.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE DURUTTI COLUMN'S "CONDUCT")
SIMON: I will not gobble.
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