What’s Going On: Turkey tacos and Laura Ingalls Wilder

Who knew turkey tacos had something in common with Laura Ingalls Wilder?

First, some context.

For those who don’t know me, I’m extremely frugal; efficient with monetary resources; cost-conscious.

Or as my loving wife would tell you: I’m a cheapskate.

I can’t deny that charge, not when I’ve stayed in a hotel room that had a cockroach on the floor not out of necessity, but simply because it was only $20 a night. And certainly not when I’ve purchased 48 pounds of ground turkey at a time.

So what would possess a cheapskate to buy 48 pounds of ground turkey at once? A sale of course. At 75-cents a pound … I couldn’t pass it up. So I didn’t. After grabbing two 12-pound boxes, I walked away, pleased with myself. Then I remembered we had recently purchased a small deep freeze and that there wasn’t a limit on the turkey … so naturally, I walked back and picked up two more boxes.

Of course, when I came home with enough turkey to feed my family of five for two months, I at first tried to convince my wife it was for the health benefits when compared to hamburger.

“It’s … um … leaner and stuff,” I tried.

“Uh-huh. How cheap was it,” she knowingly responded.

Since then, we have tried numerous recipes to use the ground turkey, typically substituting it for anything that calls for hamburger. We have had turkey spaghetti, turkey burgers (not bad) and turkey chili.

So naturally, turkey tacos sounded like a good idea. Except when they aren’t.

In full disclosure, one thing I like more than being cheap is spicy food. Even as a child, I’d load up the nachos at Busch Stadium with jalapenos, and even though heartburn is a frequent visitor as I get older, my affinity for hot foods hasn’t changed.

I should add the disclaimer, though, that when I say I like hot foods, I mean American, white-people hot foods. If I walk into a restaurant featuring Thai, Indian or even Japanese food and a selection is described as hot, I’m hesitant. Even some Mexican food causes pause as well.

But when it comes taco time in the Orear household, I like to use the entire seasoning packet on the meat. But with three young children in the house who don’t like spicy food, I frequently have to settle for half a packet, which usually is acceptable (barely) when using hamburger.

But the less flavorful turkey meat? Sorry. It just didn’t work.

The tacos were simply too bland, at least for my taste.

But hey, the kids loved them, so who cares about poor old dad.

What does this have to do with Laura Ingalls Wilder? Well, last week the Association for Library Service to Children created quite a controversy when they decided to change the name of a children’s book award from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

Officials with the American Library Association, in announcing the change, stated concern over Wilder’s legacy and how her books are now criticized for racist overtones, specifically in the depiction of Native Americans.

When Wilder wrote her books, she wrote them from her perspective and experience, which included watching her father dance in blackface during a minstrel show and her mother expressing extreme hatred for the Native Americans they encountered.

Much like Mark Twain before her, Wilder wasn’t concerned with political correctness or sensitivity to racism because quite frankly, political correctness didn’t exist when she was writing.

In a press release announcing the change, the Library Association stated Wilder’s “legacy is complex, and not universally embraced.”

While I would agree with the latter sentiment, I would add to the former that while her legacy may be complex, that’s our fault, not hers.

Wilder was a tremendous author who reflected the morality and sensitivity (or lack thereof) of the time. She didn’t put lipstick on the pig to make it more appealing to the masses or sugar coat anything probably because she didn’t anticipate a need to. However, her books are a reflection of what we were as a society … good and bad.

Yet the decision to remove her name from the award is typical. We saw the same thing here in Minnesota with Lake Calhoun. Anything, whether a body of water, or an award, or a building that is named after a historical figure runs the risk of that figure’s legacy becoming besmirched by changing societal standards.

What’s acceptable and honorable today may be despised and loathed tomorrow.

As such, it’s probably wise not to name anything after anyone anymore because everyone is susceptible to this kind of scrutiny not only today, but in Wilder’s case, nearly a century later.

The Children’s Literature Legacy Award is usable. It’s boring, non-descriptive, but it won’t offend anyone or violate their delicate sensibilities.

Kind of like turkey tacos.

Bleh on both.


Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.