A Veteran of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line Dishes on Saving Thanksgivings, Welcoming Men to the Helpline, and Thawing Methods
Carol Miller has had a hand in more Thanksgivings than most chefs. She's there when the turkey doesn't thaw in time, and when the oven repeatedly turns off, and when, despite all your best efforts, dinner gets burned. She's there even when your family has completely given up on you.
Photo from Butterball Every year, the Turkey Talk-Line fields thousands of calls and helps save Thanksgiving for many families.
Miller, who calls herself a "turkey godmother," is a veteran of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, a hotline for people with bird-related questions around the holidays. The service was first introduced in 1981, when the first six home economics experts manned the phones and found themselves answering 11,000 calls between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Miller joined the group in 1984, and today the Turkey Talk-Line employs more than 50 experts -- from chefs, to dietitians, to home-ec gurus -- and just this year, the company hired the first male helpline operators in response to the growing number of calls Butterball receives from men looking for turkey advice.
We caught up with Miller to get the lowdown on talking turkey and the new crop of men who've joined the force.
EOW: I know you work for Butterball, but is the Talk-Line something you can do from home? Or is there an office?
CM: I'm actually at Butterball in Chicago right now. Our room is Butterball blue, and it's about the size of two basketball courts. Today there are probably about 15 people here, but on Thanksgiving day there will 50 people answering calls. And if I turn around and look behind me ... I talk with my hands, and a lot of my coworkers do too, so you can tell what they're talking about. You can see them covering the breast with foil and putting thermometers in the turkeys. It's really funny.
EOW: So how does a Thanksgiving day at the Turkey Talk-Line go down?
CM: You think the airports are busy on Thanksgiving? We've got a lot on the airports! So as the day progresses, we start with the turkeys on the east coast, like in New York. I'll generally work two shifts, so I'll work from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. then go home for my feast and come back from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. When I get back we're starting to get the turkeys on the west coast.