Southern Fondue: A History of Deep Fried Turkeys
Food historians generally agree that fried turkeys trace their roots to Bayou (Louisiana/Texas) creole cuisine. No exact year, restaurant, or person is connected to this particluar food by primary documentation. There is no mention of fried turkey in La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes [New Orleans:1885] or The Picayune Creole Cook Book, 2nd edition [New Orleans:1901]. We DO find evidence that fried turkeys were cooked outdoors for large popular events (family reunions, charity dinners, church suppers, etc.) in the early years of the twentieth century. About 10 years ago fried turkeys received national press and caught the attention of mainstream America. According to articles indexed in the LEXIS/NEXIS reQuester database, this recipe migrated from Louisiana/Texas to Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia (peanut oil), and Washington D.C. before it forked northward toward Seattle and Vancouver. Most articles written in the last couple of years simply reference fried turkey as a tasty alternative to traditional fall holiday meat.
"Frying whole turkeys is sort of the Southern version of making fondue. You have a lot of your friends over, you poke around in a pot of hot oil with some sticks, and then you pull out your dinner. Justin Wilson, he of Cajun fame, recalls first seeing a turkey fry in Louisiana in the 1930s."