It’s been years since I worked in television news, but every year around Thanksgiving I am reminded of the perfect turkey sandwich I stumbled upon while reporting in the southern Valley.
Let me tell you, it was the perfect day. Work ticked along like clockwork, the sun smiled brightly and we were on a fall road trip. Video journalist Wade and I headed to Wahpeton, N.D. to tackle a big story. We had our interviews lined up and thought we might even have time for lunch.
We loved working in the Wahpeton area and always hoped to be stuck there around lunchtime. Right across the river from Wahpeton is Breckenridge, Minn., which is the home of The Wilkin restaurant. Beautiful tin covers the twelve-foot ceilings and there are still reminders of the building’s original life as a bank. The atmosphere was always fun but the food was even better.
This was the fateful day that we were introduced to The Turkey Gobbler – the lunch special that never lived on the menu, but appeared on the daily specials each Wednesday.
Imagine an amazing mouthwatering sandwich, which starts with thick homemade bread with slices of fresh turkey, has coleslaw piled high, mandarin oranges on top of that, and homemade raspberry mayonnaise on the side.
Think it sounds weird? Yeah, we did too. And then we tried it. In the middle of our first bites the waitress dropped off a pile of extra napkins.
“You’ll need these,” she smirked.
And we did. But it didn’t stop us both from diving in with both hands. Wade and I talked about the sandwich for weeks. As I got sent out of town for stories in the coming months I introduced other photographers to The Turkey Gobbler and then things got serious. Anyone who got to Wahpeton on a Wednesday would gloat to the other employees that they got to eat at The Wilken. One photographer took the small disposable container filled with the raspberry mayonnaise and left it on the corner of his desk so everyone would see it as they walked by. That was probably the meanest move I saw out of any of them.
As the education reporter, many of the stories I would pitch could be done at anytime. The breaking news and hard news could always take you away from an “evergreen” story, of course, but if it was a slower news day I tried to get out around our entire viewing area and report on significant stories within the education realm. Every other month or so we would have a story in Wahpeton – I just made sure that we would go on a Wednesday. Ah yes, Turkey Gobbler Wednesday. Whichever photographer was lucky enough to go with me got a fabulous lunch.
We had pulled this off for a few trips, but the next time I pitched a Wahpeton story on a Wednesday one of the producers snapped her head up during the morning meeting. “Wahpeton on a Wednesday…again? You’re going to The Wilken!”
Busted. My charade was over, but they still can’t take away all of my memories of that amazing sandwich.
After Thanksgiving, as you wonder what to do with all of those leftovers, try making your own version of The Turkey Gobbler. Don’t forget the mandarin oranges. And if you ever end up in Wahpeton-Breckenridge on a Wednesday…well, you know…check if they still have the special!