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Gary Younge
Read and learn, Bernard Matthews

Jive Turkey is much like most other fast-food places with one exception. With a few concessions to chicken, ribs, catfish and crab cakes, turkey is pretty much all it does all year round.

Initially, I feared it would last about as long as a fat fowl in October. The first time I went in they didn't have any turkey.

"You have to come in the afternoon," said the woman behind the counter. "You see, it's our signature dish."

"That's precisely why I thought you'd have some," I replied. "You see I can't come in the afternoon because I'm working. Maybe you should order some more."

"That's a good idea," she said. "Why don't you put it in our suggestion box?"

But then I thought, even if they did have turkey, how often beyond the holiday season would anyone want to eat it?

Several turkey dinners later - someone with more patience than I must have made good use of the suggestions box - I am starting to understand there are more than one, two, or even 10 ways to stuff, season and serve turkey. For the beginner, Jive Turkey offers the "basic" but for the connoisseur it goes on to offer 13 flavours, including Peach Bourbon, Vidalia Onion, Cajun, Jamaican Jerk, Honey Pecan and Orange Zinfandel Glaze. For the more casual palate there is the Gobbler sandwich, the Jive Turkey wrap and the Turkey Provolone. In short, there is not much that you can do with a turkey that is legal that these people haven't thought of. But if it revealed that I was a novice on the versatility of turkey, it also exposed me as a relative newcomer to diversity of New York. For in a city as big as this, it seems there will always be a critical mass of people to sustain any particular food fetish that can find an entrepreneur to sell it. And in a city where consumers are as demanding as they are here, those shops will take preparation of whatever specialist food they champion to new heights and offer choices you never knew were possible - and know for sure are not necessary.

Down on the Lower East Side, just next door to Ted's Tuxedos, stands Guss's pickles, where several huge plastic vats sit outside, offering every kind of pickle you could think of and most likely a few that you hadn't. And nothing else. "I'm the only one who knows all the recipes here. I take my recipes very seriously," says Tim Baker, who describes himself as "the owner, buyer, payroll, hire-and-fire and quality control man," at Guss's.

Not far away stands Rice to Riches, which sells nothing but rice pudding. Not counting the 21 regular flavours including pumpkin pie, pistachio protest and cinammon sling, there is also one international special, sugar-free special and daily special. "We've taken rice pudding and given it a makeover," they boast.

These myriad choices give you a sense that every culinary experience - from the main course down to the condiments - offers infinite possibilities to hone, refine and define your tastes to within a whisker of perfection.

The fact that faced with all this choice I usually pick the same things every time (surrendering to mango rice pudding and deep-fried turkey with mash) suggests one of two things. Either that I have yet to get the hang of it. Or that the possibility is the point.

· Overheard in Harlem after the audience gave the thumbs down to a disabled comedian at the Apollo amateur night.

The compere: "Damn, I've seen it all now. You just booed off a man in a wheelchair. You're all going to hell. Sure, you'll try to get to heaven. But God sees everything. When you get up to the gates and the angel says, 'Didn't you shout that man in the wheelchair off at the Apollo?' You'll make out like you didn't but he'll just say: 'Play the tape.'"

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