After the Fact: The Day of the Turkey


Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday. I’d be just as happy, or even happier, if we had a National Day of Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches in November. At least, with peanut butter sandwiches, there’s some variety: creamy or crunchy; strawberry, grape, or peach jam; white bread or wheat. The traditional Thanksgiving meal allows for minimal change. It’s turkey or turkey though, yes, you can opt for white or dark meat.  Who eats dark meat? Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (with those little marshmallows on top), dressing and hot rolls. Carbs by the bucket load. 

I’ll admit, I love everything about the Thanksgiving meal except the turkey. I even love the cooking part and having company for dinner and getting out the family china (I gave that to my niece a couple of years ago: it had languished in boxes in my bedroom closet for over 20 years and I figured that was long enough!)

It’s just that Thanksgiving at our house has traditionally become one of those events when disaster arrives early and stays late. So far, nobody’s been poisoned though, to hear about all of the “thou shalt nots”, it’s nothing short of a miracle. It may work for other people, but my turkeys resolutely remain frozen for at least three weeks after being removed from a freezer to the refrigerator. The folks who make those bags designed to keep coolers cool could take a lesson from the turkey packers: those little envelopes tucked neatly inside the turkey will still be frozen in July.

Chris’s first-ever Thanksgiving dinner as a new bride was her initiation to the family tradition. She’d invited my mother and me to dinner. Her kitchen sink in the mobile home wasn’t big enough to hold the turkey, so she put the bird in the bathtub under running water. The potatoes were boiling, the pies had been baked the day before, and everything else seemed to be going according to plan. But she’d forgotten the running water. By the time she went to get the turkey, the entire bathroom and most of the hallway was flooded.

John retrieved the turkey and got it into the oven while Chris started mopping. They had to remove carpet and plant towels along the baseboards to soak up the seeping water.  They’d almost finished by the time mom and I arrived. By family standards, hers was the least disastrous Thanksgiving dinner on record.

We’ve had windows open to let the smoke billow out on days when it was snowing and days when the temperature at noon was barely above zero so last year was not nearly the catastrophe that might have occurred. The turkey was nearly done when I put the pre-cooked ham into the oven to warm. It turned out that the shelf above the turkey didn’t allow enough room for the ham to clear the upper heating coils. It took a while for the smoke to build up enough to set off the alarm that neither Chris nor I can reach without a small step-ladder and, of course, we couldn’t remember where we’d used it last. Happily, Chris had invited her friend Cletus, who’s tall enough to reach the kitchen ceiling.

If Bev or Gatha were concerned, they didn’t show it and I didn’t have to pass out blankets to keep everyone warm after we opened the windows and doors. Our new across-the-street neighbors were, I think, out of town because nobody called the fire department when the smoke billowed out. 

We haven’t decided yet whether to cook or go out for dinner this Thanksgiving, but I’d be surprised if any of last year’s guests would turn down another chance to see what happens next.

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