Sunday, November 28, 2010

Re-Killing the Turkey

Most of you were done on Thursday, but I just waved goodbye to the biggest feast of the season after having twenty in-laws over for a belated Thanksgiving meal last night.

That shriek you hear is the song to my crazed morning-after happy dance.

I am not an entertainer. I want to be. I try. But while some people are born to lay out lavish dinners for multitudes with nary a batted eyelash, I was born to be the rolls and veggie tray girl. It’s not really that I’m such a bad cook (although the facts of last night may point that way). It’s more that I’m a worrier who frets for weeks leading up to the event, and then lets pots boil over onto the stove while the guests arrive. And no matter how much planning I do ahead of time (in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping), I always seem to find myself driving to the store thirty minutes before go time to pick up that one last ingredient that will somehow lift the party from stressed-out mayhem to Martha Stewart perfection.

Last night’s meal involved a turkey—well, a turkey and a ham, because I was sick of turkey after eating leftovers since Thursday, but some of the guests were averse to ham. Ham’s easy (hel-lo, you can get them already cooked and sliced), but I had prepared precisely one turkey in my lifetime, and I think it was about eight years ago (or, roughly, the last time I couldn’t somehow escape hosting duties on Thanksgiving).

Now, you may be thinking that turkey is easy, too, but I beg to differ. Cooking a turkey involves wrestling eighteen pounds of cold, rubbery raw bird flesh onto a pan (brand new, since—duh—I didn’t actually own a roasting pan, which you don’t need for rolls or a veggie tray). First you have to fish out the neck (thanks for including that, Butterball!), and then you need to stand there for ten minutes or so with your arm swirling around the slimy innards while you frantically search for the bag of giblets. I knew they must be there somewhere—I have actually cooked poultry before—but nobody warned me that I should be looking in the turkey’s butt!

Finally (and you might be able to skip this step), I needed to run to the computer to Google how to insert a meat thermometer into “the meatiest part of the thigh.” I’ve eaten chicken thighs, but I wasn’t even sure where to find one on that nasty raw-meat monstrosity. (I think this experience may actually be the tipping point that turns me vegetarian.)

With the thermometer in according to the package directions and the wisdom of the Internet, I set the bird in the oven to cook for the promised four hours while I finished making the rest of the food and setting three tables. (Hubby was away working hard at his very important coaching job and picking up Danger Boy from basketball practice, so it was all on me—yippee!). Forty-five minutes early, the temperature alarm beeped, and I took the now-golden bird out to rest. It looked pretty good! On a whim, though, I decided to check the temp of the suspiciously firm-looking turkey breasts. I know that “firm” and “breasts” can be good in some situations, but I don’t think Thanksgiving dinner is one of those. When I inserted the probe, the meat let out the barest dusty sigh as I discovered with the rapidly rising temperature gauge that I had indeed killed the bird (again!). Damn.

“Gravy, people, you should definitely throw on some gravy. Or try the ham. The ham is great!”

Finally, the work was done, the house cleaned, the borrowed chairs in place, and the food laid out for the hungry masses. My older son looked at the food spread out before him and, sagely, made the observation of the night:

 “The problem with Thanksgiving is that the food isn’t even all that good. We have a whole day centered around turkey. Why don’t we have a day centered around something that tastes good, like hamburgers?”

Now that would be my kind of Thanksgiving! I’ll bring the buns.

Two of three tables... the top one still waiting on the BYOC (bring your own chairs)


  1. Sorry I missed the feast! I've always been partial to nice firm breasts....with a little gravy of course. I also think that requests for turkey after Thanksgiving has past should be treated with as much scorn as petty family politics allows. I agree with Danger Boy. If you can't (or wont) eat ham, then ham...burger is the default setting. By the way, this post will apparently look like it comes from Lisa, but it's really from Lisa's Dad.

  2. LOL, well that explains the "nice firm breasts" comment!(You know, it is totally possible to log out and then back in as yourself.)

  3. I think I like your son's idea of Thanksgiving. Turkey isn't my favorite and cooking one, even less. Here's to eating whatever you feel like on the holidays, and not what you're expected to eat! Anyway, it sounds like a you've had a stressful situation...I would have been freaking out myself if I had to do it. Glad you got through it in one piece, and those tables do look very nice.

  4. All credit for the table prettiness goes to my mom, the queen of holiday decorations (and, at one time, the owner of a rockin' collection of holiday sweaters to match). She offered up her trimmings and handed me bags of Thanksgiving swag. It wouldn't have even occurred to me that I'd need table decor (and napkins, etc.) until the day of the feast, so the offer was doubly appreciated.


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