I love turkey. And because I love it so much, I picked that holiday to host at my home each year. The others can have Easter with its glazed ham and bunny cupcake desserts, or Christmas with a lasagna appetizer and roast beef main course; and let’s not forget every version of a Christmas tree or Santa face on all the desserts at the end of the sumptuous meal.
Thanksgiving is my holiday. It also has special meaning to me because my daughter was born on a Thanksgiving Day; so in addition to the entire feast, I bake a special birthday cake for her.
Of course, I don’t put out the amount of food my grandparents and parents did. Back then, it was almost as if we were eating for the whole year in one day. I serve everything we want and love in moderation, and, of course, many desserts, nuts and fruits.
The tradition has been that when the stunning golden brown turkey comes out of the oven, all the children stand behind it and the cameras snap. We have the very same picture in my photo albums every year, the only difference being that the kids get taller.
I have preparing the feast and cooking it down to a science. All the cakes and pies are made a few days before, and most of the side dishes, the stuffed shells and the stuffing are prepared the day before. At this time of year I’m also thankful for the second refrigerator in the garage.
On Thanksgiving morning last year, Ken and I woke at 6 a.m. and, bleary-eyed, Ken brought up the turkey from the downstairs refrigerator. I stumbled around the kitchen getting the enormous pan ready. The oven was set at a low, slow 325 degrees.
Usually I massage and slather the entire turkey with soft butter, salt and pepper and throw an onion and some carrots inside the hollow cavity. Trussed and ready, the turkey is then placed in the oven, and magically emerges looking good enough to be on the cover of Martha Stewart Living. Let’s face it, it’s pretty hard to ruin a turkey…I thought.
I had just recovered from the flu and although I was fine, I was still very tired. That year’s preparations simply wore me out, but I was pretty sure I was up to the task. So after Ken brought me the turkey, I told him I could manage and that he should go back to bed. “I’ll be right up,” I assured him. He yawned as he climbed the steps and I was left alone with the turkey. I began removing the plastic covering and pulling at the neck and packet still frozen inside. Fingers numb and yearning to climb back into bed with Ken, I began massaging the butter all over the turkey and as I tried to lift it into the pan, it slid out of my hands and landed with a really heavy thud on the kitchen floor.
“Everything okay down there?” Ken asked. I knew he didn’t want to leave the comfort of the warm bed again, so I just answered, “It’s fine. I’ll be right up.”
Good Lord, I wanted so badly to get back into bed. I tried picking up the greased beast again, but again it plopped to the floor and slid about a foot away from me.
“Damn.” Grease and slime covered my pajama top and arms as I gripped the 26 lb. monster and threw it into the sink. I washed it thoroughly, slathered it with butter once again, salted and peppered it and used my last bit of energy to lift it into the pan. I threw the whole thing in the oven, climbed the stairs and fell into bed.
“You smell like turkey and butter.”
“Really? I don’t smell anything.”
Fast forward four hours and I was refreshed, showered and dressed for my special holiday. The family would arrive any minute and I wanted them to see my gorgeous turkey right out of the oven. I anticipated all the “ooohs and ahhhs” at the sight of it.
But, there were no “ooohs and ahhhs” just “ewwws.” In order to get a good grip on the turkey, I must have pulled and ripped at the skin so it looked like it had been massacred. Also, I had accidentally put it in the pan upside down and had forgotten to remove the neck and giblet packet, and they were sticking out of both ends of the poor bird dry and singed. It looked like a horror movie, The Thanksgiving Nightmare.”
“What happened to the turkey?” everyone said in unison.
“Um, I may have been half asleep this morning when I put it in the pan.” Thank goodness no further explanation was necessary. As a result of the upside down turkey, we had not the prettiest, but certainly the plumpest, juiciest turkey ever.