Thursday, November 26, 2009

Talking Turkey

Cooking the Thanksgiving turkey has been my task for the past thirty-some years, dating back to the third time Laurie and I hosted the holiday for our families.

Why the third time, you might wonder? Well, for our first Thanksgiving, Laurie did all the cooking, including the bird. But, going for that Norman Rockwell moment, I did the carving. Laurie had left the neck inside the carcass and the plastic bag containing the liver, et al, under the "front flap" so there were these surprises when I started cutting. I pointed out that these were supposed to be removed and she agreed.

The next year, as she was prepping the bird, I asked if she had removed the neck and the plastic bag and she told me that she had indeed done so. Imagine my surprise when the bird was done and I went to carve it and found that she had not. "I'm not sticking my hand inside there!" she proclaimed.

And so, I started doing it for our third Thanksgiving.

For many years, I would get up at 4:00 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day to put the turkey in the oven. (More than once, I had been awakened by a phone call from Angelo at Ronalds Printing, the folks that printed all of DC's comics, with a problem that had to be addressed. It is not Thanksgiving in Canada, so it was a regular workday there and, since they run the presses 24/7, there were also problems at any time of the day or night.)

I believe the last time I actually cooked the turkey on Thanksgiving was the year that it took longer than it was supposed to. That was also the year I almost used the electric knife to carve
my father-in-law as well as the turkey.
You have to understand that my father-in-law had his "rules" about eating meals. If dinner was at 5:45, you had better be eating at 5:45. He once ate an uncooked hamburger because it was 5:45. When he arrived for Thanksgiving dinner at 3:00, he expected to start eating at 3:00. (One year I handed him his bowl of fruit salad as he walked in the door because they were a couple of minutes late.)
Anyway, since the turkey was not done, we were running seriously behind schedule that year. When it finally was, I started carving, with my father-in-law standing right next to me and grabbing slices of turkey as I was cutting them. I finally had to have Laurie remove him from the kitchen before he lost a finger.
That was also the year that he and my mother-in-law left before dessert, much to my mother-in-law's dismay. The allotted Thanksgiving visit time was used up and they had to go. (To be fair, in the early years they used to have to go home "to make sure the dog was okay." In later years, however, after the pooch had gone to doggy heaven, they continued to depart on schedule. We used to say that they were going home to make sure the dog was still dead.)

In order to avoid another delayed turkey fiasco, I've started cooking the bird on Wednesday. (This has also freed up the oven on T'Day for stuffing, yams, and all other assorted foods.) I stay up until it is finished, carve it in the wee hours, and then have it ready for warming at dinner time on Thanksgiving Day.
In recent years, as the number of family and friends who join us has increased, we've added a turkey breast (or two) to the mix. Those get cooked on Tuesday night!

And I always remove the neck and the plastic bags beforehand.

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