Yesterday's Magazette

4 – Turkey Chef On The Loose

Turkey Chef On The Loose

By Mary A. Berger

It was getting close to Thanksgiving–our first as a married couple. Our families lived far away, and I wasn’t about to cook a turkey for us because we didn’t own a pan large enough to hold one. But that was okay by me. My attempts at cooking often resulted in a call to the local fire department.

Then my neighbor and best friend Dee showed up. She was pleading for help with the special Thanksgiving dinner she wanted to have this year. “But our house isn’t big enough, so could we have it at your house, pleeeze?  They’re giving Grandma only a few more months to live and . . .”

When she told me about Grandma, I caved. “Dee,” I said, “there’s no reason your family can’t come here.” I looked over at my spouse, who simply shrugged. I shrugged back. “Hey, I’ve never cooked a turkey before but it shouldn’t be too hard. Now how many do you think will be coming?”

Dee answered meekly, “Around forty-five.”

After peeling my eyebrows off the ceiling, I blurted in a falsetto voice, “Forty-five?” For someone who hedges at cooking for two, forty-five sounded like a throng for the royal wedding.

“That’s if Aunt Clara and Uncle Tim show up.” I shot her a questioning look. “He, um, drinks a little.” She paused. “Actually, he drinks a lot.”

“He’s a lush?”

“Right.”

“You never mentioned that before.”

“We weren’t planning a Thanksgiving dinner before.” Looking thoughtful, Dee continued. “And we’ll have to keep cousin Angela away from cousin Bernie. They don’t get along. Political differences.”

Oh great, I thought. First a tipsy uncle, then a couple of political loonies. I gave a sigh but reminded myself that she was my friend, and it was just another meal. What could go wrong?

As Thanksgiving grew nearer, I offered to pick up the turkey, and spoke to the local butcher. “How large a turkey would feed forty-five?” I asked. After he stopped giggling, he said maybe I should get two turkeys. Two big turkeys. I finally settled for a large one and told him I’d slice it into small servings.

Finally, the Big Day arrived. Early that morning, after giving me a hand with some last minute things, my spouse headed for his cave to watch pre-football. Before I knew it, Dee was standing in my kitchen with all kinds of goodies and a basket filled with various dishes—stuffing, yams, cranberries.

After setting all the stuff aside or in the fridge, she poked her nose into a large roasting pan she’d let me use. “I see you have Mr. Tom Turkey all ready to go.”

“There’s only one thing,” I said, my inexperience showing; “how long do you cook a turkey?”

“How much does it weigh?”

“Twenty pounds.”

“Hours!  In fact, you’d better start now.”

“Now?”  With my lack of food prep history, I just assumed you cooked a turkey until the smoke detector went off.

Once we’d popped Tom in the oven, we got busy arranging the dining room table. Early in the afternoon, I heard the doorbell ring. Dee answered it. She dragged Aunt Clara and Uncle Tim into the kitchen and introduced me. We exchanged niceties, and I showed them to the living room. “He seems sober to me,” I said to Dee. She made a face as if to say, wait a while. Eventually, the rest of the family drifted in, and before long the house buzzed with the sounds of laughter and conversation.

Finally, Grandma arrived, escorted by the politicos, Angela and Bernie. After I greeted them, I made a point of keeping the two cousins as far apart as possible.

The men headed for the den and the football game. The women sat together and talked mostly about the relatives who hadn’t yet arrived. I complimented Dee on her family and how they seemed to be getting along so well. She told me she’d never seen them so cordial. Or sober.

So things were looking up.

Then Dee had to run home to get the pies. “Be right back,” she said.

Between visiting and seeing that everyone was comfortable, I lost track of time.  But where was Dee? At that moment, I stood paralyzed when the whiff of turkey hit me. Burned turkey. Of course, the smoke alarm was squealing, and I knew another disaster was looming. I made a dash for the kitchen, threw open the oven door, and let out the smoke signals. Then I remembered that my oven temperature gauge was off by a mile and I’d forgotten to have my spouse look at it. Dee had unknowingly set it at 450 degrees! Everyone was rushing around opening doors and hauling up windows.

The turkey was burned beyond recognition. I tried slicing into it but it was hard as granite. Just then, Dee returned. When she saw the turkey mess, she gasped and asked about the innards: the neck, gizzards, and so on. “At least we’ll have those things to eat with all the other food.” My eyes widened as I stared into hers. “You did cook them before putting the turkey in the oven, didn’t you?” she asked.

I pried open one end of the charred bird, reached in, and sheepishly dragged out what was left of its insides, and put them in a bowl. “Oh well,” I said, too embarrassed to look anyone in the eye, “we can have a taste of what might have been.”

To my surprise, the others began laughing and digging into all the food that had been set out. Then Uncle Tim raised his champagne glass and sent up a cheer, which was immediately followed by a round of applause. “This has been one of the best Thanksgivings ever!” he sang out.

Who would’ve thought that Thanksgiving without a turkey could be that much fun!

Vol. 38 No.4 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter- 2011-12

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