Years ago I wrote a couple of long posts on an e-mail list about my Thanksgiving adventures. It was a long time ago. I don't remember the exact year, but long ago. All the kids still lived at home. Joshua was still alive. William was still only knee high to a grasshopper.
The posts aren't very well written. There are sentences that start with one thought and switch to another thought in the middle. There are typos and mispelled words. I change tense enough to make an English major have a nervous breakdown. But somehow it's become an annual Thanksgiving story. Old friends ask me to post it each year, something similar to the watching of It's a Wonderful Life (not that I'm in any way comparing my story to the genius of Frank Capra's story - I'm just saying it's a holiday tradition). And over the years it's become a small way in which I can still include Joshua in our holiday as he plays a tiny but crucial role in the adventure.
I've always thought that one day I'd spiff it up, make it a real story instead of just a long string of "and then this and then that and then this'es". Give it a critical eye, put a new holiday scarf on it, and make it worthy. I set out to do that this morning and found myself resisting the project. Part of the tradition is that it carries down each year in all it's clumsy, off the cuff, adolescent .... er, ... charm.
And so, with not a single repair, I offer it up to you for your reading pleasure. If you're stressed with cleaning for an impending crowd of friends or relatives, or maybe having a hard time dredging up any holiday spirit yet, maybe this will help get you in the mood for the zany weeks of too much food, too much shopping, and too much decorating in the weeks to come. May all of you be gifted with memories as precious to you as these crazy memories are to me.Godzilla Turkey vs. Megamom
The story begins about a week before Thanksgiving when my mother calls up
and offers to provide the turkey for our Thanksgiving feast. She has a
friend who raises them on her ranch and it will be fresh and organic.
Great! She says it will be about a 27 pound turkey, will that be enough?
Plenty, I tell her.
Teusday before Thanksgiving my mom arrives to drop off the turkey which,
fortunately, has been dressed out and frozen for us. I had had visions of
having to deal with a dead bird, feathers and all. She says "You have to
help me get it out of the trunk because I can't lift it by myself." Well,
she is a tiny lady. So I go out and take a look, my eyes get big. This
turkey looks way bigger then the 23 pounder we had last year. I can barely
lift it and I struggle back into the house and barely get it onto the
counter before I drop it.
As family members all wander home during the day, each person remarks at how
big this turkey appears. I'm convinced it has to be bigger then 27 pounds,
so I borrow a bathroom scale from our neighbors and attempt to weigh it by
weighing various family members with and then without the turkey in their
arms. We get various results but one thing is obvious - the turkey weighs
more then 27 pounds. In fact, it weighs something more
then 40 pounds!
Fast forward to the day before Thanksgiving, here are my original posts, one
before and one after the big day.........
Ok, so late this afternoon I finally buckle down after procrastinating all
day. I start making my stuffing, which means taking out all the old french
bread I've saved, putting them in a big plastic bag on my central cutting
board and then William and I whacking at it with a couple of wooden meat
tenderizers. Joshua comes in the door at that moment and looks at us
strangely. I tell him, "And if you piss me off, YOU'LL be next." Then the
head of the bigger mallet flies off the handle and comes down on top of
William's head. I had know idea that preparing Thanksgiving dinner was so
I continue making stuffing, an entire gallon of it. It fills my largest
bowl. I keep imagining the interior of this turkey. I'm sure if I yelled
into it, it will echo.
Next comes pie making. Two pumpkins, an apple (because my mom HAS to have
an apple) and a mincemeat just because I feel like it. I'm defrosting
pumpkin and cooking mincemeat and taking spices down from the shelves like
an octopus lady. I realize that the butter is frozen and have to wait while
I defrost it a bit in the microwave, preparing a triple batch of flour for
the crust. This means taking all the fruit out of my second largest bowl
and washing it. About the time I decided to put the butter back into the
microwave for a few more minutes on defrost, I had a suddenly realization.
I didn't own a single pan big enough for the friggin turkey to fit in!
So off I go to Safeway, where I fight the crowds and only manage to find a
pan that looks woefully inadequate for the job. I buy it anyway and head to
the second market in hopes of finding something bigger. They've totally
sold out of every pan they own but the meat manager suggests Walmart, says
he saw some big aluminum pans there. I go back across town a second time
and discover that they had three left just an hour ago but...yep, they've
sold them all. I head for the housewares department where I coerce a young
female employee to climb up on one of those huge ladders and check out all
the pans they have on the top shelves. Nothing. But I do find some
aluminum drip pans that I tell myself at least could protect my oven from
the inevitable drips of squeezing this turkey into anything that will fit in
the oven. I start considering the possibility of having my son saw it in
half with his table saw. At the check out stand I run into a neighbor who
is not cooking this year and offers to lend me a large roasting pan she
uses. Great, I say, hoping for the best, and head back home.
On the way home I realize the last time I ate was at 7:30 am (it is now 8:30
pm) when I grabbed a frozen waffle at my mom's house on the way back from
taking my two kitties to the vet to get spayed and neutered. So I stop at
Jack in the Box for a 99 cent chicken sandwich, wolfing it down (on one side
of my jaw since my other side is still sore) so that the family doesn't know
I ate out. With the kitchen taken over with Thanksgiving preparations, I
left them to eat frozen burritos and cold cereal for dinner of their own
Back home, I'm racing through pie making. I can only safely cook two pies
at a time so I need at least two hours of cooking time available before the
turkey has to go in around l2:30 am and it's now almost l0 o'clock. A
friend calls to chat while I'm mixing pumpkin pie. I had decided to make
one of the pumpkin pies with the recipe on the back of the evaporated milk
can and the other pumpkin pie of the recipe in my LLL cookbook. That way, I
figured, I could decide which one we like best. So as I'm talking to my
friend, I'm measuring out the ingredients from one recipe and then the
ingredients to the second. While I'm busy stirring, between comments about
her decision to drive six hours to her sister's for Thanksgiving, leaving at
3 am, and my comment about how we couldn't invite some friends over for
Thanksgiving because my stepdad doesn't like the husband of the couple, I
look down and realize that I have carefully measured out both recipes into
the SAME bowl and have happily stirred them together. I think I'll call the
results "Blonde Pumpkin Pie."
We both finally realize that I've stopped being able to bake safely, and
she's stopped packing and has flopped down on her bed, so we hang up. By
now the first two pies are almost done and it's almost time to put the
second pair in. The only thing left to do is figure out how to cook "the
bird." The neighbor's tiny son has dragged over his mother's roasting pot,
almost as big as he is, and still too small for the turkey. I pull my
regular enamel roasting pan out and eyeball it over the fowl still bathing
in our tub. Not a chance. The aluminum pan from the store is obviously too
flimsy. Then I remember that years ago I had bought an old industrial sized
enamel serving tray because I was going to drill holes in it and use it as a
flower pot. I dig through the garage and find it, wash off the cobwebs and
dirt and line it up with the rest of the contestants. I few rusty spots,
but nothing that will hurt us.
Four huge pans and not one up to the job. Of the four, the garage find is
the largest and sturdiest, so I decide to take the plunge. I drain the
water, wondering all the while if I should use bleach on the tub before
anyone gets salmonella from bathing in it. Then I realize that there's no
way I can carry this waterlogged thing back out of the bathroom, down the
hallway, across the diningroom and kitchen, without leaving a soggy trail on
the freshly cleaned floor. So I use a bathroom towel as a sling and try to
pick it up. It's too heavy. I go and wake up one of the boys and have them
help me carry/drag the turkey. Halfway there Sam gets disgusted with his
wimpy mom, picks up the whole thing and hugs it to him so he can prove how
much stronger he is then his mother. He also proves how much wetter he can
be then his mother. Of course it's MY fault as he goes grumbling of to
change clothes before slamming the door on his way back to bed.
Now the turkey is in the sink. Or rather, it's bottom is in the sink, the
top two thirds are sticking up out of the sink. William peers UP at the
drumsticks far above him and says, "Boy mom, that's a big turkey." I
wrestle the plastic off and reach down to remove the giblets, which I
discover are still frozen inside the cavity. I pour hot water in and
wrestle it around while trying to explain to William what giblets are and
why they call them giblets instead of guts (because it sounds better) and
why people eat them and no they didn't grow in the turkey in the plastic bag
(haha). Finally freed, I am now left with a turkey full of water, too big
to flip upside down, and no one left to help me lift it into the pan. I try
to lift the turkey and manage only to get it high enough for it to fall
forward and pour the bloody water from inside down the front of my sweater.
That's ok, I'm so hot and dehydrated from the oven and the woodstove being
on all night that it feels good. With a heave and a ho and a prayer to the
fairy that prevents hernias, I lift the turkey just enough to manage to drop
it into the pan with a huge shudder that sends the cats running.
And there it sits, one leg in, the other high in the air like a long salute.
One wing smashed underneath it, the other sort of hanging over the side
like he's leaning over the bar about to say "Hiya honey, how about we go out
for a drink after this is all over." By the time this bird is cooked, that
wing will have all put fallen off it will be so dry and overcooked, sticking
out like that. But, hey, at least it's IN the pan. At least most of it is.
Oh, good lord, I realize, I still have to get it into the oven. Fearing my
propane tank isn't large enough or full enough to cook through both turkey
and stuffing, I decide to cook the dressing separately and wander around the
kitchen trying to figure out how I'm going to season it without the filling.
Remembering bits and pieces of online posts about the best way to cook a
turkey, I grab a bottle of pinot noir and start drinking it straight from
the bottle. One glug for me, one for the turkey. Once the turkey is
totally sloshed and I'm feeling better, I take down a bottle of olive oil
and start rubbing it lasciviously all over the turkey, quoting rude lines
from the last Austin Powers. William decides this is a good time to
dissappear and goes off to play Pokemon. Now, it's just me and the bird.
He's still sitting there, behind me. Now he's leaning out of the pan a bit
more, singing an old Billy Joel tune.
Wish me luck. Maybe this is the real reason that I was led to start weight
training last week.
Well, it's a quiet day after the day after Thanksgiving and I finally have
time to bring you the rest of the story. Now, where did we leave off...oh
yes, it was time to get Mr. G into the oven.
I had to wait an hour for the stuffing to cook as I didn't think I'd have
the time or oven to cook it the next day. Finally around l:30 I pulled the
stuffing out of the oven to let it cool on the chopping block. Worried
about the turkey drying out, I added about a quart of water (which, you will
discover later was a b-i-i-i-g mistake) and then wrapped up everything that
stuck out of the pan in tinfoil, about 2/3's of the turkey. With a heave ho
I managed to get him in the oven without dropping him - whew! Only, it was
so heavy on the oven shelf that I had to put hotpads on my feet and push
with my legs to get the shelf back into place. He just fit with one shelf
taken out and the other one placed on the bottom most rung.
I could finally go to bed....but wait. I noticed that the wall behind the
oven was unusually hot. By now the oven had been on for almost four hours.
Geez, I couldn't go to sleep with the wall about to burst into flames. I
rigged up some more tinfoil between the back of the stove and the wall and
resigned myself to staying up a bit longer to make sure that would do the
trick. I had to wait for the stuffing to cool enough to put in the
refrigerator anyway. I entertained myself flipping television channels and
reading home decorating mags while the wall and the stuffing slowly cooled.
Fortunately the tinfoil did the trick. Still nervous, I went to bed around
At 3:30 I woke suddenly with a panic attack, ran back into the kitchen. All
was well. At 4:00 I could hear Buck outside my window clearly barking "I'm
such a dumbsh*t that I have wrapped my chain thoroughly around the grape
arbor and am now stuck out in freezing temps ten feet away from the entrance
to my doghouse." So I climb out of my cozy covers once more, pull my mud
boots on over my bare feet and go out to extricate him from his self
inflicted predicament. (Normally he isn't tied up. We have him on a chain
because he has recently found a new way to escape from the dog kennel and
it's not fixed yet.) I tromp back to bed and find that my rubber boots have
sealed to my legs because there was no pants leg or sock between the rubber
top and my obviously too fat calves. I break the seal, pull hard, and
release my feet. 4:30 - Buck. Whine, whimper, small bark - Translation:
"Oh mom, sorry to bother you. I have no short term memory and I'm back
hugging the grape arbor." Laume. @*%#^!$%@!*&! Translation: Don't ask.
6:15 Hubby comes tromping in. He thinks he's quiet when he comes in in the
mornings but he's dressed out in snow boots, a nylon coat that rustles, all
his work equipment with the flashlight clunking and the chain clanking. He
drops it all on the floor and crawls into bed, stealing all the covers.
7:00 Joshua taps quietly on the door. He peeks in and says "Uh, is
the house supposed to be filled with smoke!" I fly out of bed, race down
the hall. Yep. Smoke everywhere, the sound of juices dripping merrily down
to the bottom of the oven, seeping out of the broiler and all over the
kitchen floor. Although it's still frost covered outside, Joshua and I
fling open all the doors and windows and turn on the ceiling fans. Happy
Thanksgiving and thank goodness Joshua is an early riser!
In an hour the oven is cool enough to pull the turkey out (this time with
Joshua's help) and with an entire roll of holiday paper towels decked out in
swirling leaves, I wipe up all the grease from the oven, broiler and floor
so that turkey can be returned for several more hours of cooking.
The rest of the day was also one of those picture perfect Thanksgiving with
happy family laughing around the table, delicious food, and help from all
family members. Only one squabble with Sam to mar the day. Everyone teased
me about which pumpkin pie was the best - remember, I combined the two
And Godzilla? It took me an entire hour to clean the carcass after the
meal. With eight hearty eaters, we didn't even make a dent in ONE SIDE of
the breast!!! I used quart freezer bags stuffed 'til they could barely
seal. I froze two quarts, sent another quart home with my folks,
refrigerated five quarts, fed the dog two quarts of questionable (gristle,
skin, leftovers) and froze two more quarts for the dogs. I poured all the
juice into a gallon bottle for future soup stock, hung the wishbone up to
dry, and tossed out the bones.
And when it was all over, my house was still clean, including the kitchen,
the family was stuffed, and all was well with the world. Blessed be to an
exceptional turkey. He will go down in the annals of family history.