All my thankfulness went out of Thanksgiving when I started cooking the turkey. The first few years of my marriage, I was lulled into thinking that we would purchase a pre-cooked turkey and I would merely heat it up and prepare the sides. Because that’s what we did. But somewhere along the way, my husband got the brilliant idea that the house would smell more like Thanksgiving if a turkey was actually roasting inside an oven. My oven.
And thus the stress began.
I can’t remember every turkey I’ve cooked, but I definitely have some stand-out memories, including the year I carefully roasted the turkey in a plastic bag for the first time. We anticipated turkey perfection and easy clean-up. My husband — the armchair quarterback of the Thanksgiving meal — sat near his computer, collecting cooking tips (for me) from various YouTube videos and photographs.
I was having difficulty placing the thermometer in the bird that had been cooking for hours in my oven.
“Look here,” he’d say, calling me over to his computer screen. “This is where you place the thermometer.”
“But my turkey doesn’t look anything like that,” I whined.
He found another picture and tried to make the obvious clearer.
I looked at my turkey and saw no similarity. My husband thought I was mentally challenged. Impatiently, he came over to show me.
“No wonder!” he exclaimed. “You cooked the turkey upside down. You stewed it!”
Clearly, I’d blown it and was now on my own to salvage the mess that was to have been our feast’s centerpiece. I took the bird out of the oven, allowed it to rest while I cried, privately, in the bathroom, and then removed it from its broth-laden bag in which it had stewed. (I shared the bird’s demise, stewing privately. I felt certain the armchair chef could have made his appearance at the beginning of the cooking cycle instead of the end.) Aloud, I simply announced that I would never cook turkey again. Next year we were having crab legs!
As my husband carved the bird, however, he found — wonder of wonders — a perfectly roasted turkey with a juicy, not stewed, breast. He rejoiced, he raved, he sang my praises.
Which then begs the question, do I purposely cook the bird upside down the next year?
I can’t be positive, but I’m pretty sure I have cooked the bird right-side-up every year thereafter. However, my armchair chef constantly makes suggestions and refuses to go golfing with the other men in my family — no doubt so he can “stuporvise,” as he calls it. Yea, me.
And thus begins another Thanksgiving cookathon.
A couple of years ago, my sister and her family drove up to enjoy the meal with us. I thought I’d be super organized and put all the nonperishable items together in the dishes in which they’d eventually be baked — including the trivet baskets in which they’d set. To keep that super organization out of my way (and out of mind, apparently), I stored them in the lower oven while the turkey roasted in the upper one. (You probably see where this is going; I didn’t.)
When it was time to start putting the casseroles together, I decided to preheat the lower oven. It wasn’t until I heard an explosion in it that I realized what I’d left inside. I opened the door to find cream of mushroom soup splattered all over the oven (and quickly baking onto all surfaces), the soup cans ajar and nearly emptied, and the wicker basket trivets scorched black.
Thankfully, my sister was there to help me salvage the mess — and my armchair chef had joined the men outside in the driveway talking car maintenance. We sneaked the heated pans and cans and burnt baskets to the back porch, were then able to scrape the remaining soup into a bowl, put together the casseroles, and throw away the burnt baskets before the men came inside. My husband never knew a thing. Whew. (I hope he doesn’t read my blog.)
This year, as I prepared my shopping lists for the Thanksgiving meal, I was happy to find that I’d had the sense to type into my recipe wikispace every one of my recipes — as well as the Thanksgiving meal menu — and a timetable of what I needed to do when.
And for that I’m thankful, as I anticipate my day of cooking. How could anything go wrong?