A Look On The Lighter Side: Let’s talk turkey for the holiday

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It is apparently time to start making plans for Thanksgiving. Or rather, to NOT be making any.

Health warnings for Thanksgiving used to be about stuffing and not letting it sit in the bird after it’s been cooked. Now that’s the safest part of Thanksgiving.

I tell you, it’s making a real mess of my plans.

My son is on the phone. He has been quarantining specifically so he can come home, but first he has a question:

“You’re making Thanksgiving like we always had, right?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Oh, Mom, the year’s been such a disaster, everything’s weird — I was hoping that one day, at least, could be like I remember.”

“Well, sweetie, I feel that way, too. But if you are really remembering, you’ll know we never had Thanksgiving at home; we always went to your cousins’ house or your grandma’s. This year we can’t do any of that.”

“But you’ll still make a turkey, right? With stuffing and cranberry sauce and maybe even a pie?”

“Does it have to be turkey? What if it was chicken instead? Or meatloaf?”

“Why would you say such a thing?”

“Because I know how to make chicken and meatloaf!”

“Let me talk to Dad, OK?”

After handing off the phone, I wandered around the kitchen, slamming cabinet doors. Why the obsession with turkey? I never much liked turkey anyway, except as the meat to put everything around. Literally: mashed potatoes at 1 and 2 o’clock; cranberry sauce at 3; stuffing from 6 to 9, and string beans back up to the top of the clock face again. Gravy splashed wherever.

But that was at someone else’s house. I always brought the pie.

I got back on the call again. “Sweetie, do you even like the taste of turkey?”

“MOM!” His dad took the phone away from me again.

The real problem is that I have never successfully cooked a turkey. One time we were even given a free one from somewhere. But it was frozen solid! There was no way to thaw it in time for Thanksgiving, so we just left it in the trunk of the car (it was a very cold winter).

A week or two later, we were visiting folks who helped us take our luggage to the house.

“What’s this?” asked our friend.

“Oh, nothing. Put it back under the blanket.”

“It’s a turkey!”

“Maybe.”

“Do you mind if we cook it?”

“You mean while we’re still here? Um, sure, go right ahead.” And it was probably OK. I still don’t know; none of us touched it. I think everyone survived.

Another year the four of us were stuck at home for Thanksgiving, too sniffly and sneezy to travel. I certainly didn’t feel up to wrestling with a turkey that year! I just barely had enough energy to make my grandmother’s family recipe of Beef-and-Cabbage Stew.

And it was fine. Except I made so much and our appetites were so small that the potful lasted two weeks, at the end of which no one would ever let me make it again.

And it certainly didn’t feel like Thanksgiving.

So the next time we found ourselves at home for the holiday, I gave in. I bought a turkey.

I actually got it prepped and into the oven before disaster struck. Somehow I ran the broiler pan over my index finger, cutting it close to the cuticle and bleeding all over the linoleum (but not the turkey, thank God!)

Someone suggested I get it stitched up at the Emergency Room, but who wants to go there on Thanksgiving Day? Even if there wasn’t a wait, it would surely have all the most junior people working. So I waited and used lots of Band-Aids, and eventually that finger healed. The cuticle ended up just a little bit crooked.

So that’s a “No” on the turkey, no matter how homesick all of us get. I’ll roast chickens, if anyone needs poultry. I’ll even make my own crust for the pie.

But as for roast gobbler, this family is going to have to quit — cold turkey.

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