Turkey and Tantrums
By Sarah L. Hunter
November 24, 2021
With the Christmas season lurking around the corner, I’m reminded of my first time cooking a turkey dinner. I had solid guidelines to work from, as my mother prided herself on holiday meals with all the trimmings. Ignoring my fear about food poisoning from an undercooked turkey, I cautiously planned the menu.
The first hurdle was the turkey: fresh or frozen? Twenty pounds of poultry melting in my bathtub was unappealing, so I went with fresh. How fresh was apparent when I loaded the blubbery, water filled fowl into my shopping cart (did raw turkey juice drip onto my pants? Ew!) The grocery store was full of stressed-out shoppers, with an undercurrent of barely controlled tension. “Four hours to cook a turkey?” one man asked his wife, “can’t we just order pizza?” Maneuvering around tired adults and dawdling kids, I managed to grab my groceries, buy them, and leave before someone burst into tears (probably the defeated looking man staring at the potatoes. “Yukon Gold or Russet?” I heard him mumble).
On the appointed day, I started bright and early. Pies first, then potatoes, then turkey. Things were going well! I peeled the apples, chopped them thinly, and loaded them into the store-bought pie shells (no way was I making my own crusts; Martha Stewart I ain’t). Moving onto the blueberry pie, I hit my first snag. This pie needed to bake for fifty minutes, which would horn in on the potato cooking time! The two dishes had wildly different baking temperatures, so they couldn’t cook together. Why don’t standard kitchens come with two ovens? Determined to make this work, I popped the pies in the oven. The apple pie would be fully baked, and the blueberry pie would catch up later. Moving on to the potatoes, I hit my second roadblock. I had twelve potatoes to roast, and only one baking tray. I had not thought this through. After a frantic call to my neighbor (my only intelligible words were “POTATO COOK?”) and a gratefully received tray, I hurriedly peeled and chopped. The bird needed to go in by eleven a.m., and it was already 10:25. Yanking the "blueberry pie out of the oven, I cranked up the heat and shoved the potatoes in. Panic sweat beading on my brow, it was time for the big guy: the turkey.
The poultry I’d dealt with had come in neat little plastic-wrapped packages. This was the whole beast: wings, drumsticks, and skin, all parts I was unfamiliar with. What’s worse, I had to stick my hand inside this unfortunate fowl and yank out some surprises. Gagging, I reached in, and to my horror found not only giblets, but what appeared to be the turkey’s neck. What an ignoble end for this bird, with his neck chopped off and shoved up his whizzway. Summoning my courage, I crammed the stuffing inside the cavity, smothered the bird in butter, snatched the potatoes from the oven, and shoved the turkey inside. No time to relax yet; I had to set the table, clean the bathroom, and slap on some makeup before my in-laws arrived.
Somehow, I managed to do everything, and I was even dressed when the first guests showed up! With the delicious smell of rosemary and thyme filling the air, the turkey slowly cooked and more guests arrived. The clock ticked down and BOOM, the kitchen exploded with bubbling water, steaming pots, thickening gravy, and burnt fingers. My feet barely touched the floor as I stirred, salted, and spun my way around the room. Sweat dripped down my back and my hair wilted, pans and spoons flew around the kitchen until….. it was done. The table was set, and one golden turkey stole the show. And hey, the dishes on the table were even clean!
I sat down to eat with a sense of pride. My mother had made turkey dinners look so easy; I had no idea how much work was involved. But I had done it! My first roasted turkey was good, not great. The potatoes were cold and the glaze on the carrots was runny, but everything was edible! Thankful for the compliments I received, I excused myself and shoved the blueberry pie back into the oven. This thorn in my side had better taste good, for all the stress it had given me!
The end of the night came, the guests left, and I was exhausted. My kitchen looked like a grenade had gone off; the roasting pan was swinging from the light fixture, the fridge door was off its hinges, and a hungry seagull was perched on the sink. What an ordeal. The greatest assurance of my cooking prowess, however, occurred the next day, when I confirmed that my turkey hadn’t given anyone salmonella. Maybe the meal was better than I thought; my in-laws convinced me to cook the Christmas dinner!
1) I guess she still doesn't realize that it takes a lot of work to make something look effortless.
2) At least the kids don't get slammed too badly. She's saving that for the holidays.
3) It occurs to me that she's pandering to Lynn's fear of American curiosity.