Let’s make this clear; Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday. The main focus of Thanksgiving revolves around food. I know many people are very excited about food – I am not one of them. I don’t really care for turkey all that much; the dark meat is OK but the white meat is usually dry. I don’t care for gravy or stuffing and I prefer the mashed potatoes that you fix from a dry powder out of a box.
As a kid Thanksgiving was usually yet another way for my father to give thanks for the invention of alcohol. Most of our relatives spent only one Thanksgiving with us due to my father’s addiction. He would start out as a jovial drunk but as the evening progressed his mood would evolve to dire, then downright evil. Most holidays concluded with my mother crying. As a result, after a few years, we had cycled through our complete list of aunts and uncles, parents, eventually falling back on “close friends” until pretty much nobody was left who wanted to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, sister and me.
Adding to the horror was that Mom was a horrible cook. She believed any food item could, and should, be prepared in a pressure cooker. Turkey, fortunately, didn’t fit in the pressure cooker, so it was baked in the oven until it was akin to parchment stretched tightly over bird bones. The potatoes, though, were rendered to their basic molecular components in the pressure cooker. Vegetables of any sort came from a can and were merely heated. I won’t even try to describe Mom’s dressing least I become ill before finishing this post.
Fast-forward to my adult years; Nancy is an EXCELLENT cook. She has cooked professionally in Mexican and French restaurants and was a sorority house cook at one time. She quit the sorority because the rich little college girls didn’t want to give her a raise. Within two months they hired her back – with a raise. Even the stuff I don’t particularly like, I like when she makes it. And she loves Thanksgiving – so my gift to her is I turn the entire holiday over to her and I handle the cocktails.
One year Nancy, her friend and I were invited to Thanksgiving at my sister’s a house two hour drive away. Sister advised us to plan to arrive around Noon. We arrived at the appointed time, hungry having not had lunch; fully expecting a hot brown turkey to be removed from the oven after a short visit and cocktails in the living room. However, to our horror, my sister announced as she took our coats: “Well, I had probably better get that turkey into the oven.” Nancy, friend and looked at each other; our jaws agape.
After starting the turkey cooking, my sister brought out a dish of crackers to enjoy with our cocktails… the three of us devoured them by the handful; we tussled over the bowl. I have recollection of one of us possibly upending the bowl directly to our mouth. In any event, in seconds the crackers were gone! Bits of cheese and bread sticks disappeared as quickly as my sister placed them on the coffee table. We managed to hold our hunger at bay for the hours it took for the turkey to be done.
A few years later it was our turn to host family Thanksgiving. It was decided that I would BBQ a turkey. I am quite the master at BBQ, I say humbly. I set up the grill with the charcoal and water pan to exacting specifications, lit the fire. For entertainment while waiting for the turkey to cook, I had set up two computers with “Duke Nukem” and my brother-and-law and I commenced to game against one another on the two machines. For those of you who are not familiar with computer gaming; one of the pitfalls of this activity is a form of “time dilation” – that is: the further one immerses oneself in the game, the slower time passes.
I can clearly state that I was completely ignorant of how much time had passed when I heard Nancy call me from the kitchen asking why there was “so much smoke coming from the BBQ?” Dashing outside I lifted the lid; turkey burst immediately into “backdraft” as flames leapt feet into the November sky. There before me was a blackened hull of a turkey, devoid of little edible meat. Fortunately, my brilliant wife had prepared a “back-up” turkey using the conventional oven method. Thanksgiving was saved.
The next day after returning my daughter back to her college dorm room, she ran ahead of me down the hallway loudly announcing to all her friends that “… dad set the turkey on fire”! (Remember, Kara?)
Today Nancy’s son and our son-in-law are both vegetarians. One year we tried cooking a “Tofu-Turkey”. This is an idea which is good only in concept. After that one experiment, our vegetarian family members seem quite thankful for veggie riblets and garden burgers.
We are hosting Thanksgiving again this year in our new house. I offered to BBQ pork ribs but Nancy soundly rejected the idea. I will stick to the arena of Thanksgiving in which I excel: cocktails.