Thanksgiving

Thanks for the Memories

file0001510816847I’m thrilled that this year we’re celebrating Thanksgiving with thirty-some friends and family. I’m especially thrilled that my sister is hosting. (Yeah! No mopping or dusting for me.) I’m not thrilled—in fact, I’m terrified—that I volunteered to cook the turkey. Two weeks ago, when we were drinking wine and divvying up the menu, it seemed like a worthy challenge. But now, as I wrestle a 25 lb. turkey that is still frozen (dinner to be served in 31 hours), I’m wondering why the hell I thought this was a doable option. And better yet, I’m wondering why my mom and sister, who both know my culinary talents consist of doing the dishes, allowed me to take on the center piece of the Thanksgiving feast.

But this morning at 5 am, while I lay in bed, worrying over the fowl beast, I had an epiphany. I thought back to the Thanksgivings of my past and realized I don’t remember the turkeys. I do remember the fellowship.

The years my mom’s family gathered were the definition of bounty. Four sisters and my file000541128033
grandmother, all great southern cooks, would bring homemade dishes, somehow preserved, from Tennessee to Illinois. Those holidays were spent around the table, morning and night. When we weren’t eating, we were playing cards. Tripoley.

When my dad’s family gathered, it was always at my grandmother’s. She often stored extra dishes on her back porch, yet we never got sick. There was only one TV, and that was in the living room where the adults gathered (and smoked). The kids would hang on her front porch. No iPads. Not even checkers. We’d use our imagination, granted it was tough. Playing house consisted of “cooking,” with our dishes being ashtrays and our food being berries (probably poisonous) picked off the bushes. Strange, but these memories warm my heart.

I’ll never forget Thanksgiving 1985. My dad was in the hospital losing his battle with cancer. We all got the call to come immediately, “it was happening.” Miraculously, it didn’t. Not then. But each of us, his mom and siblings included, had a chance to spend time with him and say our goodbyes. And for whatever weird reason, we put on a play. Yes, a Pilgrims and Indians play, with costumes, right in the middle of the oncology ward of Decatur Memorial Hospital. We took poetic license and my very pregnant aunt wore an “A” on her chest. In the midst of sorrow, we laughed.

emxuwn6eSo my turkey may suck. I’m not even sure it will fit in the Reynold’s baking bag everyone swears by. But it’ll be okay. We’ll break bread with friends and family and there will be love. And for that, I am thankful.





Wooden Turkey Photo by taliesin

Cards Photo by chelle

Turkey Photo by Seemann
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3 thoughts on “Thanksgiving

  1. Brine your turkey overnight in a cooler filled with cold salt water tonight, Chris, (water with enough KOSHER salt to make it taste about as salty as the ocean). I don’t use any of the recipes on the Internet for the brine because they all contain SUGAR and that I don’t care for in my turkey. I don’t like the bird to taste SWEET or full of a lot of seasonings that mask the natural flavor of turkey.

    Then, tomorrow, dry the bird off and roast it at 325 degrees, breast DOWN, completely covered in foil for the first HALF of the cooking time. It’s basically going to STEAM, keeping it moist and delicious and cooking it a little faster. Halfway through the roasting time remove the foil, flip it on its back and replace it in the oven to brown. When it looks nice and brown and yummy, lightly TENT the bird to keep it from drying out. If the drumsticks and wings seem like they’re getting too brown cover them more tightly.

    Even if you don’t use JUST pure salt water, definitely BRINE. It makes all the difference in producing a moist turkey.

  2. Ah, the wonderful plans made over a bottle of wine! I’m sure your turkey will turn out great. If not, you can distract everyone with a play. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend!

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