Today's home buyers gravitate toward kitchens that are open to the living area. Bless their hearts. Clearly they've never gone mano a mano with a Thanksgiving turkey. It's not an audience-friendly sight.
Years ago, as a clueless bride, I invited my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. How hard could it be?
The first sign the day wouldn't go as planned came when I couldn't wrestle the metal pincer-thingamabob out of the thawed bird. In a panic, I phoned my mom, who put my dad on the line. He talked me through the pinch-and-pull process. Too bad he didn't warn me about the neck and giblets stuffed inside the turkey. I baked them—and their paper wrappings--with the bird.
Are you wondering where Hubs was that first holiday? I'd probably sent him out to buy heavy cream or another can of pumpkin puree. Poor guy. Back then, most grocers were closed on Thanksgiving, so he would have wandered from one convenience store to another in search of the needed ingredient.
By my second year on turkey duty, I knew to fish out the neck, giblet package, and chunks of ice from the cavities and rinse and pat dry the bird. I'd also learned to slather the bird with butter, olive oil, or a mix of both. Slathered turkeys are slippery. Am I the only person who's dropped one? I'm grateful the guests watching N.F. L. football in the next room have missed my fumbles.
Because salmonella's a guest I don't want at the feast, I swipe countertops and cutting boards with diluted bleach. The blessed wall between my kitchen and family room keeps guests from passing out from the fumes.
Open-plan living requires extreme tidiness and strict organization—traits I lack. One hour into food prep, I have vegetable peelings on the counter, a trail of sugar on the floor, and cranberry-bright stains on the stovetop. Worse, chaos is catnip to pets.
The cooking smells tempt them, but my attempts to shoo them away are more alluring. Ooh! A game! Once, I lifted a cobbler from the oven and turned in time to catch a cat on the countertop, licking my last stick of butter.
I cut away the top part of the stick and rinsed the rest of it. Before you judge, let me repeat: my last stick of butter.
Tomorrow, my kitchen will be a disaster zone, but the food coming out of it should be tasty. (I've learned from my mistakes over the years. What's more, I rarely drop a turkey now that I've perfected the football hold.) Best of all, friends and family will gather in the dining room in celebration and fellowship—and the dirty pots and pans will be out of sight.
Are you a clean-as-you-go cook or a mess-maker? What's your home-design preference: open-plan or kitchen as bunker?