Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Woman Versus Turkey. Avert Your Eyes, Please.

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?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Vicky Dreiling said...

OMG, that was hilarious! Last stick of butter ....I'm still laughing.

shannon esposito said...

LOL! Okay, I'd do the same thing if it was my last stick of butter :-) I have managed to duck the responsibility of actually cooking the turkey so far as my family prefers Honey Baked Ham. Your post just made me grateful for that!

Lark Howard said...

Hilarious post I can totally relate to! My first turkey was a 30 lb frozen "bonus" from my husband's boss that took forever to thaw.

I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for years but have passed the baton to my sister-in-law (thank, God!) The first year I cooked for my husband's family I did a full-blown Martha Stewart production--everything from scratch and very elaborate--that I started preparing on Tuesday by shopping, cooking pumpkins and polishing silver. When the family arrived, I was gently informed I had a 1-hour window to get the food on the table and for us to eat before the football game started. I quickly realized this was not a gourmand, savor-every-dish-for-its-fresh-ingredients-and-presentation crowd. So for the last couple years, my S-I-L cooks or buys the turkey and we all bring items.(My mother-in-law believes that two versions of frou-frou salad are the key to a proper Texas holiday meal.)Everyone is stress-free and happy and unoffended when the football fans head for the TV or off to College Station.

I'm a very tidy cook but grateful for my current separate-room kitchen. Since my husband started cooking a couple years ago, I much prefer enjoying the wonderful meal without having to see the mountain of pans and bowls waiting for me to clean up afterwards.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I'm glad you're laughing, Vicky. My cats have been doing a lot of stretching, lately. I think they're warming up for Countertop Leap Day.

Shannon, you were born into a wise and practical family. This year, I bought a Cheesecake Factory pumpkin cheesecake at Sam's. I'm grateful for shortcuts.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Lark, you're a good sport. If I'd been told , even gently, that I had a one-hour window to get my first from-scratch Thanksgiving dinner on and off the table, I might have thrown frou-frou salad.

I do appreciate the fact your husband's family puts pressure on football teams rather than food preparers. Have fun tomorrow.

What's froufrou salad? I picture mandarin orange segments, sliced almonds, sour cream, and miniature marshmallows. Am I close?

Coleen Patrick said...

I've baked the giblets inside once before too--rite of passage, i suppose!
This year I am happy to be a guest in my sister's home!
Have a happy one!

Lark Howard said...

Pat, you're making frou-frou salad way healthier than it is. Try canned fruit cocktail drained, marshmallows and cool whip as the base...the variables are instant pudding(pistachio for the green sort)or some sort of jello, I think. I'm too afraid to ask because I know it's nothing found in nature.

Have a wonderful day tomorrow!!

ShanaGalen said...

Too funny, Pat! The visuals had me laughing out loud. I'm a clean as you go on the rare occasion that I cook.

Teresa M. wen said...

I'm a mess maker and I STILL cook the neck and giblets in the turkey. I have no idea why.

Kay Hudson said...

Back in the day when lost souls congregated at my house for the holidays, Jack cooked the turkey, and he was good at it. He insisted on more side dishes than we could eat, usually including Maryland crab cakes and oyster dressing, and he wasn't much good at cleaning the kitchen (we once found an elderly cat asleep on the sink with her head inside the skeletal turkey), but it was fun.

Nowadays I spend most holidays with my neighbor, her daughter, and a few friends, usually at the wonderful buffet at South Shore Harbor. This afternoon I ate small portions of about twenty per cent of the food on offer and still came away stuffed. In my own kitchen (which is both small and open), I opened cottage cheese and blackberries for my breakfast, and cat food for Nutmeg, and washed a handful of dishes. No mess. No football. Took a nap with Nutmeg. Maybe I'll have a little pumpkin cheesecake ice cream later. Wonder if I can lose five pounds before Christmas.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

LOL this was fun - thanks for sharing! I'm lucky in that my husband deep fries our turkey. But the first year he did one, yes, he fried it with the neck and giblets inside! This year, I was able to keep the kitchen in pretty good shape - thankfully, all I had to prepare was green beans, biscuits, and gravy. Not too messy!