Before the turkey-induced amnesia begins, I like to assess the celebration and make a few notes about the highs and lows. Otherwise, as luck would have it, history usually repeats itself in the most unwelcome places.
We are doomed to spend year after year debating how long the turkey should cook, should we stuff it or not, and should I take time to bake my own rolls. (the answer is no — everyone fills their plate with so many other things they have no room for added stuffing.)
Here are my three observations to remember for next year.
Number 1: This day is about people eating together, and if they’re so inclined, cooking together. Have fun and keep it simple. If your list of things to do has 20 things on it, let five of them slide. Keep it simple, give yourself a break, let others help in the kitchen, and have fun.
Number 2: Start thawing the turkey earlier. Every year, no matter how early I start thawing the bird I still have meat that is frozen and a cavity filled with slush. A turkey that is at least 10 pounds can come out of the freezer and into the refrigerator on Sunday. I like to have it complete thawed by Wednesday evening so I can do some prep, season and have it ready to go in the oven on Thursday morning. Even if you’re eating later in the day, it’s still less work you have to do on Thanksgiving.
Number 3: Refer back to number one. People first, food second. As long as you meet the four major Thanksgiving food groups in some way — turkey, dressing, potatoes and pie — you’ve made a successful meal. I was disappointed in some of the things I cooked for Thanksgiving, but I stayed quiet. Focus on the positive, enjoy the people around you, and no one will remember the mashed potatoes were too lumpy. To paraphrase Julia Child — no apologies.
“Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is vile then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile and learn from her mistakes,” Mrs. Child said.
Along with my reflective observations I will also be filing this wonderful email from a friend whose daughter is in the second grade. Her class was asked how to cook a turkey and these were the replies. Viewed through the eyes of a child this turkey business is really quite simple.
Susan: Shoot the turkey, clean it, stuff it and cook it at 100 degrees for 1 hour.
Anna: Get a turkey, chop its head off, roast it for 2 hours, get it out, and eat.
Frank: Get a turkey anywhere, put stuffing in it, baste it with broth, put it in the oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour, put vegetables around it to decorate it, and eat it!
Ashley: Set the oven at 32 degrees, put the turkey in the oven, cook the turkey for 1 hour, and when it dings take the turkey out.
Ellen: Get the turkey from a grocery store, put it in the oven, turn it up to 99 degrees, wait for 30 minutes, get it out of the oven, stuff it with stuffing, and last but not leas t… eat it!
Harry: Put the turkey in the oven for 1 hour at 50 degrees, stuff the turkey with stuffing, and cook the stuffing for 20 minutes in the bird.
Carrie: Stuff the turkey with fruit or vegetables, put the turkey in the oven at 50 degrees and cook it for 3 hours, and eat the turkey with bread and cranberries.
Christi: Buy meat, shape it, stuff it, put it in the oven for 1 hour at 80 degrees, take it out, and eat it.
Brian: Shoot the turkey, bake the turkey for 5 hours and 50 minutes at 50 degrees, stuff the turkey, dress the turkey with cranberry sauce and eat the turkey.
Joseph: Shoot the turkey, take the bones out of the turkey and put the turkey in the oven at 300 degrees for 1 hour.
David: Buy the turkey, put it in the microwave for 1 hour at 80 degrees, take the bones out, eat the wings and drumsticks, and then you eat the turkey.
Judson: Buy a turkey, put in the oven at 10 degrees for 30 minutes.
Steve: Buy the turkey, bring it home, stuff the turkey, bake the turkey about 40 minutes, and you are ready to eat it!
Mandy: Take the turkey and roll it in flour, put some vegetables and olive oil on it, put three cups of salt and pepper on it, put the turkey in the oven at 200 degrees for 30 minutes, take out, and eat it!
Wesley: Shoot the turkey, put it in the oven at 100 degrees for 1 hour, take it out of the oven, and eat it.
Betsy: Get a turkey, roast the turkey in the oven at 304 degrees for 1 hour, serve with mashed potatoes and cranberry jelly, and enjoy!
Madelyn: Get the turkey, put the turkey in the oven at 20 degrees for 50 seconds, and eat it!