THANKSGIVING THOUGHTS, NOVEMBER 27, 2014
Happy Thanksgiving to all and any who read this today or whenever. I have must for which to be thankful this year. As always. Yes, I’ve had sorrows, retiring Olga and giving her to a nice family but never seeing her again. The death of my sweet Bianca. But I can turn those things around and think, well, Olga needed to retire and thank God she found a loving home where she will be happy all her remaining years. And Bianca, how thankful I am that I had several extra years to spend with her, that in spite of her mischievous nature, she lived to be thirteen and a half years old. Then, I still have my precious condo. Petunia, the glorious golden, came into my life. I have my cat, Abigail. Hmmm, I need to write about that adventure soon. I still have my dear friends, Doug and the Hegel family, those I cannot live without. My internet friends, Brigit, Jannie, Kathie, Brian, Chris. My family is pretty much okay, except for my nephew tragedy. And on and on. I have food, heat, warm water, comfortable home, a good job, the technology that lets me read books, buy music, listen to movies, live independently in most way, a contented heart. Life is good; God has been good to me.
But today, my arthritis is bad in my hands and arms, another rotten flare up, so I’ll probably keep this a bit short. Yeah, I can even add flare ups to my list of things for which to be thankful, as having been born with a severe case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, JRA, at my age of fifty-seven I can still walk, type, hold things, pet my dog, pick up my cat, cook, clean, work, and on and on. It should have had me dreadfully disabled by my twenties, but my docs, my folks and my own stubborn determined nature, never let me quit fighting this blasted disease.
Anyway, for your reading pleasure, see below for a funny story about the first Thanksgiving turkey I cooked on my own, several years ago. Enjoy.
And know that I am very thankful for all of you!
THE GREAT TURKEY CAPER 2007
How did I ever reach 50 years old, never having cooked a turkey? Not even ever cooked a pre-cooked turkey! Clearly, my life experience is lacking.
This year I decide I am not going to sit around on Thanksgiving, feeling sorry for myself and hoping Dominoes pizza would be open, so I can eat a less than hot and tasty pizza.
I know what I’ll do, thought I, in a moment of brilliance, I’ll get one of those pre-cooked dinners from safeway. Yeah, it won’t be like Granny’s, Dad’s or Joylene’s, but it will at least be turkey!
And so, with a mix of confidence and trepidation, off to the little Safeway store I trek. I come home with a fully cooked turkey, and several of the trimmings. Oh dear, what have I gotten myself into this time? Why do I never think before giving into my impulses?
Discovering that my friend was on her own as well, I add to my impulse surges and invite her to join me. Now that dinner was becoming more fun and much, much more scary. Oh, damn, what if I screw something up?
The first heart-stopping fright is upon getting the turkey, affectionately addressed by me as Mr. T, getting him home and realizing he is totally encased in plastic wrap and netting and feels suspiciously uncooked.
“Oh no!” I wail, “What will I do if he is not cooked? I have never roasted a turkey in my life! I don’t even have the appropriate pan to roast the blasted thing, even if I wanted to attempt it! Whatever shall I do?”
To my immense relief—not to mention the salvation of my dinner plans—Mr. T is indeed fully cooked and just needs to be unwrapped at the appropriate time and heated in the oven. Ok, this I can do! I’ve always been an instinctively good cook; no need to fear a little old turkey after all.
At last, the great morning dawns. I arise from my bed and proceed to contemplate the tasks ahead. I take care of Bianca—my sweet and most mischievous guide dog–and return to my humble abode to drink coffee and contemplate a little more. I had bought some caramel Irish Cream, and I pour a few drops in my last cup of coffee, continuing to procrastinate and contemplate.
“Ok, girl, up off your ass, and to the turkey you go,” I encourage myself, “You can do it!”
After turning on the oldies music play list—a necessity for me when working in the kitchen, otherwise I may never have the energy to get up–Valiantly, I head forth to the fray. I have already set out the pan in which dear Mr. T would be residing during his stay in my nice warm oven. After turning the oven on, I go to the refrigerator and remove Mr. T from his temporary isolation. I take my trusty left-handed scissors and begin to cut away all the wrapping. The turkey has a lot of juices trapped in the wrapping with him, and I open it all up over the pan. I throw away the plastic and stand still, checking out the turkey.
“Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve ever actually completely scoped out a turkey. Is that the way it’s supposed to look? Does it go on the pan this way, or should it be turned over?”
The directions say there was a bag inside the turkey. Why? The stuffing is already cooked, so why would there be a bag? I consider my options gravely. Well, just in case there is a bag, I guess I have to go after it, don’t I? Can’t put Mr. T in the oven without removing the bag, whatever the bag is. Hmmm. Where would I find the inside of the turkey. Ok, Ok, let’s look here between the legs. Yes, there is an opening. Do I have to put my hand in there?
EEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW! Oh, I don’t want to do that!
There am I, a mature and experienced woman, unnerved at the mere idea of sticking my hand in a dead, cold, cooked turkey! I, who can clean up the worst dog mess with barely a thought and no second of hesitation; I who have had my hands in a myriad of places, good and bad, yet, there I stand absolutely petrified! My friend Sarah will howl with laughter when I tell her this, I think. I mean, she’s a farmer; this is nothing! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!
Gingerly I begin to reach inside the opening. OOOOOO. OOOOOOH! Oh, that is so gross! Words fail me to describe the disgusting sensation of my hand inside that turkey with all the liquid and whatever else might be inside a turkey! Ugh, ugh and Ugh again!
There is no bag that I could feel, and I do not want to put my poor little hand any farther up inside poor Mr. T! What can I do? I suddenly have a flash of genius and hurry to find a meat fork. I poke it cautiously inside the hole in the turkey and move it around. No crackle or rattle of plastic. Whew no bag.
Ok, I can breathe again, I think. Thank goodness I don’t have to stuff the damn thing!
The phone rings. AAAAAAAAHHH!!!! My hands are a mess. I barely touch the cell phone as I flip it open.
“Hang on,” I cry to my friend, “Let me wash my hands!”
After a brief conversation, the preparations commence. I spread a little butter over Mr. T and place him gently in the oven. That pan sure is heavy. I hope I can get him back out again!
At last, that is all I can do for a while. I retire to the shower. Kitchen clean again, and back to the desk to think about what comes next.
“Oh, no, it can’t be 11:15 already! Not yet! I think I need a little wine so I can start work on those other things. Why did I say I wanted to make the Hegels’ green bean Swiss cheese casserole? Grating that Swiss cheese is gonna be a bitch! Let’s go for that wine first.”
I wonder if that turkey should smell like that? It doesn’t smell like a roasting turkey, I think. Of course, it isn’t exactly roasting; it’s just heating, but still. Should it smell like that?
Yikes! I forgot to clean off the table and hunt for the nice place mats and napkins! So, off I tread on the table cleaning mission. After all, I can’t have company eat Thanksgiving dinner at the desk or on the floor!
Table set, yay. This really isn’t going to be so bad. My kitchen is so small, will I ever be able to get everything done in the kitchen? There’s hardly any counter space. Hmmm, I know I can find a way to do this! Have another sip of wine and think a little more.
I prepare the green beans, almost burning, instead of sautéing the onion! It really has been far too long since I’ve actually cooked in this place! Clearly, heating things up in the microwave doesn’t quite count as actually cooking. But I do know the difference between low and high on my stove. How did I nearly burn the onion? Sigh. Oh well. It will taste ok, once mixed in with the cheese, sour cream, spices and veggies. Now, grating that Swiss cheese is not going to be a picnic.
In the meantime, Bianca stands just outside the kitchen staring hopefully and curiously at me. Perhaps all that mumbling and murmuring and swearing might, just perhaps mean something to do with feeding cute little black labs. Especially if said Labrador wags and wiggles and looks cute.
“You’d think she’d know by now I’m not giving in,” I say aloud, stopping to hug her, “I’ve never fed her from the kitchen before. But, hope springs eternal and all that. And, seeing me cook is such a rare occurrence, I guess I can’t blame her for hoping!”
My friend arrives, bringing bowls, whipped cream and wine. Oh happy day! I think I need more bowls, I think, as I thank her for the offerings.
“Would you like to help with a task?” I ask sweetly.
Of course, she agrees. What else can she say? Poor thing. Gets invited to dinner, only to be put to work.
“How about grating the Swiss cheese? It’s kinda hard for me to grate.”
We chat about jobs, men, holiday plans, men, lack of boyfriends, dogs, men, coworkers, men and all the things women chat about when working companionably together. The cheese gets grated. I had already turned off the oven, to let Mr. T cool a bit before I removed him from the oven. I do the plate, pan, bowl and platter shuffle, making room on the stove top for Mr. T and his pan. Carefully, I open the oven and attempt removal of the turkey without spilling any juices. Oops. Ok, well, I can clean the oven later, right? After all, it isn’t like I’ll be using it again till next year! I sigh inwardly. I see oven cleaning in my weekend, I think.
Mr. T looks great! Wow! Is that for real? I didn’t destroy him, burn him or any other calamity. He looks ok. I go for the trusty left-handed scissors again and cut the twine that had been holding the legs wherever the twine holds the legs. It seemed as if I’d always been cutting twine from turkey legs! This is not so bad, I think. In fact, it’s downright easy.
Quickly I put the green beans in the oven along with the mashed potatoes. The stuffing goes in the microwave. The gravy goes into a bowl ready to heat up. I reach for my knife and prepare to tackle turkey carving.
The first thing I do is go after the legs. I’d been told that if things went well, I could just wiggle the legs and they would come right off. So, I take the legs in hand and wiggle. Well, damn! They do come right off! Wow!
“Damn, I’m good,” I say aloud, placing them on the platter, “Now for the breast. Is that the breast? Do turkeys have a breast or two breasts? Hmmm, well, it only looks like one breast, so here goes. Watch out, Mr. T! Perhaps I should call him Ms. T, since he has a breast? Or does he—she? Have two breasts?”
The meat cuts away easily. I don’t know if this is the proper way to carve a turkey, but it works for me. Hell I think, I’m blind, and my company is blind. Does it matter how it looks? I don’t carve it all, just enough for both of us to have a good amount. I ponder why I’d always been sure I could not handle cooking a turkey. This is a cinch! Well, sorta a cinch, anyway.
“Almost ready,” I tell my friend, “I’ve got to finish heating this stuff. I’ll fill plates for us both here and heat each one up so all the food is warm. Ready for some wine?”
She is indeed ready for wine, so I open the Merlot, pour us each a glass, turn off the oldies and on the Christmas music. We are almost ready to eat, and it is only a few minutes past the time I’d set for eating.
“Damn, I’ve still got it!” I compliment myself, as I put a heaping plate into the microwave, and as it heats, take the bowl of gravy and the bowl of cranberry sauce to the table.
My table is extremely, tiny, teeny, small! I only have room for the two place settings and the gravy and cranberry sauce. I could have put up the leaf, but it works this way.
The microwave beeps and proudly, I bring my friend’s plate to the table. I put mine in the microwave and go to the table to say a blessing over the food, thankful I am not spending this day alone as I had in so many years past.
We eat, drink and make merry, chatting more on all about our lives, and about men, of course. The dogs keep creeping into the kitchen to sniff. Well, actually one Particular dog! How many times can I yell at her to get out of there, I wonder. Perhaps a leash is in order. Remember leashes sherry? They are good for more than just holding with a harness handle!
The food is ok. It is not bad at all. I am not too hungry after working on the food all morning. I thought I’d gotten over that, but just as I used to do, I find I can’t eat much after doing all those preparations. I enjoy picking at it and just chatting with my friend. I don’t feel particularly exhausted, am not even sore. There are definite benefits to not doing all the work! We just eat and talk and laugh a great deal.
Too soon it is time for my friend to leave and go get ready for work. I clear the table, noticing that she’d eaten everything. Yay! It couldn’t have been all that bad!
“Stop by tomorrow, and I’ll load you up with left overs,” I promise, “after all, you have to come and have some pie.”
She promises she will, harnesses up her dog and leaves.
I stand in my empty apartment, but I don’t feel a bit lonely. I feel happy. I had taken hold of things, and instead of moping, I’d done something fun. And I’d reached out to someone else alone on the holiday, and we’d shared a meal and comradeship. This ended up being the best Thanksgiving I’d had in years.
I walk into the kitchen and begin to swear.
“Damn, damn, damn! Oh damn and blast!!!!” I exclaim, “Where are the guys? At the Hegels, the women cook, and the guys clean up the mess! Where are the damn men to do the cleaning?”
I walk right back out of the kitchen and sit down to read email, play computer games and consider a movie.
The dishes seem to call to me.
“Oh, I don’t wanna clean up that mess!” I moan aloud. “I don’t wanna, I simply do not want to clean up that damned kitchen!”
The dishes seem to call again. Sighing, I return to the kitchen to begin the tedious boring process of cleaning up. Was it all worth it with all this mess? Yeah, I think, it was all worth it. I ponder the left overs, the white soft squishy bread, just waiting for left over turkey sandwiches. I imagine the pie that hadn’t been touched yet. I think of three more days off work. I smile, turn up the music and begin to clean. This had been a great day, and I am already beginning to think about how to do it even better next year!
“That wasn’t too bad,” I say, as the last dish went in the washer and the pans were left to soak a while. (yes, I do talk to myself, often, in fact.) “Pie? No, too full. Too tired.”
But, pie tomorrow. Pumpkin pie for breakfast? Ooooooh yeah! Pie for breakfast! I sit down, smiling. Oh yeah, I am tired, but over riding everything else, I am happy and full of contentment. This is definitely the way to spend Thanksgiving! Not in a crowd, not feeling lost and overwhelmed by a throng. A quiet, relaxing time with a close friend or two. This was the best. In spite of near catastrophes with a turkey, small kitchens, not enough pans, bowls or hands, begging dogs, sticking my hand up a turkey and cleaning it all up at the end, I wouldn’t change a thing.
And now? More wine, please. Yes, that’s it. Thank you. A little music and wine should finish the day off just right! Well, a latte would be even better, but I guess the wine will have to do for now!