Give Us the Bird and No One Gets Hurt
My mom is a charter member of the Start-the-Turkey-in-the-Middle-of-the-Night Club. Since it’s a well-known fact that turkeys take ten hours, give or take, to roast, I considered Mom brilliant and loving to sacrifice her own sleep and start the turkey at two am. Now, I think she just liked to have the quiet house to herself and the turkey was a good excuse, even though I grew up thinking Mom founded the club and was its smartest member. But then I met my husband, Dave, and his mother also started the turkey before dawn. We both grew up drenching the turkey in gravy to get moist breast meat.
After six years of marriage, his job took us to Southern California and for the first time ever we didn’t have a mom’s or grandma’s home to go to on Thanksgiving. Because he almost always worked the holiday or the holiday weekend, we had to figure out how to roast our own turkeys. The first year, the turkey was dry because we followed our mothers’ instructions. Instead of gravy though, we moistened the turkey with tears at being separated from our families.
Over the next few years we learned that turkeys are considered done at 150-160 degrees, not the 180˚ to 190˚ we grew up with. Because of Dave’s work schedule, we began hosting a Thanksgiving brunch for our friends. After brunch, they would go to their family celebrations, Dave would go to work, my daughters and I would watch movies and snack on brunch leftovers.
After eight years in Pasadena, we returned to the Valley. The first Thanksgiving back was again tearful. Because this time, I missed celebrating the holiday with our friends, and doing things my way in my home. I had to go and eat dry turkey. And Dave was still off working.
A few more years later, we experienced two epiphanies: 1) Dave finally had enough seniority to get the day off and 2) we didn’t have to eat dry turkey.
Dave and his brother conferred and decided to tell their mom that they would like to grill the turkey. She dubiously agreed. Her skepticism that a turkey could be roasted to doneness on an outdoor grill in less than ten hours extended far enough that she purchased and roasted a second turkey inside.
At the end of the meal, the grilled turkey carcass sat next to the intact leather turkey.
The next year was our turn to celebrate with my family and Dave volunteered to be in charge of the turkey. My mom was doubtful too, but said her back-up turkey wasn’t really a back-up. It was “because Dad likes his dressing cooked inside the bird.” That lasted just the one year and after that Dad had to eat his dressing like the rest of us and thus a new tradition was born: the next generation was in charge of the turkey.
We have gradually taken on more and more of the meal preparation so that now, we host my family’s Thanksgiving gathering every other year. The bird is thawing. The coals are standing by. The dough is rising.
We are thankful.