For those of you who are Turkey Roasting, potato mashing, gravy making authorities my troubles will either have you sympathizing with my plight, or finding moderate humor in my ineptitude. Today I picked up our Thanksgiving Turkey. A free range, vegetarian fed, antibiotic and hormone free 25 lb. hen turkey. With all that going for it, I can’t help but think it should have landed in a more capable kitchen than mine.
I have poured through Holiday magazines all promising a fuss free, stress free Thanksgiving experience replete with menus, timetables, make ahead options and creative ambiance that would leave Martha Stuart speechless. And I have realized that despite all of my ambitious intentions, nothing that comes out of my oven or off of my stove is going to measure up.
I have flipped through page after page of glossy intimidation all vowing to deliver me to the promised land of the perfect Thanksgiving Holiday. It wasn’t until I was completely overwhelmed with information and input that I realized I wasn’t doing myself any favors. To brine or not to brine? Should you cover the bird with seasoned and soaked cheesecloth or is that a waste of time and cheese, or cloth, or whatever that stuff is made of exactly? Should you stuff the bird or does that just dry it out because you have to cook it for longer? Alas, there are no easy answers but there are, I have discovered, an endless number of opinions. What I do know is that the best turkey I ever had was fried. I remember my sister-in-law who is from New Orleans, bringing us the experience of frying the turkey and when I first heard of this travesty, I only half-jokingly quipped, “do you people have to fry everything?” Well thank heavens the answer is yes! If you haven’t tried it you simply must at some point. I guarantee it will be the best bird you’ve ever had. What is does lack however is that ritual of roasting a turkey in the oven. The smell, the warmth, the age old tradition. The Norman Rockwellness of it all…
But still those visions of fall splendor and a bountiful feast taunt my perfectionist self. I found myself walking around the grocery store today muttering to myself, “I don’t know what the *#!* I’m doing.” And in that moment I realized I was being bullied by a dead bird. Bullied into the belief that Thanksgiving needed to look, smell and taste a certain way. While I may have visions of a perfectly moist turkey, lumpless gravy and delightfully fluffy mashed potatoes my chances of achieving such a success are honestly slim to none. My mom did give me some homemade cranberry relish today so I know that at least something on the table will be divine. Hell, with enough cranberry sauce anything can taste pretty good. It’s like the Thanksgiving version of ketchup. So I’ve decided to fight back. To fight my own expectations of Holiday grandeur. Because while today had me buying everything from birds to brussel sprouts I realize that all the ingredients I need for the “perfect” holiday can’t be put in paper or plastic. The ingredients for the perfect Holiday are my husband, my children and my family.
What I do know I can serve up is warmth and togetherness. I can make endless helpings of love, laughter and a top it all off with a dessert of lifelong memories. Greg will carve the turkey and serve it with a side of perspective and gratitude. He’s good at that. And our kids…our family will continue to create a tradition rich with all the good stuff. The gravy of life and love. So regardless of how this bird turns out, it won’t have gotten the better of me. I’m saving that for what…for who, truly matters.