I was remarkably calm on Thanksgiving Day. Even though I’d never made a turkey and some of the side dishes All By Myself before. I’ve helped my mom in the kitchen for years, watching, chopping, dicing, paring, slicing, mashing, and stirring. All while talking too, of course, and under her watchful eyes. Somehow I did it. It all worked out just fine. If anything my only mistake was in buying Too Big A Turkey because people didn’t bring big enough appetites or take home enough leftovers.
I admit I made a phone call to my mother in law, when it was time to put the turkey in the stand alone electric roaster she’d loaned me for the occasion, and asked, “Which way is up?” I could hear the smile in her voice as she answered, “I put it in legs up. No one told me to, I just always do.” To which I replied, “That’s A Good Enough Reason For Me. Thanks!”
Some time passed, while the turkey was roasting, when my phone rang. I was upstairs moving laundry around and answered in the bedroom, where the ringer is turned off. It was my mother in law calling me, to kindly say, just in case I didn’t know, “They put things in the neck cavity too. Did you check there too?” I assured her I had and didn’t take offense, not one iota. I appreciated the thoughtfulness in her call.
For you see, while this was the first bird I’d made by myself, my husband and I have fried a few turkeys this year. That was His Big Christmas Present last year, A Turkey Fryer. So we bought our first Big Frozen Bird in January and both learned how to thaw it, wash it and prepare it for fryin’. I think we made three this year, each more delicious than the one before. However, when we got hit with a blizzard in February, we both were wishin’ his present had been a snow blower, because the turkey fryer wasn’t much help with snow removal.
The third phone call of the morning was to consult with my mother on How To Make The Stuffing. I love my mother’s stuffing. LOVE. IT. SO. MUCH. Truly, her stuffing is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving Feast. She was cookin’ over 100 miles away yesterday so I wasn’t goin’ to be sittin’ at her table. I saw her a few days ago though, and asked for her stuffing recipe. She said, well, I don’t really have one. Oh no! I am so not the kind of cook that can Wing It. These two words are really not in my vocabulary very often. I am so By The Book at times I bore myself. Though I’m gettin’ better at it. I am! She wrote some direction on a post-it note to help me out. A post-it note. I chopped, diced and sauteed and then called to find out whether to add the seasoning to the skillet or in the bowl. She said, “I add it in the skillet so the seasoning is more evenly distributed.” That’s was I was thinkin’ too, but was thankful for the confirmation. Done and done. The stuffing is all combined and the crock pot is turned on. Before we hung up my mom said, “I am so glad you called.” I agreed with, “Me too.”
Once those Two Big Things were cookin’ I concentrated on doing the dishes, clearing the table and getting organized for later when everything would have to happen Just Right in order for us to sit down to a feast of hot food. My boys helped me put the extra leaves in the table, and learned how to set it properly too. They were Good Helpers. When their friend called to see if they could play, I said they could, “Just for an hour” and cut ‘em loose From Potato Washin’ And Peelin’ Duty that I had them lined up for next. Did you know, that I own a Potato Masher? I thought I did, but I hadn’t seen it for awhile…as in YEARS. While I LOVE mashed potatoes, and grew up eatin’ them regularly, I haven’t made ‘em for my family much. Probably because their favorite Potato Group is Ore Ida French Fries or regular old baked potatoes.
Somehow I/we made it. I helped immensely that my mother in law made egg noodles, sweet potatoes, green beans flavored with bacon, creamed corn AND brought the pies for dessert. Also that she arrived in time to show me how the roaster opened with a lid rest and that the bottom lifted out for gettin’ the drippings for makin’ gravy. The Gravy. That was The One Thing that was Maybe Sort Of Close To A Freak Out. I wrote, “maybe” next to “gravy” on my list of food being prepared. (Yes. I had a list.) I’ve never made gravy before. I’ve seen my mom make it a hundred times. Again, Hers Is The Best. Mine wasn’t going well, despite my mother in laws encouraging words. I served it anyway. After draining the separated grease/oil/drippings off. Twice. It was thick and not liquid like it should have been. Sort of globby actually. But it tasted good. Three of us were Brave Enough To Try It. I kept thinking about how my dad would be laughing and teasing me about it, even as he taste tested it too, out of kindness and chivalry.
Best of all, besides how good it felt To Just Be Together, were the stories my in laws told me in the kitchen about Thanksgivings Past when Things Didn’t Go As Planned. Things like too much advice given, no whisk in the kitchen and a catered meal that, well, never showed up. When all was said and done, even the dishes by my wonderful sister in law, it was A Gold Star Meal with Two Thumbs Up. I’ve now hosted Thanksgiving. A Passage To Womanhood.
The BONUS is that our refrigerator is stocked with bowls, plates and platters of Good Food and I’m not cookin’ for a few days time. Turkey sandwiches and microwaved side dishes comin’ right up. Mmmmmmm, I think I like the leftovers best of all. Though I’m still so full from yesterday I’m not even hungry for breakfast. I’ve having hot tea for now. We ate at 2:00, with The Dessert Course at 4:00. I had A Second Dessert Course later in the evening…a chocolate chip cookie compliments of my sister in law. My guess is they’ll be among the first Thanksgiving leftovers to disappear. Just wanted you to know, there were No More Freak Outs AND the turkey was still icy on the inside when I washed it out Wednesday night. That bird was F-R-O-Z-E-N and we are fine. Whew!