Thanksgiving is almost upon us. It is a time to give thanks, gather friends and family together, watch football and, of course, eat oneself into a turkey coma.
Mike and I have been hosting Turkey Day since way before we got married and it’s always been a blast. We take in all the orphans — those who don’t have a family to spend Thanksgiving with and are looking for a place to land.
Suffice it to say that we’ve had quite the crew in any given year. There are the standbys who have been with us since the beginning (Diana and Mark, please stand up), as well as various and sundry family members, friends from near and far, a hedgehog we were pet sitting, college soccer players from abroad, etc.
You can’t host a holiday for more than 20 years with myriad guests without stories. My favorite was the first Thanksgiving in our first house. In those days, I actually made it down for a few circles around Kendrick for the Turkey Trot so when I arrived at the house, Mike and my best friend Angie (a regular), were talking about the turkey. Each was assuring the other that someone else had put the turkey in the oven. I was paying zero attention because I was coming in hot from the trot (see what I just did there?) and needed to shower. Important fact — I was the only other adult who might have put the turkey in the oven. I had not.
So imagine our surprise when the first few guests started to arrive and went to the fridge to put their adult beverages inside. There, ready and waiting for the oven, was the turkey. Clearly not in the oven. Anyone who has cooked a full-size turkey understands that it takes at least 3-4 hours to cook. We were a bit behind schedule. Fortunately, the aforementioned Diana has always been in charge of hors d’oeuvres and always makes enough for two armies, as if there was no other food in the offing. That year, by the time the turkey was ready to eat, we had gorged on the appetizers and drunk all the adult beverages. The bird was a bit of an anticlimax. But the story lives on in infamy.
That story ended much better than the next one. At least for me. Once again, I am my own cautionary tale. Learn from my mistakes because clearly, I’m not catching on.
Mike has always been in charge of the turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. He is very good at all of them and takes great pride in his dishes. That wasn’t enough for me though. Oh, no. About seven years ago, I started a nagging campaign to brine the turkey. It was all the rage and I might have suggested several hundred times that Mike consider brining our turkey. He had no interest. Important fact — nor should he have. His current turkey cooking methods yielded a delightfully moist and flavorful bird.
But I wouldn’t give it up. Just to shut me up, he finally said fine, we would buy two turkeys. I could brine one, he would do his own thing with his, and we’d have a turkey throwdown. It was on! I was so excited. I found a great brining recipe, got to work and did everything the recipe said. Mike cooked his on the barbecue grill to free up the oven for me.
My turkey looked like the one on the cover of foodie magazines. Thanks to my regular basting, it was golden and lovely. I was confident. The blind taste test was conducted with family members as judges. Lo and behold, I won! Celebration! Crowing! Preening! I was so proud.
And then it all started to go bad. Really, really south. First, I cut into my winning turkey. It turns out that only the breast meat was cooked. The rest of the turkey needed to go back in for at least another 30 minutes. Thank heavens we had the “loser” turkey to actually eat.
But that’s not the worst of it. Because I had undermined Mike’s turkey cooking abilities, the vilest of all possible scenarios was visited upon my pushy self. From then on out, I have had to prepare the turkey. Every year. Mike refuses to touch the poultry. I have begged, pleaded, shown every kind of regret for my actions. He is completely unfazed and unmoved and I have no one to blame but myself.
Dear readers, if you haven’t learned the lesson, it is this — if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Or in this case, if it’s not brined, don’t bother.
Amy Albrecht is the executive director of the Center for a Vital Community.