This year we've opted for a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner, partly because my brother Mark's (not the blogging one) oldest girls will be here, and they have decided that eating meat, among other things, is like inviting Satan himself over for a Christmas party. Also, if they don't like a particular food, which is more common than not, they claim to be allergic to it. . . how utterly convenient.! Well, that's all fine I suppose, because they really are good kids, just picky eaters is all.
OK, so I did say that was part of the reason. The other part is probably some sort of repressed fear of cooking another turkey for a large group of people. Strange you say? Strange indeed, so let me explain.
Come back with me nearly twenty years ago if you will. At the time I was in the restaurant biz working as a chef. Needless to say, the family was expecting great things. Heck, even I was expecting some pretty good results. Not because I was some sort of super-stud, know all culinary master, but after a dozen plus years working in commercial kitchens, how hard could a turkey dinner for 10-15 people be?
On the surface everything seemed to be going according to plan. I had safely defrosted the turkey in the refrigerator a few days ahead of time, all the necessary shopping was finished, and I even had all the pre-meal preparations well under control.
In the true spirit of cooking a big Thanksgiving meal, I got up two hours before I went to bed so I'd have plenty of time to get everything set. Snag number one. My dear sweet grandmother "G.G." was already awake and she was getting started on making the stuffing. It was something she'd done for the past seventy years and there was no way on God's green earth I was going to keep her out of the kitchen this day!
In the big picture, this was perfectly fine. I mean this woman could cook the entire meal blindfolded with one arm tied behind her back and it would have turned out fantastic. She truly was one heck of a great cook. In the little picture though, her age had caused her to slow down a bit. Fact is, had she have done the whole thing that year, that Thanksgiving meal would have been the best Christmas dinner we ever had!
So I bit my tongue and let her continue to put the stuffing together while I zipped around the kitchen getting the other things started. Eventually we got the bird stuffed and into the oven, and not too far from target time I had originally intended. The rest of the morning as I recall was relatively uneventful, just general futzing around getting potatoes peeled, casseroles made and the such.
Fast forward to later that afternoon. The table was set, the house was filled with the wonderful aroma of a roasted bird with all the trimmings and the guests were all assembled. The appointed hour had finally come. Chef Jeff's first holiday meal was about to begin.
We gathered round in a big circle and said a word of thanks for the meal we were about to enjoy, then took our seats in hungry anticipation. We started off with our family tradition of shrimp cocktail. It was, as it had been for years and years, fantastic. (side note- This was the one thing I did not make, so I'm not tooting my own horn here) As we finished up our appetizer, everyone, except Gene I'm sure, was saying how wonderful everything looked and smelled. Yes, I was quite smitten with myself at that point.
Ah, the moment we'd all been waiting for had arrived. Time to carve the beautiful golden brown ostrich sized bird that was resting in the center of the table. With a twinkle in my eye, I grabbed the two tinned fork in one hand and the carving knife in the other. Slowly I drew the blade across the plump breast making the first slice. Then it happened, the painful truth became instantly clear that everything was cooked and ready to eat except the severely undercooked bird in front of me!
I swear we all heard that damn bird let out a gobble right then and there. The only thing that surprised me, is that it didn't start flapping its wings and make a couple loops around the living room.
All that puffed up pride of making such a wonderful dinner was gone in an instant. As you can imagine I was completely mortified. Here the great chef had cooked. . . well. . . not cooked the main course! At that point, the only thing more red than my face, was the blood that was still running from the bird. Arrrgh!!!
I remember shoving the bird back in the oven and stomping off in a huff, with my mom trying to console me, saying there were plenty of other things to eat and that it would be fine. She was right of course, but at the time there was no way I was buying it. Eventually the turkey did get cooked trough and as I recall it was one of the juiciest desserts we've ever had.
Well, there you go. The story of my first attempt at Thanksgiving dinner. It certainly was a memorable one, that's for sure. So what am I thankful for this year? I'm thankful that God has given me a sense of humor so that I can look back on that day and laugh at it now.