Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is It Done Yet?

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.


Dianne said...

Ahhhhh - it's all good lol

I once cooked Thanksgiving dinner while wretchedy sick with a really high fever. I think I'm allergic to thoughts of Black Friday.

I was so out of it that I didn't realize I had left the giblets bag IN the turkey!!!!


buffalodick said...

Someday, I'll write about the first time I deep fried a turkey.. Let's just say- I understand... Happy Thanksgiving, my friend!

Anndi said...

I cooked my first turkey this year and it turned out amazing and on time! Beginners luck probably.

So what did you eat while you were waiting for the bird? Bananas?


katherine. said...

thanks for sharing such a fun story! I bet it is one the gets retold every

we had a vegetarian in the family for a couple of decades (she gave it up when she turned 40) so we would have special stuffing (no broth...not in the bird) and extra veggie dishes....but we never gave up the good stuff.

I thought you all were gonna have duck this year?

Cherie said...

My first turkey (over 20 years ago) took about 10 hours to cook, and the last two were in the microwave. (I had over packed the turkey with stuffing.) Luckily, it was just for my dad and my uncle, but I was still mortified. I feel you pain. Ah, good times. LOLOL :)

Kay said...

I have yet to attempt cooking a turkey. I have enough trouble with frying chicken.

I did “warm up” a ham one year.

But really.. its just better to visit my folks who always put on quite the spread.

Great story Jeff…. Enjoy the holiday!

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

We all have our turkey stories. Leaving the giblets in is usually the biggest horror.

You do have a great sense of humor and I enjoyed this post very much.

Have a great Thanksgiving. :)

Jeff B said...

Dianne- Bwahahahaha Lisa did that the first time she cooked a turkey too. I tried really hard not to laugh. I rally did.

Buffalo- There's a story I'll be waiting to hear.

Anndi- If you ever come this way for a visit, you know what I'll be fixing for dinner don't you funny girl?

Katherine- Gene and his family aren't going to be here tomorrow. They'll be up for Christmas though, so hopefully a duck dinner will be on tap then.

and yes, this story is a family favorite this time of year. Can you feel the love?

Cherie- 10 hours. . . WOW! Good times indeed.

Kay- "I did “warm up” a ham one year." hehehehe Sounds like sticking to your parents dinners are a good choice. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Sandee- With as many goofy things as I've done in my life, having a sense of humor is necessary to keep my sanity.

Anndi said...

Some day, bro... leave out the arsenic though. ;)

Kelly H-Y said...

Oh my goodness, that made me laugh out loud ... especially the part about getting up two hours before going to bed. Ahhh, preparing the holiday meal ... good times, good times. Thanks for the laugh ... and have a wonderful, turkey-less Thanksgiving!

Mimi Lenox said...

You should also be thankful that God gave you the ability to write it down for us. We are.

Dr.John said...

Our stories just don't come up to yours. Probably because for years and years we went to my In-Laws for Thanksgiving. They never did anything wrong. Ever>

Vodka Mom said...

OMG! I did that once!! That is a SURE fire way to dampen the spirit. Drinks all around, I say...

Jeff B said...

Anndi- Ahhh, come on. . . just a little?

Kelly- Good to see you. It should be a great day. Thank you.

Mimi- Point well taken, and thank you.

Dr John- Be glad you don't have a comparative story for this one.

Vodka Mom- A much better alternative to slitting one's wrists.

Gene Bach said...

Your cooking has always sucked. Not as bad as you, but close.

By the way, don't forget the cheescake at Christmas.

Jeff B said...

Gene- I'll be making a special cheesecake just for you buddy. Be forewarned though, that brown stuff mixed in yours won't be chocolate!

Ron said...

Jeff,'re the best damn story teller I know.

So thanks to this uncooked bird...

...we got a STORY!!!

And hey...if you can believe this, I've never cooked a turkey in my entire life!!

Actually...I haven't ever COOKED in my entire life.

I'm what you call...a SAD Italian.

Che Faccia Brutta!

Anyway...I wish you and your family the HAPPIEST THANKSGIVING DAY ever!

And thank YOU for sharing your awesome humor, buddy!

Great story!

Later gator!

Desert Songbird said...

Ergh! How frustrating! I'm so glad that the first bird I ever made, I made with the help of two experts: my MIL and her SIL. We roasted it in the bag, and it came out perfect and juicy, so, of course, it made me look glorious. I don't do full birds now as dinner is just the four of us, but if I had to, I don't know how good it would turn out!

BJ Roan said...

My first turkey turned out about like yours, with the exception of the guests. Fortunately, it was just me and Hubby. Loved the telling of this tale. I'm surprised brother Gene hasn't tortured you with this story.

Jeff B said...

Ron- An Italian that can't cook?

Beware, they're going to send Guido after you.

Songbird- I've done several since then and they've always turned out fine. That first one though. . . Oyi Vey!

BJ Roan- Sssshhh, don't give him any ideas.

Lu' said...

Good story Jeff. So much pressure to cook t-day meal. I mean it is like the only holiday that is based completely around the meal. Hope this years Thanksgiving was good for you and yours.

Rhea said...

Oh, man. A raw bird. That's gross. lol

Thanks for sharing your Thanksgiving story, Jeff! Hilarious.

Jules~ said...

What a good story. I am sorry but so glad you can laugh about it all now.
Still at least you tried. Truth be told....I have never even made a turkey. I am afriad I would mess it up horridly.

Akelamalu said...

I'm sorry Jeff I know I shouldn't laugh but I just couldn't help it!

It reminded me of when we had friends staying and we were having a summer lunch in the garden - a huge whole poached salmon, salad, new potatoes, summer pudding etc. etc. I'd never poached a salmon before. I told my guests to help themselves and to my horror only the top 1/2 inch was cooked!

So you see it happens to the best of us honey. LOL

Anonymous said...

As I recall, this situation was only made worse by the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Persnickity Bottom were invited guests . . . thank gawd we don't have them to deal with any longer. But, not to worry, your feast yesterday should not take a back seat to any chef in the land. Everything was first class.


Jeff B said...

Lu- This year's went off without a hitch. Good food, friends and family.

Rhea- It was pretty "foul".

Jules- Turkeys and Prime Rib are probably two of the most intimidating things for people to cook.

A suggestion: try a small bird sometime when it's just your immediate family, and do it on a non-holiday. Not nearly the pressure then.

Akelamalu- That's quite alright, laugh away, cause I'm laughing right along side of you about the salmon.

Mom- You are so right. Mr and Mrs nose in the air definitely added to the stress level that day.

Mel said...

Oh pshaw.....the kiddos EXPECT to eat in shifts in this house when the mom cooks.

That's part of the FUN of Thanksgiving, right?

Well, that's what the kiddos tell me.
Of course--they coulda been lying....

nitebyrd said...

Time heals all wounds and cooks raw turkeys to perfection!

Raven said...

Tragic but well told. Glad you had a good Thankgiving. Your menu sounded great.

Travis said...

My sis was pretty nervous this time around. It was her first time cooking the bird. She has hosted the holiday before, but the turkey was deep fried or roasted outdoors by my brother-in-law those times.

She had nothing to worry about. Cooking isn't her favorite thing, but she cooked the bird perfectly and had the meal timed so that everything was hot and delicious.

Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn't I guess.