Has Butterball written a ‘Turkey for Dummies’ book? They’ve advertised a hot/helpline for some years and while I’ve never used it, I suspect they use quite a few recorded responses. If they do have ‘live’ operators taking the calls, I’m sure — for their amusement — the most unusual inquiries are written down as part of the Urban Legends of the Poultry Industry and circulated around the company each year after Thanksgiving.
It’s not the tryptophan in the bird that makes people feel so exhausted after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s simple exhaustion from all the work involved with celebrating the day with a big bird. Therefore, here are Reasons Not To Be Thankful.
1. The size.
Since most turkeys these days are store-bought and frozen, it takes days to thaw in the fridge. To get the bird to fit in the fridge, shelves need to be removed/rearranged, leaving little space for any other food — for the week. Even if you buy a turkey fresh, you still have to buy it at least a day before cooking and it needs to be refrigerated, leaving room for little else.
2. The size.
While there are plenty of articles proclaiming you can free up your time and work on Turkey Day by preparing all the side dishes ahead, they forget simple logistics: it requires a second fridge because the bird is taking up all the fridge space. Most of us haven’t space for a second fridge — especially to use for one day a year.
3. The size.
Finding a roasting pan in which the bird fits and fits into your oven. Granted, they make disposable pans if you don’t already own a pan large enough, but I have never trusted them to keep shape or keep the bird in the pan when lifting the bird in and out of the oven to baste.
4. The size.
Because of reasons 1-3, my preference is for a 10 pound bird. With this size, I can keep more than just milk in the fridge along with the bird, I do not need a special roasting pan that is used only once a year, and it only takes 3 days to thaw — usually. There was a year in which 3 days was apparently not enough time and I had to put in the sink (in a pot) with running water chanting “Thaw baby, thaw!”
5. Buying the bird.
Finding a 10 pound bird isn’t always easy. While Turkey Day is for a big gathering of family — and sometimes friends as well — grocery stores seem to stock up on larger sized birds and you need to get to the store early to grab hold of a 10 pounder before anyone else.
One year, there were several of us rummaging through the case filled with birds, looking for our desired size and calling out what we wanted to each other. There were no 10 pounders in the case. While we had the employees find smaller birds to put out, I did my other shopping. When I came back to the turkeys, someone shouted out “Weren’t you the one looking for a 10 pounder? I saved you one.” Bless her heart.
Besides, no one really wants to eat leftover turkey for 3 months.
6. If you haven’t got it by Monday, you don’t need it.
The Monday before Turkey Day is a zoo at the grocery store and the parking lot is a traffic jam. People are in panic mode as if they‘ll never in their lives be able to buy groceries again. Some are still trying to find their desired size of turkey. Others are racing around grabbing all the other items they need — for a single meal. One year I kept running into the same couple in the store. On the last run-in they smiled and announced they had finished the race. I was still looking for one item. They reminded me that if I hadn’t gotten it by then, I really didn’t need whatever it was I was missing. This is Rule #1 for Buying the Bird: If you haven’t gotten it by Monday, it will never thaw in time.
7. Cooking the bird.
There’s no room in the oven for anything else.
8. Cooking the bird.
It takes a long time to cook. Hours. Hours you need to be hanging around so you can keep basting it. There is no quick and easy method, no prep to table in 30 minutes recipe.
9. The Dog Rule.
As anyone with a dog will tell you, if it hit’s the floor, it’s theirs. Therefore, once the bird comes out of the oven, you must let it rest somewhere the dog can’t reach. No matter what size dog, they will try to get at the bird. I found my little guy standing on his hind legs, stretched to his furthest, the tips of his forepaws leaning against the edge of the counter, his nose nearly touching the pan. I quickly moved the pan as far away from the edge as possible. After all the time and trouble to get the bird cooked, I wasn’t about to let the dog have it.
10. Carving the bird.
I can cook an excellent tasting bird, juicy and tender. I baste with liquid smoke concoction and the aroma is tantalizing. My four-legged one would keep going in to the kitchen, his head up, nose twitching waiting for the bird to be done. It’s a beauty when it’s all browned and out of the oven. Picture perfect. Until I start cutting.
I have the proper tools. But the bird is big, so besides carving fork and knife and jumbo cutting board, I also require a step stool to maximize carving position and several rolls of paper towels. Still, I can almost never get quite the right angle and it looks as if a pack of wild animals ran through my kitchen and attacked the bird. Turkey pieces go flying across the kitchen and grease splatters the counters, the cabinets, the stove, the sink, the backsplash and drips onto the floor…There have only been two occasion in which I found the wishbone. Every bird has one, but clearly I have not mastered the Art of Turkey Carving — at least with a knife. Perhaps I should try a handheld circular saw…cordless.
The four-legged one would sit in the middle of the kitchen floor and wait for the turkey to fly. He learned at a young age it was not necessary to steal the turkey from the counter. All he had to do was wait for me to start hacking at the bird and the bird would come to him. He was never disappointed, never missed a piece and I was left only with a greasy floor to clean.
There are a number of stores and caterers who will provide a roast turkey dinner with all the fixings for pickup or delivery, but none who will carve the bird as well, then piece it together for the requisite oohs and aahs of the presentation.
There’s an untapped market for the service of turkey carving. A Traveling Turkey Carving Chef could make a killing with house calls. Sign me up.