Lets Talk Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving

In honor of another annual Day of Thanks, I thought to muse upon the ghosts of Turkeys Thanksgiving holidays passed. For those loyal readers who make it all the way through my ramblings, there’s a bonus Thanksgiving music video thrown in for fun.

Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday celebration, and I really enjoy preparing a nice dinner. I’ve prepared the Thanksgiving turkey almost every year since I had my own place way back in 1982. I enjoy cooking, especially for large crowds. During the time I lived in San Diego, California, the total number of guests at Thanksgiving dinners I prepared averaged about six; family and perhaps one or two close friends.

When I was living in Naples, Italy the dinner guest list was a bit longer, and one Thanksgiving there I cooked for about a dozen people. That was fun.

Once I was retired from the navy and settled in Gautier, Mississippi, I ended up with a pretty standard dinner crowd each year. I was close friends with one family and over the ten years living there our routine settled into getting together at my place each Thanksgiving, and their place each Christmas. Early on I cooked for up to ten people each year, then as the children of the other family moved off and settled down on their own the dinner crowd grew smaller. The last Thanksgiving in Mississippi there was only five of us dining together.

Since living here in Virginia, Thanksgiving has been a catch-all. Our first year here we had dinner with my Aunt and Uncle living nearby, so that was one year I didn’t cook. Some of the years since we only had one guest, which made it a bit difficult for me to get enthusiastic about roasting a turkey. But it’s still a chance for me to get back into the kitchen and prepare some food.  This year I’ll be prepapring food for a total five people, which is nice.

I’ve never had a spectacular Turkey flame-out. Some years my turkey was better than other years, but they always come out at least “good.” Timing has normally been an issue. I’ve learned that Turkeys cook in their own time, regardless of how often I crack open the oven door and check the thermometer. At times dinner was served as much as two hours later than expected, but being more hungry seemed to make the turkey taste even better!

My typical Thanksgiving Day routine goes like this:

  • Wake up about six o’clock, shuffle downstairs, start the coffee/tea. Take a deep breath.
  • Unwrap the turkey, clean and remove the giblets (important step! Very embarrassing to leave the plastic bag of “stuff” inside the bird while cooking).
  • Prepare way more stuffing than needed to actually stuff the turkey. This involves slicing and dicing large quantities of apple, onion, celery, carrots, sauteing them, mixing with mass quantities of dried bread cubes and special seasoning, then packing every possible cavity of the bird with the mix.
  • Stick a meat thermometer in the bird in an appropriate location. Put the bird in the roasting tray and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  • Put the excess stuffing mix in a oven dish for later baking.
  • Pop the turkey in the oven. Announce to Winnie “The bird is in the oven at time < state the time >!
  • Spend the next several hours periodically opening the oven door and checking the bird’s temperature. Baste periodically.
  • About four hours into roasting, start worrying about whether the bird will be ready by the time all guests show up.
  • Worry about the guests showing up.
  • Become increasingly fretful about the bird finishing as more hungry guests arrive.
  • Finally, in a near panic, decide that the turkey is “cooked enough” since the meat thermometer shows the correct internal temperature.
  • Run around in circles for the next 30 minutes getting all the last minute stuff ready with all the guest getting in each other’s way attempting to help.
  • Take a picture of me holding the bird
  • Carve the bird, serve the side dishes, and eat!

Then, of course, comes the inevitable after-dinner clean-up. Followed by a week of eating turkey day leftovers till I’m really tired of turkey. Repeat the next year.

So there you have it. A typical Thanksgiving Day celebration at the Charest’s residence, Virginia edition.

But, I promised a bonus Thanksgiving Day music video for anyone who could bear reading all the way through, along with those readers who just skipped over my writings (gotcha). So without further ado, I present one of the all-time great pieces of American music, especially appropriate for a Thanksgiving Day celebration:

Alice’s Restaurant Thanksgiving Day Massacre

Here’s wishing everyone a great Thanksgiving Day celebration!  Hope to see you’all again next year!

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