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The Turkey Timeline: A Thanksgiving Day Misadventure


Up with the sun to prep the turkey for the Thanksgiving Day feast. This year, I told the missus to leave the bird to me. No fussing around in the kitchen this time, sweating over a stove with her arms elbows-deep up a turkey tush. I'm taking care of all the biggies this Thanksgiving -- a nicely brined and grilled whole turkey, butternut squash and sage stuffing, and gravy. Dinner's in twelve hours. Let's cook.

"Pale, dimply and wrinkled, it looked like an overfed shar pei. Or my grandfather's bald head. So much for poetry."

I looked through the kitchen window and saw a slow rolling mist covering the back yard. It was beautiful, conjuring images of majesty and poetry in the early morning light.

Also, it made me have to pee.

After taking care of that, and washing up -- food safety first, kids! -- I took a look at the turkey thawing in the fridge. Pale, dimply and wrinkled, it looked like an overfed shar pei. Or my grandfather's bald head. So much for poetry.


The brining recipe called for at least two gallons of liquid, in something called a 'stock pot' or a clean bucket. I'm afraid I wouldn't know the first one if it conked me in the giblets. And the second, well... I have sort of a flexible definition of 'clean', when push comes to shove. But the only bucket I knew of in the house is used for mopping. Or was, sometime during the Clinton administration. And the mop's been stuck in the bottom of it ever since.

Barely dawn, and already time for Plan B. Peachy.


I managed to get the brine ingredients all prepped and mixed. I had to increase the recipe by a few fold, and ran a little light on the apples and cinnamon sticks, but I think it'll work out fine, anyway.

My wife shuffled in, bleary-eyed and yawning, just as I was submerging the bird into the liquid.


"Yes, dear?"

"So... why is there a turkey in the bathtub?"

I patiently explained the bit about the 'stock pot' and the mop bucket, and assured her that dinner was well under control. She muttered something about needing a shower and 'better not taste like Tilex', but she was too sleepy to put up much of a fight. The turkey -- that's the bird, not the missus -- thus settled in, I returned to the kitchen.


Gravy calls for giblets, which I'm told are some of the little bits you find crammed in your turkeyhole when you bring home a Butterball from the store. The only question is -- which little bits? It wasn't quite gravy-making time yet, but I thought I'd better have a look.

It didn't help.

I laid the little fleshy bits and raw organs out on the counter, but I had no clue what I was staring at. There were some parts that could have been giblets, I guess. One of the bits might have been a cow wang, too, but I wasn't about to make that call. I'm pretty sure it was throbbing, though.

The missus told me later it was the neck. She also told me that all the extra parts are called giblets. But by that point, I had the neck in a pair of tongs, looking for a drum of holy water to dip it into.

Maybe we'll have gravy next year.


My wife returns from brushing her teeth to report that the tub turkey is looking 'a little fuzzy'.


"Sort of hairy, yes. I'm not about to look any closer... but did you clean the bathtub before you put that thing in there?"

"Hmmm. My kind of 'clean', or your kind of 'clean'?"

She sort of stomped off after that, so I went to check on the turkey. It looked fine to me. Some of what she thought were 'hairs' were probably bits of rosemary or apple peel.

And some of the rest were probably hers, anyway. Plus, it's not like they weren't clean hairs; they were in the shower, weren't they?

Jeez. You'd think she was a health inspector or something. It's not like I knocked her loofah into the tub when I went to check. Not as far as she knows, anyway.


I forgot the giblets were still on the kitchen counter. I returned to find the dog chewing something that looked like a gas bladder. Do turkeys have gas bladders? Maybe it was a tentacle. What do I know about turkey anatomy?


Returned from the animal hospital, after the vet assured us that since the dog didn't manage to eat the raw turkey bit, the risk of salmonella or other food poisoning is relatively low. The vet also claimed that turkeys don't have gas bladders, or tentacles.

And she was none too impressed with the John Holmes parody I did with the turkey neck. Wife's response to her was:

"How do you think I feel? He's cooking for us today."

The vet gave us a bottle of ipecac as a 'precaution'. I'm pretty sure it wasn't meant for the dog.


Time to fire up the grill for the turkey. The mutt's caper ran us a little off schedule, so I wanted to get the coals running hot as fast as I could. I briefly considered using a touch -- just a touch -- of gasoline from the lawnmower canister to goose things along. But I thought that might make the bird taste a mite... gamy. So I used the lighter fluid, instead.

Rather a lot of lighter fluid.

Seriously. A lot.

You don't need eyebrows to cook, right? I'll pencil something in before the wife even notices they're gone. No problem.


While the coals were incinerating heating, I gathered the ingredients for the stuffing recipe.

Heh. Butternut squashes are kind of funny-shaped. I never noticed that before.


"Hey honey, look at me! I'm John Holmes!"



I lifted our deliciously brined and now slippery turkey out of the bath, taking care not to drop it on the bathroom floor any more than was absolutely necessary. Which turned out to be three times. On the bright side, that probably shook most of the hairs off.

I left the apples and herbs and peppercorns in the tub for my wife. Because girls like taking baths in smelly stuff like that, right? It's on all the shampoo commercials.

As I lugged the turkey out to the grill, I became aware of a teensy logistical snag. The turkey weighed about fourteen pounds, with a wingspan of maybe two and a half feet.

The grill was a rusty little Hibachi I picked up in college, and weighed around three pounds -- with charcoal -- and a radius of maybe sixteen inches. Also, it's missing a leg, so it wobbles a little. That's a lot of turkey. And not so very much Hibachi.

Clearly, I was going to have to trim some parts from the bird to fit it on the grill.


The wings snapped right off. That was easy.

But the turkey's still too big.


Off go the drumsticks. Still too much bird.


Okay, I don't know the technical term for the bit of the bird I just cut out.

So how about I call it 'the bit that keeps the turkey from disintegrating into tiny pieces'. Which are now strewn all over the kitchen table. And much of the far wall.

(The missus informed me later that was the 'sternum'. Huh. Ster-num. Whaddaya know.

I wonder if that's a 'giblet'?)


I managed to salvage a hefty chunk of the turkey breast, plus the drumsticks and some fleshy strips of darkish meat that I can't easily identify. Skin? Feet? Dorsal fins? Whatever.

There's not a lot of meat left, but at least it finally made it to the grill. And it's okay, because there are only two of us. Plus, the coals were mostly dead, so if there was any more to grill, we'd be feasting at three in the fricking morning.

Time to start drinking.


The squashes are split, scooped, and baking in the oven. And I managed it completely incident-free.

I'd call that a win. Another drink to celebrate.


The rest of the stuffing ingredients have to be mixed. I don't think I know where the mixer is. I should probably ask my wife.

Or... I could have another drink and figure it out on my own.


I found the mixer! Yay, me!

Another round, barkeep.


Heeeeey. Lookit them little spinny things go around and around, all fast like that.

I wonder if there oughta be something in the mixing bowl with 'em.

And what smells like squash?

And where'd all the cooking sherry go?

Oh. Right.



The missus pulled the charred remains of four butternut squashes from the oven. The other stuffing ingredients were neatly arranged on the counter, next to the abandoned mixer, still stuck on 'Whip'. Meanwhile, I was busy in the back yard, looking under rocks and trees to try to figure out where all the mist went to.

Who really needs stuffing, anyway? The turkey's the star of the show, right?


The three-legged Hibachi finally gives out, toppling over and sending the lid, the charcoal, and the turkey tumbling into the yard. The dog took a break from licking the kitchen wall to pounce on a drumstick and drag it off to a safe place to cool and eat. Probably our bed.

The wife and I managed to find two tiny scraps of meat that weren't crusted with dirt or coal dust, and had a taste. Delicious. If only the other thirteen and three-quarter pounds were still in play, we'd have had one hell of a Thanksgiving feast.


Thank heaven for Burger King. And for a wife who bans me from the kitchen -- but who still lets me finish her French fries. Finally, something to be thankful for.

(DISCLAIMER: No ornery dogs, succulent birds or dilapidated Hibachis were actually harmed in the writing of this post. And the only animal I would subject to my cooking is me.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!)

Permalink | Comments (2)

, ,


cracked up

Nice. The gas bladder and tentacles are actually my fave giblets.

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