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Turkey-Phobia

by Suzanne Fluhr on November 16, 2012 · 18 comments

Turkey small

2013 Post-script below.

Thanksgiving turkey

My Nemesis

You all know that this coming Thursday, November 22, 2012 is Thanksgiving day here in the United States, right? Two friends (admittedly, both not from the United States) miscalculated and thought it was on Thursday, November 29th. It does seem to have sneaked up on us awfully fast this year.  That is because November 22nd is actually the earliest Thanksgiving can ever be given that Thanksgiving is officially celebrated on the fourth Thursday (not the last Thursday) in November and November 1st was a Thursday. Diabolically, November has five Thursdays this year.

This means that I am trying to plan for Thanksgiving while still recovering from my face plant of last weekend. Last month, I not so obliquely cast about for some other family member to volunteer to host Thanksgiving dinner. No one leaped forward to volunteer. I guess our younger son, Jeremy, was right when he gravely informed me that our downsize to an apartment in 2010 still had to have a dedicated guest room because “You’re the matriarch of the family now.” Apparently, along with matriarchy comes the duty to host Thanksgiving dinner. Indeed, if this is the true test of the mantle of matriarchy, I assumed it at least 28 years ago. (My younger sisters inform me that I should see a therapist because I have been “parentified” since age five and need to get in touch with my feelings. Personally, I am quite satisfied to keep my feelings at arm’s length—thank you very much.)

Sisters

Big Sistering c. 1962

Actually, I don’t mind having the family and assorted others gather at our abode to celebrate our thankfulness. I’m happy to set the table with a lace tablecloth and my grandmother’s china. I’m an expert at conjuring up mashed sweet potatoes, Stove Top stuffing and string beans. My nemesis is THE TURKEY. Here it is November 16th and I still have not procured the beast.

A few years ago, I documented my “issues” with the Thanksgiving turkey in an essay published in an anthology. I have secured permission from the publisher to link to my essay here. I hope it will resonate for you.

Thanksgiving Tales: True Stories of the Holiday in America

 Thanksgiving Tales, True Stories of the Holiday in America

Many people in the United States are still trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy and much of the news from around the world is frightening and heartbreaking. On November 22nd, here in the United States, we will gather together with family and friends, grateful for our blessings, and with those less fortunate in our thoughts and prayers.

2013 Update: After all that angst, my 2012 turkey didn’t kill anyone. However, sadly, many people in the United States are still trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy—and we can add a list of other natural and man-made disasters that have occurred all over the world since last Thanksgiving. But, we are a strange species—the most brutal and the most compassionate, the most creative and the most destructive, the most avaricious and the most generous, the most in despair and the most hopeful/thankful.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year?  Share your own Thanksgiving Tale below.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Beth November 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

Thanks for BOTH stories, Suzanne! I enjoyed the readings. I had several people think it was the 29th as well. I guess we do think it’s the last Thursday of the month without realizing the last is usually the 4th and it’s the 4th Thursday that’s celebrated.

We, too, are the hosts of our holiday gathering. We took that on the first year in our home which was also the first year of our daughter’s life. It was a lot to handle that first year, and hasn’t really gotten any less stressful for Peter. (He does ALL of the cooking… I do the decorating, table setting, cleaning, etc.) I am now able to relax knowing I have 3 days after to recoup.

It was interesting to hear about your guests and multicultural table! Peter’s family usually does that for Passover. Where do you collect these guests from?

Love all your posts. Thanks for sharing.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer (Suzanne) November 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm

We collect our international guests from my husband’s lab which usually has a few foreign post-docs and visiting scientists. I ordered a turkey last night. Now all I have to do is panic about cooking it.

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avatar Joan November 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Enjoyed your tale of delightful woe about the Turkey. I really think that a turkey is easier than a roast. Often cook one at the shore for us to ‘pick on’ during vacation.
Anyway. Like at least 1/3 of health care professionals, I will be working a 12 hour day and hoping that the hospital cooks a nice meal. ;-)

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer (Suzanne) November 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Joan, thank you so much for all you do for the rest of us. (Joan is a nurse practitioner and a nurse educator). I remember one day after Thanksgiving when Steve was moonlighting at a hospital in Coatesville. I was pregnant with our first son and didn’t want to be alone, so I checked into the on-call room.

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avatar Gill November 17, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I’ll own up to being one of the foreigners who didn’t check the number of Thursdays in November ;-) But I have ordered our Christmas Turkey as of last Tuesday, so not all is lost! I cook turkey on just this one occasion each year and each time I do, I have to rely on Delia Smith’s precise timings which always work perfectly. Tempted though I am by suggestions of brining it, of long, slow cooking or fast, high temperature alternatives, I’m afraid I stick to the tried and tested method, which results in “the best turkey ever” each year without fail!

Actually, I like being in charge of Christmas Dinner. It means I can have things just the way I like them ;-)) (Control freak, moi?)

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer November 18, 2012 at 1:38 am

Please do share a link to Delia Smith’s “precise timings”. I need all the help I can get!

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avatar Roz Warren November 17, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Your Thanksgiving story is a classic. I’ve read it 3 times and enjoyed it each time.

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avatar Gill November 18, 2012 at 11:13 am
avatar Andrea November 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm

As the future daughter-in-law who recently acquired a lovely large kitchen with sufficient dining space, I would be happy (as would Ben, once I forced him to find the joy in hosting) to have Thanksgiving 2013! This year would be slightly more difficult with the newly-arrived nephew, as newborns aren’t very happy commuters, especially in cold months; but next year I will gladly offer our home, kitchen, and fresh set of serving wear (that will hopefully come as a result of our wedding) to entertain for TG! I will even attempt my first turkey!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer (Suzanne) November 19, 2012 at 12:57 am

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’ll lend you my turkey cooking resources. We can start with Gill’s link above. Mind you, she’s English and only cooks Christmas turkeys, but I bet the technique transfers to this side of the Pond. I’ll bring whipped sweet potatoes :-)

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avatar Jeremy November 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Please, if you’re getting anxiety about serving 5 people, turning a knob on the oven to 500 degrees, and opening a box of Stovetop, you’ve got it good. Steve cuts the damn turkey anyways!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer November 20, 2012 at 8:29 pm

First of all, it’s 8 people and I’ve never seen instructions that call for setting the oven at 500 degrees to cook a turkey. However, I have seen instructions for all manner of other temperature settings. I’m “doctoring” the Stove Top stuffing, so it will be Stove Top Pro Stuffing (to borrow an internet app term). Lastly, I can’t promise that we’ll have anything left when you show up on Monday. Happy Thanksgiving, Kiddo.

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avatar hillsmom November 27, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Sometimes one can set the oven to 500* then pop in the turkey and immediately reduce the temperature to whatever is recommended. IMHO, it is much better to cook the stuffing separately. Add some carrots, celery, onions, even apples to the cavity of the bird. (Forget Delia’s method).

Anyway loved both stories and am forwarding them on, thanks. Good luck on Christmas or whatever Holiday you prefer in December.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer (Suzanne) November 22, 2012 at 4:45 am

Gill, I just read Delia’s turkey roasting instructions. I found them strange in two respects. #1) She says to leave the turkey out of the refrigerator all night so it will be room temperature when it goes in the oven. My mother would have a heart attack if I told her this. She has put the fear of salmonella poisoning into me. 2) She gives cooking times for an 8-10 pound turkey and for a 15-2O pound turkey. Mine is 12.5 pounds. I’m afraid I’m going to have to keep looking for instructions. (“The Joy of Cooking” also failed me!)

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avatar Madaline Fluhr November 23, 2012 at 6:00 am

Well, it’s Thanksgiving evening and I finally have time to “comment”. That’s mostly what I love about Thanksgiving – I have time to comment, relax, ignore the daily mountain of “to dos”, etc. This is especially true because my sister-in-law hosts Thanksgiving every year. All I’m asked to bring is a cheesecake and cranberry sauce if I want any, as my husband’s Azorean family mostly do not get the “cranberry sauce with turkey” thing. Hard to understand how you can not get the “cranberry sauce with turkey” thing, but so it is! The downside is – no leftovers! Happy Thanksgiving!!
BTW – I love the Meehan Avenue photo of “The Three Sisters” (Moscow, Moscow, Moscow…I believe in Chekhov’s play “The Three Sisters” Irina yearns for Moscow. I would have to say “Philly, Philly, Philly….”) Are you sure the mailman wasn’t involved? We look pretty different!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer November 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

You’ll have to ask Mom about the mailman….but she’s pretty good at feigning dementia when she doesn’t want to answer a question. Thanks for the comment.

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avatar Alexandra November 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Next year, check out the simple one-minute videos that food writer Melissa Clark posted on the NY Times website – easy to follow and delicious! Even so, turkey took an extra hour to cook. Highly recommend pre-brining woith kosher salt, white wine and various aromaticws (bay leaf, peppercorns, lemons, sage etc). But for all this effort, turkey still taste like high school cafeteria food.

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