An overly determined turkey tussle

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This morning while getting dressed I discovered my jeans belt needed a little extra elbow room. I’m blaming the high sodium content of yesterday’s traditional Thanksgiving meal and hoping it’s temporary. My belt will cooperate tomorrow, right?

I look upon the eleven Thanksgiving feasts I’ve hosted in the past with rose colored glasses. All the family gatherings could be summed up as “Oh, it was great! We were stuffed!” But upon closer inspection I realize there is always a funny food flub or a dish disaster that hovers vaguely in memory. Martha Stewart would be appalled at my barely-contained culinary chaos.

Nod in recognition if you’ve pulled this stunt before: cooking the turkey upside-down. Blimey, how are you supposed to tell which direction is north, south, east and west on that naked bird? Do the wings make an ‘N’ or ‘V’? Heck if I know! I should have consulted Google, but after sticking my hand where the sun don’t shine I wasn’t about to jiggle a mouse.

Speaking of sticking my hand in the netherworld of a bird, have you ever forgotten (or couldn’t locate) the bag of accessory turkey parts, only to discover them at carving time? While prepping the bird I’ve been known to spend 20 minutes rummaging inside one orifice and coming up empty-handed, only to be informed that I was at the head, not the tail. Oh.

Poultry anatomy is not my strong suit, but I can usually bang out some pretty solid vegetable dishes. It’s hard to screw those up, unless you forget that frozen beans for the casserole take a lot longer to cook than fresh, not to put the fried onions on top until the very end unless you like to eat coal, and that not everyone appreciates the texture of lumpy mashed potatoes.

Thankfully the traditional feast has so many components that most faults can be accommodated. Our buffet is usually brimming with about ten entrée items, not including dessert. Statistically speaking, if I make a mess of one item, there are nine others to hold the meal intact. It’s still an A- in my book. Also on the topic of running the numbers, my family members bring at least four of those ten dishes, and their superior kitchen prowess vastly improves our odds of buffet success. They’re not the types to forget to pull the neck out of the butt of the turkey.

I know I’m not the only one who seems to make a mockery of recipes. Issaquah Highlands resident and friend, Nancy abandoned any pretense of tackling turkey preparations and gets her bird already smoked and garnished from Stan’s BBQ. Leave it to the professionals, is her motto.

Sometimes outsourcing an entrée won’t help you avert dish disasters. Minutes before the dinner bell rang, Snoqualmie resident Michael was playing catch with his dogs, when a Star Wars-grade tractor beam deployed from inside the pumpkin pie on the counter. The tennis ball intended for Fido got diverted from its path, ker-plopping into the center of the pie. Because his family is graced with good cooks the meal maintained an A-average despite the dog saliva-doused crater.

Every Thanksgiving that I’m in charge of orchestrating the meal is a tête-à-tête with my stubbornness. I refuse to hand-make the pie dough because the grocery store generously offers them already made. The result? Mother-in-law Pat’s diligently-made pie crust is amazing, flaky and flawless. Mine? Flat and dry. My stubbornness continues when faced with a breaded dressing recipe that calls for TWO sticks of butter. Do I look like Paula Deen? The result? Dry, unevenly-cooked stuffing. You and your butter win, Paula.

My friend Alice in Honolulu finds the butter requirements a bit absurd as well, but her battle with stubbornness is less pronounced. When she discovers that one pound of butter is not enough to bolster all the dishes, she sighs in exasperation but obediently acquiesces to the recipe stipulations and sends someone out for more. The result? Wafer crispiness balanced with golden luster. Alice is champion on the playing field where willfulness and kitchen methodology collide.

If it weren’t for my supportive family brushing off my kitchen casualties, and bolstering the meal quality with their contributions I’d probably be receiving a C- grade. I love that about my family. I also love a good turkey tussle and will continue coming up with ways to stubbornly misinterpret this tradition.

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