In search of the perfect bird at Thanksgiving

November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving - we all acknowledge this is a day to give thanks for all our bountiful gifts, some more bountiful than others. But let’s be honest. The turkey takes center stage this holiday.

Now there are a lot of decisions to be made in the upcoming days, whether you are hosting family and friends or leaving town for this come together feast.

First of all, the one decision everyone has to make if you are hosting your gathering is whether to get a frozen turkey or whether to order what is known as a free range, organic, nonsmoking bird.

Now I’ve always preferred to buy the big, thick, butter slathered turkey. They even come with those red pop up tabs that tell you when the turkey is done. The tabs are kind of an alarm clock, only I wish they came with a snooze button, so you could pound that button back into the carcass.

Everyone knows that when the turkey is done, you can count on the other dishes to still be cooking. Thanksgiving is the one holiday when no two dishes land on the table at the same time in terms of readiness.

I consider the test for a bird being fully cooked is when you can take one of its charred legs, wiggle it so it comes off in your hand and the rest of the turkey falls through the oven floor into the basement. Yeah, I like mine, well done. Plus they say that carbon is good for your teeth.

Or an even more accurate test is when most of the guests are face down in the last pitcher of Manhattans. Okay, so that is really my family, but it is still one way to measure the timing of serving this bird.

Of course the more immediate pitfall of this particular turkey is that you have to remember to thaw it out well ahead of time. You will discover this usually the morning of the day the first guests arrive with bibs around their neck. The tiny paper attached to the breast bone will usually say something like, “You didn’t read the directions did you? Well tough toenails, pal. It will be weeks before I’m ready for the oven.”

Frantic cooks have resorted to all sorts of techniques to get the ice off of those drumsticks, from blow dryers to actual clothing dryers. Hypnosis may be used, but I would caution you about awakening the inner mind of an uncooked turkey. And you can forget about the Butterball hot line; all calls involving salmonella take precedence.

If this sounds too dangerous to you, especially after your second Dewar’s and water, you can always buy one of those turkeys that hasn’t been frozen. They are much more expensive though, about the current cost of a small down payment on a house, but many people find it worth the price.

This kind of turkey is so free, it actually drives to your house, believing it is arriving for a spa treatment; that’s how innocent these birds have be taught to envision the world. It will turn the oven on itself, climb in and wait for the tanning to begin.

This is a bird that has received no prescription drugs and exists solely on watching programs on British television. It has an I.Q. well beyond the genius level and can split the atom at a moment's notice.

Yet, there is something too free about these birds. I have the feeling they are looking down at me and consider my kitchen a shoddy place to land. They know things about me that are very, very disturbing.

Whatever you decide, just remember - Thanksgiving is not always about eating. At least that’s what a couple of Holsteins told me when they rang my doorbell and said they were home.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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