Well, I’m not quite the blockhead Charlie Brown was trying to grow out of being, but make no mistake, I’m among his crew. Not as cute as Snoopy (my ears are too short and I’ll never be Joe Cool), I pick Peppermint Patty. We are similar in temperament: a little too eager, but admirably “go thing do.” I have high hopes that we will not be reduced to popcorn and toast. Such a reduction would be particularly disastrous, as I have neither popcorn for popping nor bread to toast.
I do Thanksgiving dinner (potluck style) for my Mexican friends / adopted family every year, and every year I’m sort of vaguely terrified there will not be enough food to go around. My usual invitation list is around ten people total including me. Usually a few less. This year I invited something like fifteen people. Actually, I’m not sure how many I invited because there are at least two ways to figure the numbers: with kids and spouse, and without (also, with kids, no spouse, and with spouse no kids – too many variables.) So Saturday, after sending out the “official” invite, I was beside myself with mathematical conundrums.
Here I need to digress briefly to apologize for still not having adjusted fully to the metric system. Early on, I made some rough equivalents for temperature, weight, and volume that worked reasonably well to get by and then I never really did anything to incorporate the “new” system in a more realistic fashion. So when it comes to temperatures, I know that 32°F is 0°C, 32°C is roughly 90°F, and anything over 37°C is over 100°F. When I cook, if the recipe is in one of my US cookbooks, or if it’s out of my memory, I have to get online and go to a temperature converter to get the right oven setting. When it comes to weights, it’s very little different. To get a pound of hamburger, I buy a half kilo. On a day-to-day basis these estimates have worked fine for me. But Monday when I went to get the bird, all went awry.
I was still in the midst of doing all the math to count guests when I went to get the official bird on Monday morning. The first confusion was figuring I needed about a pound per person, so I was looking for the wrong sized bird to begin with. To exacerbate matters, I looked at the weight of the (big busty beautiful) bird, but I “forgot” how important the decimals are, so I only looked at that main number. A lovely, round eight. My favorite number. About 16 pounds, very big, but not out of the realm of reality. Actual weight: 8.773 kilos or 19.3 pounds. Swift would be proud. I bought the turkey equivalent of a small child. Naturally, by the time I realized, I was home and the bird had been in the fridge thawing for two days. Swiftian turkey it is, then.
The next conundrum I would have had regardless of the turkey’s weight. I have a half-size oven. Even a decent sized roasting chicken is a trick to squeeze in there. A couple of years ago, to combat the problem of a small oven and a cook with delusions of grandeur, I studied my cookbooks, consulted my official kitchen assistant (Mom) and figured I could cut the bird into six pieces and strategically pile them inside the browning bag so that the fattest pieces sit on top of the breast to keep it moist. The bird does fit, sort of, into the oven in this way. But I have to be sure that the door closes completely and that no little bits of browning bag are sticking out anywhere, and that there’s a little room at least above for the bag to expand. But I get ahead of myself; first the bird must be cut up, and since I bought it at a store without a butcher, I have to do it myself.
Remembering the disgusting mess that I made of my kitchen last time (you really don’t want to know; suffice it to say I’m still not convinced that all the turkey flesh is off my kitchen walls and window from that first experiment), I made a plan. I sharpened my knife. Though much too small for the job of cutting anything more ambitious than veggies for soup, it is a good little kitchen knife. I got out the carpenter’s tape and two big trash bags. I moved the dining room table into the middle of the dining area (away from the books and walls), cut open the trash bags and taped them to the tabletop. I got out my two, two-gallon soup pots to put pieces in as I worked, and then I went for the bird.
I will spare you the details, but I’m happy to report that it only took forty-five minutes and a little patience to cut the bird into the pieces I needed, pull up the icky-fied trash bags, mop the floor and deposit bird pieces in the fridge. As we speak, the bird is waiting patiently inside the browning bag for the hour to arrive. The magic hour is 2 pm.
Around 1:30 I will retoast the cheese puffs. They won’t be warm when folks get here, but they will at least be revived and a little crispy. They’re good cold anyway. I’ll have a nap before the game starts at 3. Around 4:30 I’ll begin the negotiation with my microwave (it only works in 30 second spurts; sometimes I can coax it into running for a minute at a time) to reheat this year’s experimental dish: roasted pumpkin with rajas (strips of roasted poblano pepper), seasoned with toasted cominos and served with cream. I tried it. I like it, but it’s very very different. Standing in line, ready to go are the American-style queso dip, a pecan pie, an apple crisp, a platter of olives, pickles, and cured meats. Someone is bringing rolls, someone else mashed potatoes, there’s a salad, a cheese tray and I don’t know what else.
As folks start to trickle in around 5 this afternoon there will be enough to keep our fingers and tummies busy and happy. The company will be great and I will be wishing that you all could be here, too. Come on over from Tel Aviv, from Mozambique, from Singapore, from Springfield and Kansas City, Missouri; from Abilene and Fort Worth, Texas and all the other places in the world where you are and graze with us and laugh, play a little guitar and sing. As I’ve gone about all the preparations this week, I’ve thought of all of you in different ways and for different reasons and I’m glad you were here with me in thought. I wish you all the blessings of this Thanksgiving Day, whether you are dining on turkey and fixings or popcorn and toast. ~LD