T Day . . . In which our heroine attempts a turkey dinner.

It was exactly a week before Christmas Day when Honey Bunny and I would be dining with friends, but tonight I was making a special holiday dinner (turkey, dressing, the works) because HB had requested it as his Christmas present.  Bless his heart.  The poor man had to ask for a turkey dinner as his Christmas gift in order to get me to finally have relations with a turkey as opposed to having reservations with one, which is what I usually make if we’re not dining with friends.

So of course I, his lovely wife, had said I would gladly give him this special Christmas treat.  And refused to all get uptight about it.  Until now.

Because here I am on The Morning of The Day and I’m not sure if it’s just a simple case of “turkey nerves” or what, but I’ve decided that the turkey I brought home yesterday from Albertson’s, swaddled as carefully as the Baby Jesus, does not Smell Perfect.  It doesn’t smell bad, just questionable and if I am going to slave over this bird, if I am going to make the dressing (okay it’s from a box, you got me on that one); the mashed potatoes, the marshmallow & sweet potato pie; the green bean and fried onion casserole; the rolls (yes heat and serve, you got me again) and GOD HELP ME – the gravy – I’m going to make real sure that this fowl is not fowl.

Standing in the long line, since for some reason everyone else in the entire town is at Albertson’s meat counter at 9AM on Sunday morning, I realize that since I’m already shy about telling the Albertson’s Meat Man that his bird is possibly not right, I should have gone over to the giant Bin O’ Turkeys and comparison sniffed. All the other Butterballs lie heaped up in their jolly yellow and white gingham outfits taunting me.  When it’s my turn to talk to The Man, I wheel my cart with its turkey riding merrily in the toddler seat to where he is standing next to the seafood case.  He hears me out, gallantly sniffs my bird and says it smells just fine to him.  But I am wondering how he can know how it smells when the odor around us is approximately that of a beach in Thailand (you know, the ones where they have those shrimp farms.)

Still he is kind enough to let me comparison sniff the other birds and they do smell better, or maybe that’s only because we’re not in shrimp land anymore.  He tells me to just go on and feel free to select another bird and he is happy to do a Turkey Exchange right here and now.  I dawdle, dandling the various birds for their weight, smell and disposition until he appears and “assists” me in finding The Bird For Me and going on my way.

Once home begins the task of actually getting said bird into the oven. When I have it in the sink rinsing it (before patting it dry as carefully as I would a real Baby Jesus) I intuit its resistance to the cooking process by the way it flops heedlessly back and forth while I wrest assorted fleshy bits from within it. (Yuck.  No wonder they call this a giblet, the name is as disgusting as the thing.)

I manage to stuff some apple, onion and fresh rosemary (my friend Lori has kindly supplied) “in there,” smear some butter on top and sprinkle on some spices as well.  But when it comes to getting the sucker into the roasting bag and then into the oven, HB himself has to help me wrestle in it, while the thing flails in all directions.

I almost lose my composure but no, this is why God Made Champagne.  I open, I pour, I sip.  I make a detour to my dressing table and stabilize myself further with a dab of Chanel #5 (as Coco would have.)  Then I go back to the kitchen, march the marshmallows as perfect as little snowmen across the top of the yams. And get on with the rest of the business.  I even get to the point where I tear up the phone number of the caterer I had on hand as backup.

Hours later, when the split of champagne has disappeared and a magnum has now been opened (because the dinner guests want a little too, of course) Lori, one of those fabulous chefs to whom cooking is as natural as breathing, helps me with the gravy.  Or rather Lori basically makes the gravy and I help her.  I had not realized that the gravy would involve so many hours of stirring and straining and pleading with the Gravy Gods, before it thickens and turns into something delicious.

It is during this long process, as we take turns stirring and whittling down the champs that I learn two important life lessons from Lori . . .   Anything Really Tasty Takes Time. And Patience.  And Champagne.  and If Thy Turkey Offend Thee, It Is Not Wrong To Return It To Thy Store.

And then I remember the Greatest Lesson of all that Mother back in Fort Worth has often reminded me of, indeed had repeated to me that very morning.

She always says,

“Just try it, honey.  If it doesn’t work, you can always bury it in the backyard.”

 That’s basically Mother’s answer to most things. 

 I’m happy to report that internment was not necessary.  The turkey was delicious, a good time was had by all. And Honey Bunny got his Christmas wish.

 May your turkey (or ham or hummus) be tasty; may your champagne be cold; may your heart be warm this holiday season!

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