I did Thanksgiving on Saturday this year.
I like roasting turkeys, always have. I don't know what it is, but I have a little routine and I stick to it. Maybe that's it, the annual ritual. I buy a 20-25 lb. turkey even when I'm just cooking for myself. I never call it a bird. I don't brine, I don't deep fry, I don't grill, I don't smoke.
I take the turkey and I bathe it in dry sherry and I fill it with carrots and celery and onion. Every hour, I take half a stick of butter and rub it on the skin. I know I let all the heat out of the oven every time I open the door, but that's how I roll. People tell you not to wash the turkey, that it sprays bacteria everywhere, but I wash it anyway. I don't use a meat thermometer either. I pull the turkey out when it looks done and if the juice runs clear, I let it cool for twenty minutes before I butcher it. I don't have an electric carving knife and the instruments I do have aren't that sharp, but I make do.
My oven's been a little wonky this year, I'm not sure it's properly calibrated. I bought a $5 oven thermometer and crossed my fingers.
I'll be honest: I got in late Friday night. I told everyone at the bar I was leaving at 10 but it was midnight before I drove home, and I needed to finish defrosting the turkey. I filled up the sink with cold water, stuck the turkey in, and set the alarm for 5 a.m.
I had two dreams in the next four hours.
One was the standard pre-party nightmare, the one where all my guests get food poisoning (oops, my bad!) and both bathrooms flood and we run out of toilet paper.
My other dream involved a man with blue shoes who appeared to me in a tightly structured story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It was funny, it was sad, and I woke up with the knowledge that all I had to do was write down the details of my dream and send it to The New Yorker.
When the alarm went off I couldn't remember anything but the blue kicks, so I stumbled into the kitchen and checked the turkey. All the water had drained from the sink, which made all the blood drain from my face.
In my haste, I'd left the kitchen sink plug upside down.
The turkey was still cold, but it worried me. It worried me that my turkey was now teeming with salmonella. I debated buying another turkey but it was five a.m. so I just refilled the sink and let the turkey finish defrosting.
I got up for real at 8 and took my chances with the defrosted turkey and the funky oven. I wanted the turkey cooking by 9:30, in case my oven didn't reach the proper temperature and I needed more time.
I told everyone we'd eat at 4 p.m., so most people were arriving at 3:30. Sara, Sam, and Julia were shooting for 2:20 or 3. They were bringing an extra chair and some ice, and Sara brought rolls and two homemade pies: one apple, one pumpkin. Michelle brought her dad and a spinach salad and some brussel sprouts with crushed peanuts on top. Tony brought homemade pretzels and cheese dip. Liz brought Zoe so there was a little puppy sniffing fingers and licking faces which was very nice. Corey brought brie and wine. She made a squash pie but didn't like the color or the way it set, so she brought a peach pie, too.
This is how we ended up with four pies, each of them delicious in their own way.
I meant to take more pictures, but I got too wrapped up in finishing the food. I want to be a good host, but it's hard when you're mashing potatoes and cooking beans and making gravy. At some point, you just have to give up. Make sure everybody has a drink and trust that they'll entertain themselves while you're sweating over whether the turkey has reached the proper temperature.
In the end, it wasn't my best turkey or my best batch of mashed potatoes. If you ask me, the haricots verts tasted a little waxy. But here's the thing. Nobody cared. We were just sitting around a table eating and talking and laughing and I was glad everyone was there.
And life is so much better with gravy:
It was too soon for pie, so we retired to the other room and played Catchphrase. We discussed Apples to Apples, but it was deemed too complicated and Catchphrase is always fun.
I'd been drinking Coke Zero with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and at some point, Michelle and I each did a shot. There wasn't a lot of alcohol consumed. Tony was drinking a combination of raspberry and chocolate beer, Corey was drinking red wine, and Michelle's father was mixing egg nog and Jack Daniels.
We ate pie. Michelle and her father left and so did Liz. The rest of us watched an episode of H. R. Pufnstuf, the one where Jimmy is transformed into a mechanical boy. Trippy, to say the least.
Tony had an extra ticket for the Cardinals-Rams game, but it was an all-day commitment. He was planning on getting to the stadium at 9:45 and tailgating until 2, and I just couldn't do it.
We said our good nights and I thanked everyone for coming, told everybody to be safe.
It took me over an hour to clean up the kitchen and do the dishes, but I didn't mind at all. I was listening to the Velvet Underground and my refrigerator was full of leftovers. I am thankful for my children, thankful for my friends.
Most importantly, I threw a party and nobody got sick.