In 1997, my friends and I were finishing up the last of our master’s courses and beginning to study for our comp exams. Several of us had no time to spare for Thanksgiving travels. So I decided to squeeze seven people into my one-bedroom apartment (with a two-burner stove and tiny oven, and no dining room) for a proper turkey dinner.
I thought I’d done myself proud. My grandma’s recipe for twice-baked mashed potatoes?” Perfect. Old-fashioned bread stuffing? Delish. “Real” cranberry sauce? Yummy. Fancy salad? Yup…but no one ate it (we were saving room for the “good” stuff). Turkey? Uh oh.
Everything else, I’d made before for various family gatherings. I’d never cooked a turkey. When I started to slice it, I noticed some browned-edge paper-like thing sticking out of the neck end. Oh…so that’s where they hid the gizzards. The bird was edible, but it had a slight aftertaste of toasted waxed paper.
I’ve since cooked a Thanksgiving dinner every year for friends (and now for my friends’ families). And when my kitchen got larger, so did the menu. These days, I have it all down to a perfectly calibrated two days of prep and cooking, with ample time for wine and cleaning breaks.
But this year has been by far the most challenging since 1997 – it’s the first time I’ve really cooked a large meal in the new kitchen. I had trouble remembering where I’d stashed everything. The roasting pan was in the back of the last cabinet in which I looked (of course). My trifle dish and serving platters were in the storage room on my third floor. I gave up on the instant thermometer, and bought a new one on Monday. So naturally, I found the old one this morning.
Plus, I had to put the dining room back to rights…because that’s where all my old kitchen furniture has been stored since I began ripping out the tile and barfboard cabinets last January. With my old kitchen table and two baker’s racks cluttering up the joint, plus the kitchen wares I’ve meant to but not yet gotten rid of, things don’t look as pretty as I’d like.
But hey – the dining table is back in the middle of the room, and there’s plenty of space for the expected eight guests (and me). And I’ve just put the turkey in the oven, sans gizzard packet.