A few years back our Thanksgiving feast was a fiasco. Because I decided to be trendy and brine my bird. Nowhere in the directions did Martha Stewart say it would take the turkey three times longer to roast due to its 48-hour soak in salt water.
Everything started out fine.
The wassail was perfect, all simmery and cinnamony in my Aunt Lo’s Crockpot. The fragrance made the house smell like it had one foot in November, the other in December.
The appetizer buffet was stunning.
I warned the kids not to spoil their appetite with shrimp butter on toasted baguette slices. My ma-in-law and I vied for the biggest glutton title with the spiced pecans. Thanks to our First-Born, the roasted bell peppers and Havarti cheese on fancy crackers disappeared in five minutes flat.
When the oven timer buzzed, I clapped to get everyone’s attention.
“Give us a few minutes to get the turkey carved and the gravy made, and we’ll get this feast started for real.”
As Tony Bear hoisted the steaming Tom Turkey out of the oven and onto my Granny’s ironstone platter, I spooned the accompaniments into pretty bowls.
“Nutty green beans go in here. Garlic mashed potatoes will live in there. This trivet will hold my sister-in-law’s best-ever-she-won’t-give-me-the-dang-recipe sweet potato soufflé. And I’ll fill our wedding anniversary bowl with my chestnut-mushroom stuffing.”
On tiptoe I peeked over Tony’s shoulder as he sliced into the bird.
“Stop!” I squealed. “Salmonella alert!”
“The juices are pink and cloudy, not clear. Quick! Put him back in the oven.”
I increased the temperature 25 degrees and used my Nan’s giant wooden spoon to shove the roasting pan all the way back and left. Next to it, I crammed the side dishes onto the rack to keep warm.
I stood, smoothed the front of my cute aqua and lime Anthropologie apron, and headed into the dining room with a basket of cheddar pecan biscuits in one hand and a crystal bowl of salted Amish butter in the other. “Everyone take a biscuit to tide you over until turkey time.”
When Tony checked the bird 30 minutes later, he said it still wasn’t done.
I threw my wadded napkin on the table and headed for the kitchen. “Let me look.”
My mother-in-law followed me. “While the turkey finishes up, why don’t we start with the side dishes? It’ll be fine.” Brushing away a tear, I agreed.
After we arranged the side dishes on the kitchen table, the guests filed in, heaped their plates, and returned to the dining room.
Before we dug in, my oldest brother prayed.
“Lord, we thank you for this bountiful array of food. Bless it to our bodies, and please, comfort my little sister in her time of distress.”
A half hour later Tony Bear inspected the turkey again. He shook his head as he sat. “I think I’ll wait an hour before I check again,” he whispered.
I took a swig of wine. “You know what? Just leave it in there till it’s black, for all I care.”
“Actually, this is good for my hiatal hernia,” my mother declared from her end of the table. “Small amounts of food throughout the day are much easier to digest than large meals.”
I tried to smile. “Thanks, Mom. That makes me feel so much better.”
When we were done with our stuffing and veggies, I stacked my plate on Tony’s and stood.
“Forget about the turkey. I’ll give everyone some to take home. Who’s ready for dessert?”
“There’s Praline Pumpkin Pie or Frozen Caramel Pumpkin Torte.”
In the kitchen, I flipped the toggle on the coffee-maker then plated pieces of each dessert dolloped with homemade whipped cream.
Tony Bear handed me a cup of coffee. I started to take a drink, but stopped. I sniffed. “What’s in it?”
“A shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream. I thought you might need it.”
My eyes start to burn. He patted my back. “There, there.”
“Think excellence, not perfection.”
I glanced up from my cup. “This won’t happen next year.”
He cringed. “We eating out?
I snorted. “Heck no! I’m gonna cook the dang turkey the day before.”
What about you? Have you ever had a Thanksgiving fail?