Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Pilgrims Feast

When I was in Texas recently it was told to me that I am a descendent of John and Pricilla Alden on my daddy’s side. Yes that would be the same one who was on the Mayflower. What does that mean? I haven’t a clue other than it may or may not entitle me to make application to the D.A.R. or it means that I come from a long line of turkey eaters. Maybe it means both. I would love to regale you with the whole story but the truth is I haven’t a clue. I mean I know that my daddy’s grandmother’s, grandmother’s, grandmother was a direct descendent of John Alden. That little ditty and $400.00 will get you a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks.

Like my pilgrim ancestors I am a turkey eater. I love turkey. I like it fried, roasted, smoked and broasted. This year though I will not be cooking turkey. I am sad. I am forlorn. I am bereft. Like my daddy always told me this too shall pass like a bad case of diarrhea, it is just shitty til it does; which brings me to my story. Yeah I know it’s a holiday but you’re not getting a break.

Many moons ago when I was still a young pilgrim my friends and I decided that we wanted to cook a Thanksgiving feast. We planned and schemed and finagled ourselves a menu, a date and a guest list. I was not a novice to cooking turkey as I had slaved over a hot stove and even hotter oven with my mother cooking turkey ever since I was big enough to toddle to the kitchen. We decided on a real Pilgrim’s feast of turkey and dressing, corn, mustard greens, sweet potato casserole, fresh wheat bread and an assortment of pies. My cohorts in this endeavor were of various skill sets and it was to one with less than average culinary skills that the preparation of the bird was assigned. There were five us working out of our own kitchens as well as the one central kitchen in preparation for our big feast. It was my friend Katherine’s kitchen that our efforts were dispatched from because she was the one in charge of the turkey.

We lived on a military base and we were all within spitting distance of one another. I could holler out my back door and Katherine or Suzanna or any of a number of others could hear my call. I was baking bread when I heard the faint call of my name. The call got louder and more urgent. I ran to the back door and standing across the snow covered yard separating our house was Katherine looking frantic. I yelled back and she asked if I could come over right away. I put my burners on low and grabbed a jacket and shuffled across the snow in my pink bunny slippers. I was welcomed by the smell of the bird slowly roasting in the oven and what I suspected to be giblet gravy in a pot on the stove. Katherine looked at me and said “I followed the instructions for making gravy but I’m not sure I understood. I mean look at this lumpy mess.” She jerked the lid off the pot and I peered down at a pot full of creamy looking soup with something white sticking up in the middle of it. I grabbed a spoon and scooped the alien white plastic sack that the giblets had been packaged in and dropped it on a plate. “Katherine” I sighed “you’re supposed to take the giblets out of the bag before you make the gravy.” She whined “do I need to start my gravy over?” Another sigh escaped from my lips as I answered “Yes Kate, I really think you should.”

I helped her get her gravy started and ran back to my own warm kitchen where I would hopefully find my dough on the rise. Only a few hours before we were to serve dinner I again hear my name being called. I look out the kitchen window to once again see Katherine at her back door calling my name. Only this time she wasn’t alone; Suzanna was with her. I grabbed my sweater and headed out to see what had befallen our Pilgrims fare. Both women were visibly upset with Katherine nearly in tears. I spied what appeared to be the cooked turkey sitting on the counter wrapped in foil. Suzanna looked at me with a mixed look of pity and disgust. “Gladys” she hisses “Katherine cooked the turkey, but it was still frozen when she put it in the oven.” I looked at her then at Kate not quite understanding the point of Suzanna’s irritation. Suz evidently could see my confusion and then half whispered “It ain’t done yet. It looks good on the outside but it is still raw on the inside.” “Oh, I see” I said.

We all pulled together. We got out our cook books and started reading to see if there was anyway to speed up the cooking process. This was before the butterball hotline and the internet and none of us wanted to call our mom’s and admit we didn’t know what we were doing. The best we could come out with was to baste the bird cover it with foil and put it back in the oven to cook a little longer. We all went back to our respective kitchens to put the finishing touches on our casseroles, pies and bread.

The appointed time for dinner came around and we all carried our dishes, confections and casseroles to Suzanna’s house for dinner. We sat the table with a hodge podge of a collection of our china, silver and crystal. We opened wine and made cocktails the only guest that hadn’t appeared yet was Tom the Turkey. We nibbled on hors d’oeuvre and made small talk all the while anxiously awaiting the arrival of the bird. Finally Katherine came flying in the door carrying a roasting pan. The three of us converged on the kitchen and started plating the turkey. The first thing I noticed was there was a strange yellow coating on the turkey. I figured it was something that Kate had used to baste the turkey. Next the meat was still a slight bit pink and as I cut closer to the bone it was real pink and almost red. I asked Suzanna what she thought and she said “Well that thang has been cookin for nearly 5 hours. I reckon all the bacteria should be cooked out.” That sounded reasonable to me so we proceeded.

We had a lovely dinner. Everyone ate heartily and went back for second and third helpings. We finished with coffee and pie and then sent our guests on their way. The three of us started cleaning the kitchen when the first wave of nausea hit me. I swallowed my way through it and wrote it off to eating way too much. Then I noticed Suz wasn’t in the kitchen helping with the dishes. I checked the living room but she wasn’t there either. I called her name but she didn’t answer. I opened the back door to see if she had gone to take out the trash and there she was leaned over the garbage pail. Her sweated beaded face turned toward me and she croaked “food poisoning”. I ran in to get her a wash cloth and met Kate sitting on the floor with a trash pail. She too had gone round the bend.

Unfortunately none of us who were in attendance at the dinner was immune. We all ended up in the emergency room at one time or the other Thanksgiving night. I know I was terribly thankful. I said my porcelain thanks all night. You know the one I’m talking about. Thank you toilet bowl for being so cool against my forehead. Thank you for receiving my gifts. Like my daddy says this too passed and we were much better within a couple of days. Needless to say we did not have turkey sandwiches or turkey salad. Nor did we dine on turkey soup or turkey pot pie. We instead had pepto bismal and club soda.

While I don’t wish this ordeal on anyone I do hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal. I hope you take time to tell the ones you love how thankful you are they are in your life. I hope you share some joy with those less fortunate. Most of all I hope you thawed your turkey before you cooked it. My sister sent me this Thanksgiving Prayer and I’m sharing it with you.

May your stuffing be tasty

May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have never a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Girly Stuff said...

I wish I had been there to throw the turkey in the trash! I am the ultimate bacteria freak!

Happy Stepping Stone To Christmas Day!

I guess "Rubberneckin'" goes with your food poison story.

terri said...

Oh you poor things! You all tried so hard too! I'm glad you can laugh about it now.

Half-Past KIssin' Time said...

That's quite a story, and definitely one worth telling. I wonder if you are still friends with any of those women in your story...

Mrs4444 said...

P.S. Gladys!! I just followed your link to your old blog and realized who you are! This is so awesome, because I just dropped you from my reader a week or so ago (because of the comment thing; sorry!), which was a bummer, because I loved your writing :) I'm very happy that you led the trail of breadcrumbs to your new blog! Thanks! :)

Gladys said...

To answer a couple of questions. Yes I am still friends with a couple of these women but only by email now since we all have been scattered to the winds.

Mrs 4444, I am so glad you found your way here because the feeling is mutual. Please come visit often. I've always got coffee and sweet tea and something to nibble on :)

Anonymous said...

OMG! That must have been horrible. You were all very brave and REALLY good friends to have eaten a turkey you knew deep down was not quite right. But what has me rolling on the floor is your Daddy's comment, "This too shall pass like a bad case of diarrhea. It's just shitty til it does." Those are words to live by!