I’m cooking a massive meal today. And I’m looking forward to it.
Culturally, we’re conditioned to both cherish and dread this. Thanksgiving always made my mother very anxious. She’d rise long before the sun to roast a turkey, boil potatoes, make an orange tapioca Jell-O ring, etc.
I never saw her sit and eat a holiday dinner. She simply hovered and checked and wondered if the turkey was too dry. It wasn’t. And, no, I’m not just saying that.
Worry and love were synonymous with Mom, so it’s possible that she actually really, really loved Thanksgiving. I know I do.
I love cooking big meals. I like the challenge. I like to give huge chunks of my paycheck to Hy-Vee for a single meal. Free-range arctic truffles? I’ll try a pound.
And after the last few months, I’m really going to like cutting things up with sharp knives.
“I hope you burn in hell. Thanks,” a reader shared, forcefully, yet politely, in a recent post-election voice mail. Today, the turkey gets all the fire and brimstone.
Maybe you’d also like to stop worrying and love the holiday. Here are a few tips.
Cook outside. This year, I’ll be preparing our beautiful family turkey on the grill. In theory, this allows me to make room in the oven for side dishes and infuse the bird with smoky goodness from apple wood chips. In reality, when your indoor gathering gets too loud, uncomfortable or intense, you can always go out and check the turkey. That handy plume of delicious smoke will cloak your clenched teeth and/or sobbing.
A note of caution. Your turkey’s cavity is full of fatty drippings, which, if accidentally poured on hot coals, will ignite in a very dramatic flash, singing your beard and eyebrows. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.
Drink, if you like. There are two things that I do more skillfully after a couple of belts. One is throwing darts. The other is cooking, with a few exceptions. (See above.) The real key is to never drink so much that I confuse the two.
Speaking of pickled, herring. It’s a must at my house.
When making a big, important meal for many people, always try an overly ambitious, extremely complicated recipe for the first time. If it also includes incredibly hard-to-find ingredients, requires the purchase of an entirely new kind of pan and involves a welding torch, bonus points.
And remember, your family loves you. Nothing you can do, no mistake you can make, will ruin this day. Except botch the gravy. Unforgivable. OK, not really.