Maggie Van Ostrand
most Thanksgiving hostesses, I'm suffering from TDAS, The Day After
Syndrome, which afflicts all Thanksgiving hostesses on, well, the
day after Thanksgiving.
The worst part isn't the clean-up after serving the turkey dinner
to about a thousand relatives, or it feels like a thousand anyway.
The worst is when those people include your grown kids and their families
who should think about "doing" Thanksgiving themselves instead of
coming back home like they still live here. When will it be my turn
to ask, "What can I bring?"
This year, I had decided to break my long-standing rule and let a
couple of volunteering relatives help in the kitchen, while the rest
drank in the sights of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with football
for a chaser. Big mistake.
"Never assume" is my large lesson for the year. Too bad I didn't think
of it before the holiday. First mistake was assuming that my teenaged
second cousin had a mind. I should never have assigned to her the
simple task of washing and salting the turkey without pointing out
that there are not one but two bags located in separate cavities,
one with the giblets and one with the neck. The one with the neck
in it was left inside the bird. Teen common sense is a misnomer.
Well, it shouldn't be too much of a problem to yank out the burned
bag with the neck in it that was jammed in back of the stuffing before
anyone saw it. That brings me to the second wrong decision.
I've always thought the turkey was the easy part, and it should have
been. What could possibly go wrong? Making the special stuffing, mashing
and creaming potatoes, muffins, gravy, seasoning, coordinating all
vegetables so everything would come out at the same time, all those
difficult things I assigned to myself.
Heaven forbid the aforementioned teen's twin brother should be excluded
from the kitchen labor force, so he was assigned the task of carrying
the prepared bird and placing it in the oven. Easy. Except he was
unfamiliar with the oven and pushed the wrong button.
Ever tried to roast a turkey with the oven on "automatic clean?" You
have no idea how much and how fast black smoke can come out of that
oven. Everybody knows smoke is supposed to waft. Well it doesn't,
not when your oven is on "automatic clean." And the aluminum foil
"tent" we had remembered to place over the top of the bird to prevent
the skin from burning, flamed up like pyrotechnics on the Fourth of
July. The kids thought it was better than TV.
How clever the manufacturer was to have installed a "safety lock"
on their product so that, when it's automatically cleaning as it accidentally
was Thanksgiving Day, the oven door could not be opened. Thank you,
God, for inventing inventors.
It was my brilliant husband who saved the day when he leapt off his
Barker Lounge chair (so old it had been his dowry), and ran into the
kitchen. He pushed the "oven off" button. Who'd a thunk? But how do
you stop the smoke?
What's the way to stop a smoke alarm from alerting the fire department?
Well, it's not screaming "Shut up!!" at the top of your lungs. That
doesn't help, and it frightens people.
Grandpa was right; there was no choice but to get the big ladder from
the basement, climb up, pull the alarm off the ceiling, and remove
the battery. I expect a thank you note from the fire department for
saving them a trip.
The kitchen was too smoky to continue with what was left of the planned
feast. Besides, we couldn't open the oven door until the temperature
returned to normal, which might be never. At our emergency family
meeting, a solution was soon decided upon.
We all trooped to our cars and headed for a turkey dinner at the local
Denny's. Perfectly cooked and served, with no clean-up. And, instead
of the smoldering pile of foil and gizzards I half expected to find
when we got back home, the house was still standing, the oven cooled
and clean, with nothing left of the carcass to dispose of, except
a pile of ashes. All in all, a pretty good outcome.
Things should go even better at Christmas. For the first time, nearly
everyone volunteered to have it at their house.
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
24 , 2006 column