The author is too busy preparing the altar of the Turkey God to write a new post today. Enjoy this classic.
"Cooking a turkey is easy." We've all heard that. It's not tremendously difficult, like calculating the age of the Universe or starting your own Islamic caliphate, but it does require advance planning, doing things in a certain order, and anticipating bottlenecks in the process. In other words, it's not as easy as other traditional Thanksgiving activities, like watching football in a tryptophan haze or falling off the roof putting up the Christmas lights.
First, select a turkey at the supermarket. The author, like all cheap Americans, selects one that the market will sell you for next to nothing as long as you buy a certain dollar amount of other items. This can usually be accomplished in the author's case by stocking up on a weekend's supply of beer and liquor. These bargain turkeys are frozen harder than North Dakota in January, so it's a good idea to start defrosting them a few days in advance. If you start defrosting your bird the morning of the day you plan to serve it, your Thanksgiving feast will become a midnight snack.
Next, open up the turkey's interior. Today's turkeys are usually equipped with a plastic or metal clip that holds the turkey's legs together. You may pause here to reflect on the number of people you know or have heard of on whom this feature would be useful. The clip holds the turkey's legs together very well, so after exerting fifteen minutes worth of manual effort on it, you have to resort to a "turkey wrench' to get it open. The turkey wrench is a regular wrench that you have taken the time to clean thoroughly before you use it on your family's dinner. We hope.
After the turkey's legs are spread, you have to remove the neck and giblets that have been carefully wrapped in paper and placed in there, for the sole purpose of charging you by the pound for them. Discard. Some people make gravy out of the giblets. The author advises you against eating at their houses.
Now you can see into the turkey's interior. It looks like a tiny set from a Star Wars movie, an icy cave spattered with blood. Time to stuff it! Many items can be used in turkey stuffing, such as bread, cornbread, raisins, rice, sausage, celery, mushrooms, matzoh and occasionally a wedding ring or measuring spoon. After the bird is stuffed, slip the leg clipping device back on. Use the turkey wrench if needed. Bake at 325 degrees until the smell of cooking turkey drives you into gibbering, drooling insanity.
While your turkey cooks, reminiscence about past Thanksgivings. The author grew up in a family of nine. Our Thanksgivings always featured all of us and at least seven or eight hangers-on. The turkeys my mother served, unlike the tidy little bird roasting in my oven, were the missing links to their dinosaur ancestors, behemoths that once shook the ground when they gobbled. The guests were equally memorable. Some insisted on sneaking out into the November cold in order to smoke enough marijuana to make sure they were nearly incoherent with hunger when dinner was served. Others had alcohol as their drug of preference. Still others, pie. We were Catholics, and the Catholic grace is only five lines long. Someone muttered through it in a matter of seconds and we dug in. Imagine the author's shock the first time he attended a Thanksgiving feast outside his home and discovered some people like to extemporize a grace in which every person and food item on the table is mentioned and cross-referenced for long minutes while turkey fumes linger agonizingly in the air. If you notice someone making notes or bringing index cards to the table you should volunteer to say grace, even if you are a committed and proselytizing atheist. Something short, simple and ecumenical, like "Thank God, Jesus, Allah and Darwin the food is finally done," should suffice.
Baste the turkey every hour, or buy a self-basting turkey. The author is too cheap to buy a bird that is willing to assist in its own slow cooking, so let him know how it comes out. Basting the bird keeps it moist and also insures that if you have not cut, frostbitten or bruised your fingers so far in the turkey-cooking process, you can at least burn your knuckles on the sides of the oven while basting.
Finally, when the little plastic deal pops out of the turkey's breast, it is time to remove the bird from the oven and lift it out of the pan. This is the most perilous part of the operation. While roasting, the bird has excreted a substance called "turkey glue," which has caused it to become attached to the roasting pan as closely as Angelina Jolie is attached to her tattoos. Spatulas, knitting needles, knives, forks, and many other sharp instruments may be used in a vain attempt to dislodge Senor Turkey from what seems to be his final resting place. During your efforts, you are exposed to countless hazards. Stabbing oneself or accidentally thrusting an unprotected hand into the magma of the stuffing is nearly inevitable. The author owns a pair of so-called "turkey lifters," which leave him longing for something still more effective, like atomic turkey lifters.
Letting either the pan or the turkey itself end up on the floor happens sometimes. Conceal this event from your guests, if possible. Reflect that at least it gives the dog something for which to be thankful.
Serve to a room that swells with well-deserved praise, or, if you are like the author, you can just give it to your kid and his friends. You know you have succeeded if they put down their iPhones long enough to eat it.