My mother called Thanksgiving evening and from the tone in her voice, I knew she was disappointed we had not spoken earlier:
“Well, happy Thanksgiving. Even though it’s almost over,” she said.
“Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.” I said.
“Did Steve make gravy?” she asked, referring to my brother-in-law, who is the only one every Thanksgiving who can even try to make gravy.
“Well, no…but he brought some over in a pan. I asked him how he could have made gravy already when the turkey wasn’t even cooked. I asked him if it came out of a packet. He said no. I asked him if it came from a jar. He said no. Then he told me it came from four CANS. I should have know that would be the beginning…”, I said.
“Well, I couldn’t make gravy this year, because I didn’t have any of the good drippings from this year’s turkey. I just don’t understand it.” Mom replied. And then I interrupted her….
“Mom, with all due respect, I wasn’t done with my story. I wanted to finish. You see, Steve brought the gravy over in the morning when Dan (my husband) had just put in the turkey and probably seconds after I had just come back from chasing the dog that got out of the fenced yard. We all gathered in front of the television because we thought daughter Sydney was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but she was actually watching a Tivo of Criminal Minds….
“It was then that Dan said he thought the turkey was smelling good, which I thought was a bit weird because it had only been in the oven about 40 minutes, but guessed it was just a quick cooking turkey. I suppose I should have gotten up to look at it, but waited a couple of hours and then opened the oven to baste it. Of course, when I opened the oven, the air swept over the grease that had been slowly leaking through the pan that Dan must have punctured when he put the 22 pound turkey on the rack, and the grease caught on fire. It’s a good thing I have baking soda by the oven because I was able to scream “Dan, Fire!” at the same time I threw baking soda on the fire and it stopped. Dan came in and pulled the turkey out so we could put the entire thing on a broiler pan and as he put it back in, smoke spewed into the kitchen and we had to open all the windows.
“The cold air was a bit of a problem for the bread dough that Sydney was trying to get to rise — in a warm place — so she could make homemade rolls. The first batch had already had to be thrown out because Zack (my son) was so loud that it fell. So, we had to throw out the second batch and she had to start over again. Of course, she’d used up so much of the flour that just as she was about to set the third batch to rest she realized she needed more flour.
“So she asked Dan to go get some, which didn’t make him very happy. Actually, the timing proved to be pretty good for me, because I was trying to peel the skin off of a butternut squash and sliced a chunk of skin off my thumb, so it was a good thing Syd was waiting for the flour. She made me get rid of the peeler and I had to “step away from the knives” and she had to finish prepping the squash.
“It was about that time that I realized I wouldn’t have enough oven space to make the butternut squash casserole, so when Dan got home, I asked him to start the grill. I poured the squash into several sheets of aluminum foil and just had him throw it on the grill to cook. He thought a low temperature would be best, but when the turkey “popped”, we realized we’d have to hasten the process. And actually, it was a relief to have to go outside to check on the squash, because you couldn’t smell anything in the house except burned grease from the stove.
“So everything was calming down, except when Sydney was baking the rolls, the oven was so overheated that the rolls burned on the bottom. They looked great on top, so when Zack came in the kitchen looking for a snack to tide him over, and having just finished a major workout with no food in his stomach, he grabbed several rolls and the burned bottoms remained on the pan. Steven came in, grabbled the burned sections and ate them like cookies, which got the kids laughing hysterically.
“Sydney asked Steve to open the oven to check on the last batch of rolls and he leaned down as far as he could when he opened the oven so the billowing smoke wouldn’t get in his eyes, but it didn’t matter. We were now living in fog.
“My fresh green beans were simmering on the stove, but there was no way I was going to go in that smoke, so that could be why Zack said they were overcooked, when we finally sat at the table to eat.
“We are a bit suspicious that Dan may have drooled on the meat tray when he was slicing and tasting the turkey, but he swears the juice on his chin didn’t match the pool on the tray.
“Zack was so hungry that he literally shoveled two helpings down while Sydney giggled through the entire dinner. Steven kept looking for a fork for various side dishes and Dan would look up and say, “Canned gravy sucks!”.
“For some reason, it seemed like we sat around the table a little longer than usual and when we cleared the dishes, I opened the oven and cleaned out the grease with a roll of paper towels while Dan and Steve washed the dishes and put away the leftovers. We all agreed that we might as well turn on the self cleaning oven since the house was smoking anyway and the oscillating fan we brought in from the garage was working pretty well.
“Well, Mom, In hindsight, I wouldn’t do that again, because the smell was so horrid that it drove all of us outside. Syd went into her car and found some spare clothes to keep her warm while she sat on the back of Steve’s car and talked to Zack in the thirty degree weather, who thought he was going to be sick. I thought we were going to have to tough it out for the three hours on the oven timer, but for our survival, I was able to turn the oven off and turn all the ceiling fans on high. Probably an hour later,we thought it was okay to let the three dogs inside, but Dolly started to gag when she came in, so I took her to the garage and calmed her down. When we came back in is when I saw a trail of blood drops and didn’t know what or who it was, so we had to check everyone. We think it was our dog Herschel who bit his lip for the first time ever..
“So, Mom, I am really sorry I didn’t call earlier, but we’ve been a bit busy. And now, well, I have to shower, because I smell like the self cleaning oven.”
Mom had been laughing through much of this and merely responded by asking, “So, it was a good Thanksgiving then?”
“You know, Mom,” I replied, “the kids said it was one of the best. And I would have to agree….”