Secret Ingredients

Our story today starts almost a year ago -that time of year when grocery stores put things like canned cranberry on sale and offer free turkeys if you’ll spend a Benjamin or two with them. A friend of mine who hates turkey spent a Benjamin and gave her “free” turkey to me because she lives by me and sees all of the children running in and out of the trailer.
She’s intuitive.

I’ve held onto The Gift Turkey. It has lived (bad usage of the word “lived,” I’m afraid) in my freezer, waiting to come forth in “such a time as this” when we are
1) Out of food, even potatoes, because kids eat in a mind-boggling way: “revolving door” style.  I can’t keep up physically, financially or emotionally (“The dishes,” I tell my therapist, “I’m grateful, I try to be… but they just keep coming, and I’m not sure but I think I’m invisible and my purpose in life is to be the person DOING the stuff that the kids will UNDO… and I can’t… I just can’t…” -I’m 100% FOR paying someone to listen to this because they always says things like, “Alicia, your kids can do the dishes.” AH! Answers. Answers I can’t find when I’m in the trenches because I’m incredibly tired. She’s like Vanilla Ice -if you got a problem, yo she’ll solve it.)
2) Needing freezer space because our beef was slaughtered and waiting for a forever home. 20161004_100604 Picking up that meat from the butcher was so glorious. I felt like “The Taylor” from Fiddler on the Roof, “Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles!”

The Gift Turkey was removed from the freezer and put into the fridge. It would fill the gap between the end of our paycheck and moment the beef arrived. It was blessed. I borrowed a turkey roaster from my Mom, and I felt confident. I’ve cooked a turkey once, so how different could it be?

I feel like the word “foreboding” would be appropriate at this point because I remember having the same feeling when my second child was born. Oh, how quickly I learned.

As the turkey thawed (so are the days of our lives…), I found out that a friend of mine had been spending her days at the hospital -her son had been admitted with pneumonia. They were headed home the morning I was roasting The Gift Turkey, so I offered them half of it.
I’m a big supporter of anonymous service, but for the story to make sense, you need to understand that I was giving some of this turkey away. It had to be delicious and cooked well. IT HAD TO BE.

I took the neck out of the bird, no fuss. But where was the rest of the innards? The ones that made me want to puke as a kid? The package said they were under the neck? Nope.
Maybe they forgot. It didn’t matter. I mean, it felt a little weird that The Gift Turkey was heartless, but whatever.
I wasn’t about to kick a Gift Turkey in the… well, if it had a mouth…

So I rinsed it and salted it and found all of the cuts in my hands (fun!), and then I slathered the whole bird in a really mouth-watering mixture of melted butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and chopped, fresh herbs. I stuffed her with all manner of citrus and herbs and garlic and onions!
When I turned to put it in the roaster, I found it NOT hot or even heating up. Google helped me with some very natural alternatives, like using an oven and a cake pan (novel!). But just as I was figuring out the best pan to use, I noticed that the roaster had taken pity and kicked on.
I put the turkey in it, put the lid on and then took a shower.
Because it was noon.

After washing off and eating lunch, I was a little bewildered that my house wasn’t filling with the aroma of roasting turkey… I checked on it only to find that the roaster had caused the breaker to flip! Not only was the turkey NOT COOKING but the melted butter was now UNMELTED.

I could flip the breaker, and I WOULD HAVE IF I HAD KNOWN WHICH ONE AND HOW AND EVEN WHERE. Usually the breakers flip when Danny has too much manly stuff on, so he flips them back and whatever! things work again!
But this?!

I went to the dining area, placed the cold roaster on a chair and plugged the turkey back in. If there’s one thing I really hate, it is playing chicken with salmonella. (Did you see what I did there?)

Forty five minutes later, the roaster oven was COLDER than it was before. Apparently the breaker flip was worse than originally thought. Time was of the essence, and suddenly everything I’m saying sounds like it was taken from an episode of E.R.

I cleared off my nightstand at the other end of the house and plugged the turkey in.
An hour later, it was sizzling.
TOO much. Because -I suddenly remembered -there’s supposed to be a RACK in the insert pan, and there was no rack. I’m resourceful and creative, so I wadded up tinfoil and placed it under the bird in a few places to raise it up. As I did so, the innards fell out the OTHER end of the turkey. The FRONT end.

When did they start putting them there, people?

No matter. What counted is that I FOUND THEM AND REMOVED THEM.

At this point, I felt like a lost/rejected re-run of The Dick van Dyke show. Three hours later, I had no idea what I was going to find in the roaster. I was ready to make a pizza run, if necessary.
But do you know what I found?
A beautiful, plump, golden Gift Turkey. I set the roaster lid down and sang out.
“Bless your beautiful hide!”

It was moist and luscious with hints of lemon, thyme and rosemary. Savory, delicious! Did it compare to the smoked turkeys my Dad makes every year for Thanksgiving? No. But was it dry? No! Was it raw? No! It was edible and I’m pretty sure I heard it begging to be devoured!
After my friend had eaten some, she texted me to tell me she liked it and ask what I did to it.
Folks, what’s the short answer? How do I fit it into text form?
“I pushed the bounds of bacterial poisoning and sang show tunes at it.”

But you know, and I know, why the turkey really tasted so good.
It was The Gift Turkey -given to me in love and given by me with love. That blessed bird was sanctified by God to turn out and taste okay. Surely, if it was up to me, that bird would burn. or never cook. or worse: poison us all.
Thank heavens for Gift Turkeys and secret ingredients (I’m lookin’ at you, Love. And Gershwin, natch).

And here I must put in a plug for The Art of Manliness *dot* com. That site is where I learned how to carve a turkey. And in case you’re interested, it will teach you how to wrestle an alligator. It’s like an online cub scout manual for grown-ups.


  1. Steve - the brother says:

    I don’t know how you manage to do it -fit all of the things in life I love most into one scrumptious serving of words. I hope you served up a healthy portion of relaxation at the end of it all.

Leave a Reply to alicia Cancel reply