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Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Thanksgiving to Forget

Sandy and I both enjoyed watching Alton Browns "Good Eats" on the FOOD TV Network, at least back when we had more than basic cable. He had a way of simplifiing and explaining the principles behind cooking, and allowed us to believe that we could make our own kitchen masterpieces if only we followed his basic instruction. The first opportunity we had to test this out was the Thanksgiving of 2004. My mother happened to be out of the country and Sandy and I were on our own with the kids. The perfect Thanksgiving turkey, he explained, could be made by brining the bird in a saltwater and seasoning solution for a few hours, putting the turkey in a 500 degree oven for a half hour, and then roasting at a lower temperature until the internal temperature of the bird reaches 161. We we went out and bought a digital thermometer and did everything as we were told and ended up with a bird that did NOT want to cook. It's a no baste recip, so we were waiting outside the oven for the timer to go off. It never happened. Other food was done way too soon, and we got upset. Temperatures rose, but they were our own. Unkind things were said about Mr. Brown. Empires rose and fell. Camels wept. At the end of it all, Annika and I sat in the waiting room at Perkins for Thanksgiving take-out. At home, Sandy opened the oven, and pushed the digital probe father into the bird to find an internal temperature a little warmer than the surface of the sun, quickly brought out a bird that was too dry, served up a late but miraculous Thanksgiving dinner, and paged us in the Perkins waiting room to come home for dinner.

This year, we thought we would try to redeem ourselves and do it again just to show that we can do it. We have made turkeys before, but Sandy and I agreed that Thanksgiving was the worst holiday meal we have ever experienced, all due to our own negligence.

The problem we have is that this year, my Mother wants to host Thanksgiving. My brother Erik is coming down with Neslihan and Asli. We have real concerns that Owen and Alex will require so much attention that they will not last through a meal. They could be done eating 5 minutes after the meal starts, and we are stressed to think how much damage they would cause if let go to be on their own away from the table at GrannE's house. Most importantly, our goal this year is to just make a simple Turkey properly and get though the meal. I joked with Sandy that this Thanksgiving was going to be one step above paper plates. Nothing fancy at all. The kind of meal that if the kids were done in 5 minutes they could join us on the family room floor because we 'd already be done. Or maybe we could eat a more relaxed meal during their nap. Who knows. We just want it to be stress free.

We do look forward to spending time at my Mom's house seeing the family, watching the boys play, maybe watching some football, watching Annnika and the boys play with Asli. I love my mother and my brother and his family, but a man has to know his limitations, and in order for my family to have a stress free Thanksgiving holiday, the physical act of eating will have to take place on my easy-to-wipe kitchen table in a house that may be messy. The emotional act of getting together and spending time with our loved ones and celebrating the holiday can be done anywhere.