You may be hosting this Thanksgiving. This would have come about because:
You have the biggest house.
You love cooking for a cast of thousands.
No one else volunteered.
For my friend Susan, who is smart and funny and has no kinfolk, none of the above is true. She and her family will take themselves out to a restaurant. Susan is quite explicit in her reason for not cooking: the turkey. The uninvited guest.
Think of it. You have the menu set — easy peasy. You already own 4,000 napkins and a tablecloth. It’s all formulaic. Except for the turkey.
It’s the first thing you think about. How big should the turkey be? Should I get one large or two small ones? One turkey and one breast because everyone likes white meat? Or one turkey and a few extra legs and wings because everyone likes dark meat? If I get one large turkey will it come out too tough? Is my oven large enough? Fresh or frozen? Does turkey have gluten? Because no one eats gluten.
And what about the stuffing? Out or in? Sausage or no? You worry about food poisoning if you stuff the turkey. How do you make gluten-free stuffing?
You buy one large turkey. Fresh. Gluten-free. It comes in a box. You take the thing home, remove everything else from the fridge, and stuff it in. You hope it hasn’t been out of a fridge too long. You worry about food poisoning.
The day before or so you get the rubber gloves. (I am not sure about this part, but Susan always needs rubber gloves.) You rinse out the turkey and remove the innards. You put the innards somewhere safe. You brine the turkey. (Again, a step with which I am unfamiliar.) You put the turkey back in the fridge. The above amounts to a day and a half of your life you’ll never get back.
Thanksgiving morning. You get up at 6. I don’t know why. You make the stuffing. Two kinds. One with gluten, one without. Oh, and one with sausage. You think about which one will inhabit the turkey. You remove the turkey from the fridge so it won’t be cold when you put it in the oven. You unwrap it and gaze at it fondly. You do not stuff it yet on account of food poisoning. You leave it alone while you do everything you would have already done if you had a second fridge. Or a sous-chef.
You turn on the Thanksgiving Day parade. You root for the balloons to fly. You gaze anxiously at the clock. It’s time.
The turkey goes in at 500 for a while, then the temp gets reduced to 300 for seven hours. You put a foil tent over Harry (by now he has a name). The foil tent does not stay in place. You don’t give a damn.
Your turkey came with a popper. After seven hours it hasn’t popped. The invited guests are milling around. Is it done? Is it ready? What if it’s too rare? You worry about food poisoning. You take the leap and pull it out.
The gravy. Someone has to make it. You look and look and cannot find the innards. You give someone that task and don’t give a damn.
You pull it out of the roasting pan. The wings and legs stay behind. It’s definitely done.
Carol LoCascio-Creel lives in Montauk and New York City.