The Mast-Head: Flu and Turkey Time

The approach of Thanksgiving is an unconscious signal that it is time to go for my shot

The report from the pediatrician was not good. The fever and cough that kept Ellis home from school last week was the flu or had turned into it along the way. Word went out to the various siblings, friends, and family members: Get your flu shot; even if you were already exposed, the vaccination would lessen the flu’s severity if it did pop up.

I received the order while sitting in my car on Main Street, Sag Harbor, two spaces away from a red pickup truck with a life-size horse made of driftwood lashed, standing tall, in the bed, which was amusing, top-shelf Instagram bait, though it has nothing to do with this story. 

Being sentimental about such things, I headed straight for the Bridgehampton Rite Aid, where for the past couple of years I have gone for my annual prick, and conversation about deep-fried turkey, as I realized when I walked in the door.  

Somehow, the approach of Thanksgiving is an unconscious signal that it is time to go for my shot. I had engaged the pharmacist several years ago on the subject of my red meat allergy, and by the time we stepped into the small office room off to the side of the counter, we had become fast friends.

The guy was a committed deep fryer and ran through the steps for me. My friends Chick and Chris had given me a burner-fryer rig a long time ago, I said, but I had never screwed up the courage to give it a shot, having seen stories about burning oil blowing the roof off garages. That sort of thing. Well, my pharmacist helpmate said, the trick is to determine how much oil to pour into the pot, using cold water, your turkey, and a marker of some sort beforehand. Science! Then, crucial, he said, you slide the bird into the hot oil with the burner temporarily off. Danger past, you turn the burner on, and let the magic begin.

This year, alas, there would be no fried turkey, the pharmacist said. The family had decided to gather at his sister’s place, and she was a confirmed roaster. With that, he jabbed my left arm with the needle, and we were done. 

On my way out of the office, I considered saying that I might try deep-dipping a small chicken by way of a test run. But, lest he think I wasn’t brave, I let that go. “Have a nice Thanksgiving,” I said. “You can always fry next year. You’ll survive your sister’s bird.”

“Thanks,” he said with a burst of laughter. “Have a nice day.”

Ah, tradition.