Dawn at Because I Said So Reviews posted this a few days ago and I've been smiling over turkey memories ever since.
I don't think that my husband and his brother particularly love turkey, but it is written somewhere that both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners must be turkey feasts. My sister-in-law and I haven't seen this 11th Commandment, but we've never seen the first ten with our own eyes either and yet we believe and act in good faith. Besides, after 30-some years of doing this with the only difference being which one of us hosts which holiday, the meal is almost cooked on auto-pilot.
The excitement and wonder isn't about what will be cooked, but about what may happen during the process of getting dinner on the table.
We've had birds with pop-up buttons designed to signal they were done that never popped.
I cooked a bird that must have been an albino. It was done and delicious, but that dang bird would NOT brown.
My sister-in-law was concerned one stressful year that there wasn't going to be enough meat to feed everyone. As we stared at the bony bird in the electric roaster, my husband began to laugh. The bird was in breast side down and we were staring at its back. We have since learned that some people purposely roast their birds upside down because the white meat stays moist that way.
My brother-in-law worked holidays for many years. One holiday dinner at their house, my sister-in-law and I were finishing up side dishes, while her adult daughter and my husband were tackling the turkey. My niece was going to remove the stuffing and arrange the meat on a platter while my husband carved. My sister-in-law had a carving board that fit over the sink. That shy turkey did not want anyone digging in its cavities, much less taking a knife to it. It skidded off the cutting board, down the counter and onto the floor in a split second! The four of us in the kitchen all gasped, looked at each other in shock, and then burst into laughter when Bill said "five second rule!" and put the turkey back on the carving board.
Our dinner time manners are not stuffy, but a certain degree of decorum is understood and expected. One year our oldest son invited his girlfriend to the meal. She seemed nice, but our son was never himself around her. It wasn't about being polite for company, it was about "putting on airs" as my mother used to say. There were 24 for us dinner that year, seated around two folding banquet tables set up in the family room with my husband at the head of one table and his brother at the opposite end. The basket of rolls were near my husband when his brother asked someone to please pass the rolls. Totally against his usual behavior, Bill took a roll, cocked his arm and told his brother to "go long" as he hurled the roll to the other end of the table. That was another instance of a gasp followed by laughter. "Go long" is still talked about at holiday dinners even though the actual pass has not been repeated.
Many of these episodes have been immortalized on a tablecloth I started years ago. This photo is years old and there is much more on it now. It is a twin white sheet that was hemmed to fit the table we had the time this tradition began. Our guests sign the tablecloth, some just signing their name, others writing poems or commenting on the turkey's appearance. The first few times I brought this out, some of the adults were hesitant to sign. Now everyone looks forward to reading comments from over twenty years ago. When I leave this earth, this may be the one thing people fight over inheriting.