The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

How I Learned to Prepare the Thanksgiving Turkey

I learned everything I know about “homemaking” from my mom. OK, OK, to be precise: I give maybe 2% credit to high school home economics courses and another couple of points to my mum-in-law from my first marriage. This is me folks, wanting to be accurate and not found wanting as far as truth in reporting is concerned.

To recap: I learned 95% of everything I know about “homemaking” from my mom. 🙄

Wherein we Learn to Bake a Cake

Wherein we Learn to Bake a Cake

Though Mom’s bible was the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, more often than not, she cooked by the seat of her pants. She passed those skills on to me.

One of the first meals that I helped prepare was Thanksgiving turkey dinner. I suppose that’s why, even though I no longer eat meat, there’s a tiny tug at my heart when I see the grocery store ads. We here in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend. Since I will not prepare a roast fowl, I’ll write about it.

How I Learned to Prepare the Thanksgiving Turkey

Mom was very proud of her set of Reverware.

Mom was very proud of her set of Reverware.

Pre-heat the oven according to the package instructions, then throw away the wrapper and label. You’ve done this so often you could roast that bird blindfolded.

Heat up the big Revere Ware frying pan.

Toss is a huge gob of margarine and when it melts, continue to toss two or three chopped cooking onions. Fry like stink. Don’t those onions make a tantalizing sizzle?

When the onions start to brown, throw in the chopped up giblets. Let the cat have the heart, because it’s too grisly. The heart is grisly, not the cat.

Just like the canister at home. Courtesy etsy.com

Just like the canister at home. Courtesy etsy.com

More tossing: a generous sprinkle of poultry seasoning and some salt and pepper.

Once the giblets have lost their bloody colour, turn off the heat.

In the meantime, you’ve been slicing and dicing up an entire loaf of bread. White bread, to be precise, because whole wheat bread has not yet been invented.

The Yellow one. The others are way to small.

The Yellow one. The others are way to small.

Into the big yellow Pyrex mixing bowl goes the bread and the onion mixture. Add some skim milk if you need extra moisture. Mix thoroughly and prepare to get gunk all over the place. In the future, several decades later when you are a homemaker yourself, you will use your hands. It feels like you are cheating and there is nothing more satisfying than that!

Prepare that big ol’ bird by rinsing it out a half-dozen times under the tap. It’s probably a utility grade, which means it’s missing a few key features, but who cares, right? It all tastes the same and once it’s on the plate with the mashed potatoes, turnips, and cranberry dressing, who’s going to notice?

Scoop the stuffing inside. Both ends.

Oops.

Sorry. I forgot a step. Undo your stuffing work at the head end and withdraw the neck.

Carry on and pack in every last single solitary crumb. Even when you think there is no more room, fear not. It will all fit. I guarantee it.

Source

Source

Now sew him* up. Use a big tapestry needle and heavy-duty thread. A thimble helps.

Arrange the wings so that the bird looks like it’s ready for a day at the beach, breast-up and arms linked behind its once-upon-a-time noggin. If you are roasting à la mum-in-law, drape half a package of bacon on top… as if you are suddenly aware of your exposed bosom and need to cover-up. (Who knew? My mum-in-law was decades ahead of her time in the bacon department.)

Hold your breath as you lower the bird on a wire rack in the roasting pan. It will be a tight fit.

Place the lid on the pan.

I repeat, place the lid on the pan!

Source

Source

Hmm.

Plan B: Tin foil tent time.

Now is the time to retrieve the packaging from the garbage. You will need to do this every single time you roast a bird, so forget about committing the weight/temperature/time details to memory. Do the math, set the timer, pop the bird in the oven, and clean up the mess.

Several hours and baked pumpkin pies later, you are ready to receive compliments and requests for second helpings to the stuffing.

***

popes nose

*By the way, the butt flap is called the “Pope’s Nose”. And speaking of “him”: I once bought a turkey that was labelled a “Tom.” Interesting bird, that. There was an egg inside.

***   ***   ***

Inspiration (I hope) for this week’s Writing Essential Group Challenge.

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Categories: Food

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

71 replies

  1. My mother’s recipe for stuffing was this: Buy a package of Pepperidge Farm prefab stuffing. Follow the directions, which involve margerine or butter and water. Stuff bird as above. I followed it exactly for eyars, and I have to say no one liked my stuffing. Can’t say I blame them. I’ve tried to be more inventive, but no one likes it anyway. I now cook the bird without stuffing, which is both faster and easier. Hooray for both! I don’t eat meat anyway, so I can’t say I miss the stuffing.

    I love that you include fishing the weight label out of the trash. Now that’s my kind of cooking.

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    • It’s funny. I have (had) such good luck with roasting fowl that I pretty much assume that everyone does. Then again, I couldn’t prepare a decent roast beef to save my life.

      Glad you liked the label retrieval bit…these days there’s another layer of complexity with the need to convert from metric to Imperial measure. Ay, yi, yi… potatoes and carrots are way less hassle.

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  2. Two things my family reminds me of every year: the time I forgot to remove the giblets package from the bird and the year I cooked it upside down. I don’t eat meat either, but can I tell you how juicy I was told that bird was! Happy Thanksgiving, Maggie!

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  3. We call it the parson’s nose. But otherwise it reminds me of my mother’s approach. Recipes were used but only as a guideline. The only real disaster I remember was a power cut on Christmas morning. Cold ovens cook very slowly. Of course she always said it should be a goose not a turkey but what the pluck, turkey it was.

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    • Yes, while I was searching for images, Parson’s nose came up in the results. I think we may have had a roast duck one Christmas. I recall it being rather on the greasy side. One Easter mom made Hasenpfeffer – that was tasty, but a little weird, what with the Easter Bunny and all…

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  4. You’ve been peeking while I’ve been cooking. I’ve gone dumpster diving looking for that stupid cooking instruction more times than I care to remember. Even on the occasions when I remember to save it on the counter, Gilles comes along and helps to clean up. Bye-bye instructions.

    One of the big differences was that my mom always had a meat stuffing rather than bread… very spicy Italian sausage meat to be exact. What can I say? … I’m a butcher’s daughter. I never had bread stuffing until my late-teens when I went to university.

    Happy Non-Turkey Weekend! Pour yourself a good glass of bubbly … now we’re talking Thanksgiving!!!

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  5. I love this. This was my mother’s approach, including removing the wrapper from the garbage. My wife never put the stuffing in the bird and, she adds sausage to her stuffing which is awesome. I grilled the bird for several years, until the great grease fire of 1989. Over 20 years later, I was allowed to return to the grill, but that’s after my daughter became a vegetarian and she and my wife conspired to make lots of meatless components for the meal.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A lovely post. I really enjoy these pictures too. After years of washing under the tap, it was suggested that I should not bother. The counter argument is that washing raw poultry actually spreads those microbes. Have never washed a bird since, and hey, I hardly notice the difference. I always wondered how to make stuffing, so thanks for the recipe. I hope you enjoy Thanksgiving! xxx 😀

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  7. Ah, yes, the turkey. This is the time of year when all my Canadian friends make me ridiculously hungry for turkey dinner, yet I must wait more than a month!
    I cooked my turkeys in a bag for years, and now I do it my friend True’s way. (Except I turn the bird over in the last hour, because I like the juices running down, and because I’m OCD about it.)
    I learned 50% of everything by watching my grandmother cook, and that which I didn’t learn from her comes from my parents, and much of it from the seat of my pants, too, so I totally relate.
    As for stuffing, if it can’t be my MIL’s homemade, wherein FIL has torn bread into bits for hours, then I’d rather just have some out of a box — and never from inside the bird.
    I do believe we’ll have Thanksgiving at home this year. I’m not sure yet. I’m hungry. Are you hungry?

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    • Yeah, there is quite the range of hygiene issues associated with roasting a turkey. I’ve tried the stuffing made as above, but roasted in a separate container. Just not the same.

      I wasn’t hungry until I read this comment! Good thing it’s almost dinner time.

      Like

  8. Doesn’t matter…turkey, roast beef, chicken…I always forget to check the weight before throwing out the yucky wrappings.

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  9. Wow talk about a trip back in time! Better H & G cookbook, Revereware and McCormick’s poultry seasonings. Mom cherished those copper bottom pots; I bet she still uses a couple!

    First Thanksgiving with first hubs, we let the bird sit out all night to thaw, then realized in morning the damn thing was spoiled.

    The year I accidentally cooked it upside down was the juciest result ever.

    Great read, Maggie. Thanks for the memories 🙂

    Like

  10. And I’m still laughing! AND… I cannot believe it is already Thanksgiving weekend here in Canadaland. We’re going to break with tradition and not cook the big meal with the sides and the pie and just go out on the land and walk the dog and take the air and click the leaves. Stuff like that. And we’re going to use “and” all the day long.

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  11. I’m actually debating hosting Thanksgiving this weekend so this is timely. In my 27 years of marriage, holidays go something like this: one day/meal at my in-law’s place, one at my mom & dad’s place. I contribute to the meal, but am not hosting (nor doing most of the cooking). You may have inspired me to give it a go. No promises though. 🙂

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  12. heh. You ought to host cooking shows. =) I don’t eat meat but when our family eventually decided to join me the one thing I missed was making the big Thanksgiving meal. Happy Thanksgiving in advance.

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    • LOL – I used to watch all of the cooking shows when I was a kid. Not for the cooking, but for the entertainment. Do you remember Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet? He was rather flamboyant in mannerisms. I tried to prepare a chocolate pie copying the same dramatic gestures he used. No pie that day.The crust lay in shards on the kitchen floor.

      Like

  13. One more thing to thank mom for.

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  14. Wow, Thanksgiving this weekend in Canada? I had no idea. My mother makes an outstanding stuffing; I do not. She uses the Pepperidge Farm cubed bread crumbs and adds lovely things including apple and spicy sausage. I’ve tried to duplicate her method but to no avail. I do make a better cranberry bread than she, although that hardly balances things out.

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  15. Great post! Memories of home economics class, vintage cookbooks, and not learning to cook at mom’s side. Everything I learned about cooking, I learned in home ec – mmmm-tuna casserole! Too bad you don’t eat meat anymore – I’d invite myself over for turkey dinner. Happy Thanksgiving, Maggie! (What ARE you going to eat?)

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  16. I was well into my 40’s before I cooked my first turkey. It was my mother’s purview growing up, then, when she started to fail, it became my brother’s. The two I’ve cooked were marginal at best. I continue to make a great attempt to get invited over to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving. I’m happy to bring the salad or a pie, though. The only problem is that I don’t often end up with the carcass. I love to make turkey soup!

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  17. I loved reading this! Although I have never participated in the Thanksgiving cooking in earnest, I am the family’s designated Potato Peeler in terms of prepping the meal. I’ll have to learn how to prepare the bird at some point, even if that means that I have to read the package!

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  18. Love this post Maggie. Our turkey is similar, but no giblets. Sage, marjoram, thyme, onions, pepper and salt, plus dripping, was our traditional stuffing. Dripping is now replaced by some other fat. I love the way you can insert humour into your posts, eg the neck having to be retrieved! I wrote a really long comment last night only to lose the connection and lost the lot. So, wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving, before I lose it again.

    Like

    • Thank you for noticing the neck, Barbara. I should have mentioned, I suppose, that the neck was roasted alongside the bird and was Mom’s treat. She liked to pick at the bits when it was cold.

      Thanks for persevering in spite of the WP glitches!

      Like

  19. This made me LOL big time — it’s so very accurate and true! 🙂

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  20. I love your instructions but I am sitting here thinking how thankful I am never to have had to tackle roasting a turkey. Fortunately, we don’t do Thanksgiving and nobody does roast anything for Christmas since we finally woke up to the fact that hot food on a 30C day is kind of dumb.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration!

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  21. I’ve also fished the wrapper out of the trash more times than I care to remember! Did something traumatic occur during your Thanksgiving cooking that made you decide meat was not for you? Please tell me that your mom did not start with a live bird!

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  22. Love this. If you are from the Southern US, y’all would have to have cornbread dressing(stuffing) with this. Oh yes, and if you are ever preparing for adults only with a sense of humor, you can garnish the prepared bird with the baked turkey neck extending from the cavity for a special presentation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my word! This brings Thanksgiving tradition to an entirely new level! Thanks for reading and remarking, Lbeth!

      Like

      • Oh yes. The host prepares the turkey and cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, and giblet gravy, homemade bread, fruit salad and a couple of desserts. The guests bring sides and desserts, which of course include pumpkin, sweet potato, and chocolate pies, all homemade. No one would dare bring a pie they bought. There are always several cakes and cookies for the kids. If everyone isn’t almost sick when they leave the table, you’ve failed. New brides, pregnant women, and new mother’s get a pass. After that, look out, the pressure’s on.

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  23. Hope your Thanksgiving was as enjoyable as reading this post was for me, Maggie! Did you go with the roasted cauliflower? Yummy!
    😀

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  24. Have you had butternut squash pie?

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  25. That’s my cooking bible too. Too bad the kitchen doesn’t like me.

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  26. Oh yummo…that recipe looks delish! I learned how to roast foul thanks to Ina Garten – The Barefoot Contessa. Comes out perfect all the time – but I always encounter the same problem each year: Despite my best efforts of scooping out the cavity for all bagged innards, I always miss a bag of kidneys or a liver and end up cooking it with the turkey – only to find out days later when I finish cutting up the bird that one bag of liver was still in there! Oh well – I fry it up and give it to my dog.

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