Having participated in a discussion over at Bou's place (see the link on the right, Boudicca's Voice and the current post, Flippin Bird) I'm inspired to post for Thanksgiving. We'll be at the gathering of the clan again, enhanced by my brother-in-law bringing his family out for this year's festivity. So, we'll have about 30 or so folks for Thanksgiving in a house that dates back to 1791.
Everyone will form groups, break up, reform groups, rinse, lather, repeat. It's the sort of thing that families do, or used to do and this clan does it well. It's my wife's clan and it's a tradition with them that I hope outlives the current generation of matriarchs. We have vegetarians, vegans, carnivores, omnivores and liberals, conservatives, young, old, and everything in between. My kids used to be the little kids scampering around, they've subsequently been replaced in that role and are now where we were when I joined the clan.
There are taboo subjects, black sheep, and everything else that family has. Not dysfunctional, as I believe that word is over used now. Families have things that happen, fights that break out, simmering issues and so on that are life. If everyone is living their lives and anyone is following their passions, then there will be clashes. The Cleavers never existed and families have always had odd uncles, alcoholics, and every imaginable shade of individual. It's life and learning to live with family, warts and all is what we do.
Despite this tradition, where one of the matriarchs hosts Thanksgiving, my wife has had plenty of opportunities to prepare this meal - by her own hands. We were a military family, so we moved around a lot and she had to cook Thanksgiving dinner for us where ever we were. So she learned, burning up lots of long distance time back when that was an expensive thing to do. Unlike now. And it was worth it, except for the first time. The first time we used Billy Beer. Which kind of dates us.
She cooks the bird upside down in a V-shaped rack in the pan. She covers it with some spices and bastes it with beer during the cooking process. Two, MGD or Michelob are the preferred beers that she uses. Guinness is too heavy she said in answer to a comment from Bou. She prepares the stuffing and stuffs the bird with what will fit, the rest being baked in a casserole dish. The last of the beer is poured over the bird at least an hour before it is done, then an hour before it is done we pull the bird from the oven and flip it over so that the breast can brown. We pull it from the oven when the button pops out (we usually use a Butterball bird) and let it sit for a bit. Then we pull the stuffing out and mix it with the stuffing that was not baked in the bird to spread the flavor into all of the stuffing. It works well. Then the slicing and the dicing, so to speak, begins.
In 2009 we had Thanksgiving with our aunt and uncle in central Florida where we did the deep fried turkey thing. You'll see the one picture of me lowering it in
and then 45 minutes later pulling it out. What you don't see are the lines marked inside of the pot showing how far to fill the pot for various sizes of turkey. My uncle spent time figuring out those volumes by empirical research (a fancy, scientific term for "trial and error"). This to ensure that when he cooks the bird he doesn't overfill the fryer.
It is not immediately obvious that you have overfilled the pot. As the level keeps rising in the pot while lowering the bird in most folks try to see if they can get away with it instead of having to ladle out hot oil over a hot burner. Which causes you to have to tell your wife that dinner will be delayed, something no American husband is wont to do concerning Thanksgiving dinner. Only after the bird is completely lowered in does the oil overflow, catching fire and usually igniting other things, like your garage or your patio. Subsequently your family makes the evening news when your house or garage burns down and held forth as how not to do this. And everyone laughs at you, which ends up being the least of your worries. Regarding deep frying turkeys there are a couple of other issues to consider. Ensure that the bird is thawed, a frozen turkey will cause oil to splatter out and burn you and or other bystanders. Likewise ensure that the thawed bird is as dry as you possible can else the water will hit the oil and cause the previously mentioned splattering. Which can cause you to drop the bird in, slosh oil out and into the burner starting an oil fire. This will ensure many years of the story being retold with great relish at family gatherings relating how you screwed the pooch that Thanksgiving. Despite all of the above, it is a tasty way to cook the bird, but you really do have to do your homework and pay attention. I specifically asked my uncle to walk me through this so that I could do it once before trying it on my own someday.
Over the years we've usually used the Butterball turkey, the overwhelming majority of the time, but we have also done the deep fried version (as per above) and once we ordered a fresh turkey. I don't remember how good it was, but I have no memory of it being bad. Still, no special memory of it tells me that it was only okay. Asking the head chef here elicited a "Meh" response, make of that what you will.
Over thirty years we've had lots of good experiences and I was fortunate to spend everyone of my Thanksgiving holidays with my family. Operational deployments hit other holidays, but not this one. Others in the military have not been so fortunate, including my son two years ago.
I give thanks for the blessings my family and I have received and for the men and women in our armed forces who spend this Thanksgiving deployed for us.