We were hosting Thanksgiving for the first time! How exciting.
Our first arrivals were my mom, sister, niece and nephew. They came a day early. The men would arrive on Thanksgiving Day.
Based on previous visits, my mom’s rescue dog earned a reputation as “a runner” among other things. So we learned to leave an opening in the garage for the crew to pull inside. Then we shut the garage door and let everyone inside the house through the connecting side door.
What was easily forgotten was that the poor dog had been traveling for hours. Coming straight into the house among the happy greetings and hugs between family members who have not seen each other in months, he instinctively headed for the back door. But nobody noticed. Then, he decided that the large cloth chair would suffice to do his business.
He’s a big dog, and he took a big leak down the side of the chair and then shifted to thoroughly saturate the carpet – of course missing the adjacent tile floor by mere inches.
After supper, my sister had pies to cook. Don’t ask me why but something went terribly wrong!
After my little sis bellowed – “Oh noo!” – we all came running to find the oven was caked in hardened pie remains.
Good grief, what a mess it was! So we figured we’d just set the oven to self-clean and let it do its thing overnight.
In the morning, the oven was long cooled down, but the doggone door wouldn’t open. There was a 20+ pound turkey to cook! We burned up Google for a solution, but no matter what we tried, it didn’t work.
I looked at the time. I glanced out the window at the patio. I looked at the time again.
“Let’s just grill this bird!” I yelled.
People looked at me like I was crazy – as they often do.
I sprang into action and grabbed the propane tank to get it filled. I just knew that if I didn’t, it would probably run out halfway through cooking. Besides, my Google solution for grilling a turkey said I needed indirect heat so I needed a cooking sheet that would fit. I found an aluminum solution at the hardware store while I waited for the propane tank to be filled.
When I returned home, I fired up my modest grill. Within a minute my aluminum solution caught fire. I cleaned up that mess and zipped to the grocery store and back with a commercial grade baking pan. I slipped it under the grate. Perfect fit.
My dad and brother-in-law arrived about an hour and some beers into my roast.
“What are you doing?” they both asked at the same time.
“Barbecuing turkey,” I smiled casually with a slight buzz.
Their jaws dropped, and eyes grew wide in disbelief.
“This is going to be a bust of a meal,” I could read them saying in their minds.
I weathered the cold, tending to the manual temperature controls toggling around 325 degrees for hours. Sometimes the temperature reached about 350 degrees, and at others, it went down to 300, but I managed to keep it as steady as the pouring beer.
I couldn’t jeopardize the temperature by opening the lid. I had to wait for the halfway point to finally get a glimpse at what was happening inside.
That’s when I flipped the bird.
It looked pretty darn good but my dad and I both suspected looks could be deceiving. It might be one raw mess deep inside that meat.
I kept at the controls catching parts of the football game while fetching sanity refills.
On one trip to the kitchen, tensions grew, and some stereotypical sibling squabbling exchanged between my sister and me. Others joined in. Oh, this was going to be a Thanksgiving to remember.
I huffed off to my patio retreat. My sister simmered over the top of the stove. Inside the stove, her pie disaster from the night before remained trapped. Its warming aroma wafted in the air as the burners on the stove top heat the side dishes.
Then came the moment of truth. I shoved a thermometer inside a breast. Then I took the turkey into the house for my brother-in-law to carve it. At this point, nobody trusted me with sharp objects.
My brother-in-law’s heart sunk because he couldn’t get the carving knife through the bird. He was afraid to say anything. He just stared and wondered how he’d break the bad news. When he looked down again, he realized the thing was upside down.
We sat around the table – everyone silently praying for a meal that wouldn’t send us to the Emergency Room.
One by one, noises of pleasure passed around the table. Some declared that it was the best turkey that they ever had.
And when nobody got sick, I gave thanks.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, author of “HERE I THOUGHT I WAS NORMAL: Micro Memoirs of Mischief and creator of OhioTraveler.com
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