Turkey and Fire

In anticipation of our friends coming from NYC for Thanksgiving, I bought a fresh 15-pound turkey about 10 days before Thanksgiving. The “good until date” was November 28 – refrigerated or frozen. That seemed a long time even for a brined turkey to be in the fridge, but despite Mom’s suggestion that I freeze it, I left it in the fridge.

Around 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Bill – my designated bird man – cut open the plastic. “Does this smell, OK?” If Bill was asking the question, I should have known immediately that something was amiss. It did smell…. different. I looked up “brined turkey smell” on-line and discovered brining doesn’t affect the smell. “Call your Mom!” Bill fervently suggested. So I did. I’m not sure why: Voice goes through a phone line; voice and picture go through Skype. Nothing instantly transmits smell. But based on our description of the smell, or perhaps the quiver in my voice, Mom agreed: don’t risk it.

I flew out of the house at 1:10, leaving Bill with the foul bird and the smell that was turning my stomach. Our supermarket was closed, so I decided to go to the next town and check on that supermarket. But enroute, I passed our little grocery store in town – parking lot full with a big open sign! They had four or five 20+ pound Butterball turkeys in the fridge case, but as I poked at them I knew they weren’t completely thawed. Then a guy behind the counter said, “Whatcha lookin’ for?” I replied, “A turkey.” Amazingly, he said, “I have one fresh turkey left in the back.” He said it loud enough for other customers to clearly hear. So just in case I had competition I the crowd, I shouted, “I’ll take it!” A 20-pounder for four people. It had to go in the oven soon if we wanted to eat before 10 p.m. The store had no more aluminum roasting pans. I called Bill, “You need to wash the pan and preheat the oven.” His reply, “I just put the pan in the garbage with the turkey. I’ll go dig it out.” Poor guy. I was the lucky one traipsing down Main Street with a 20-pound turkey, a little more weight than I should be lifting. I got it in the van, quickly Purelled, and motored for home.

At 1:25 I wheeled into the house. Bill washed the new, fresh-smelling bird while I snipped fresh rosemary and washed fresh thyme. The herbs were supposed to be nicely chopped, worked into softened butter, and delicately placed under the skin. But Bill just gave the turkey a quick rub of butter and stuffed the whole herbs under the skin and into the hole; then we shoved the bird in the oven at 1:35. Ahhh.

We went about enjoying the afternoon, playing football and waiting for our friends to arrive. By the way, ask Bill who has the best spiral throw in the Tinkler household… Actually, it may pain him to admit it: Me! It’s obvious who grew up in cricket land and who grew up in football country.

At turkey reveal time and as Bill gently pulled the pan out of the oven, some of the juices overflowed into the bottom of the oven. The turkey safely landed intact on the counter. We were ready for the second shift of roasted veggies, stuffing, and popovers in the oven. But the oven was smoking from the little spill. Despite fans whirling and the kitchen door wide open, our eyes were watering and our throats were full of smoke.

Then flames appeared in the oven. Bill headed for the fire extinguisher; I turned the oven off; and our friends, well, amused or bewildered, I’m not sure, remained very calm. As Bill reached for the oven door, I suggested we leave it closed and not feed the fire with oxygen. Plus, I didn’t want to commit to buying a new stove so soon. And, how would we get the second shift baked after a chemical spray in the cooking bay? Looking back, the flames were not huge, but there shouldn’t be flames in the oven so at the time they were enormous! We patiently watched the 6-inch high wisps of fire burn off the fat as we took turns standing at the open door to get fresh air. Twenty minutes later the flames were gone and in went the accompaniments. Around 8 p.m. we sat down to a great Thanksgiving feast, including stuffing with homemade roasted chestnuts, which we roasted in the oven pre-fire.

And would you believe, there sat my wig AGAIN on the Dartingon vase???

Staying strong and thankful for good friends and for good humor,