My Thanksgiving Adventure
Ah, the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner tableau: generations gathered around a bountiful table, the hostess presenting the perfectly roasted turkey, the host carving the bird while all look on in wonder. Something like this:
I figured I’d post that Normal Rockwell picture because I have no photograph of an equivalent scene at my own house last Thursday. For one thing, I’m a bit younger and much less dowdy than the woman serving up Rockwell’s turkey. For another, my turkey wasn’t quite that big and it got carved in the kitchen, the meat presented on the serving platter. And for a third, the unseen kitchen belonging to the people in the painting probably had a functioning sink.
As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving greeting last Thursday morning, my kitchen sink was stopped up. It must have happened late on Wednesday, when I finished all my vegetable prep—washing, peeling, trimming—and sent all those scraps down the garbage disposal. If I had run the water a minute longer, I would have noticed that the water was no longer draining. As it was, I didn’t realize that inconvenient fact until Thursday morning, when I scrubbed a pot I had left soaking overnight. By the time the water was an inch deep in my sink, I knew I had a problem.
That was when I drove to CVS and bought two bottles of Drano, one to use that day and one to keep on hand for the next clog. I ended up using both of them. Alas, they didn’t help, at which point I was faced with a choice of either calling Roto-Rooter and hoping I could get someone to come out on Thanksgiving morning, or tapping into the handyman powers of the Den Mother’s Father. Since DMF charges a lot less than Roto-Rooter and was coming down anyway, I opted for him. Unfortunately, several attempts to snake the drain pipe failed to clear it. By then, as the rest of my family arrived, it was clear that I was going to serve Thanksgiving dinner sans kitchen sink.
You don’t realize how often you go to your sink until you can’t. No stirring one pot, rinsing the spoon, and then stirring another pot; I had to wipe the spoon with paper towel. No draining the cooked vegetables into the colander set into the sink; I had to take the pan and the colander outside and drain them over my back lawn. No quick hand washing or sticking my hand under cold running water within 2.5 seconds of burning it on the oven rack when I basted the turkey; I had to run to the other end of the house and use the bathroom sink. Which reminds me that I am, indeed, my father’s daughter, being unable to do anything with my hands without eventually incurring a minor injury. Because I prefer pot holders to oven mitts, my Thanksgiving injuries included small burns on the backs of my hands.
Fortunately, the turkey came out much better than my hands did. The plumbing situation threw off my schedule, but after I stuffed both ends of the bird and then trussed it a la the Food Network’s video on YouTube, I got it into the oven only about 45 minutes late. The roasting guidelines the meat market gave me suggested that my 15 pound turkey should have taken 3-3½ hours to cook to a temperature of 175°F according to a meat thermometer inserted into the joint between leg and breast, but after four hours mine had only gotten up to about 163°. But it looked cooked to me, so I uncovered and basted it for another 20 minutes, after which it looked like this:
And I am pleased to report that it was perfectly cooked, tender and juicy, and the culinary if not physical centerpiece of an ideal Thanksgiving meal that also included cornbread and fruit stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted butternut squash with balsamic vinegar, Amish turnips, green beans with slivered almonds, maple-glazed carrots, the Den Mother’s Mother’s giblet gravy (the one thing I allowed her to actually do in my kitchen), cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and wine, of which I drank plenty once I finally sat down, plus the array of fabulous desserts. It was an outstanding dinner, and the table looked perfect, if I do say so myself. The lack of kitchen sink seemed to bother no one but me. My mother and sister-in-law scraped all the dishes in to a plastic garbage bag (the way it was done before we all had garbage disposals) and stacked them on my counter for future washing. As DMF pointed out, they didn’t have a kitchen sink at the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth, either, so the experience was more authentic. Next time, I could do with a little less authenticity.
By the time everyone had left, it was about 7:30 and I could barely keep my eyes open. I guess the sink thing took more out of me than I was willing to admit. I slept like the dead. By mid-afternoon on Friday after an hour of trying, the plumber finally cleared the very stubborn clog. I washed, dried, and put away all the dishes, glasses, and utensils, then made myself a big plate of leftovers that tasted even better than they had the first time around because I wasn’t still distracted by the plumbing.
So it was that I got through my very first Thanksgiving hosting experience and the glitch that made it unforgettable. By Saturday, I was telling the story to friends and laughing. The next time I host a big holiday dinner, it will seem like a breeze.