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Meanwhile, here’s my annual Thanksgiving repeat, a blast-from-the-past from my column-writing days.  (First published: Champaign Urbana News-Gazette, November, 1991 and now in Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies)

SO much to be thankful for this year…

Midterm elections, new grandchild, coming to the end of Pumpkin Spice Everything season…

Oddly enough, here in the UK there isn’t much interest in celebrating the American Pilgrims’ survival of religious persecution and New England winters, so giving thanks isn’t getting a lot of airtime here in Scotland this week.

So I’m asking you, my lovely and wonderful blog readers, to let me know what you are thankful for this year. 

To get us started, I’d like to say that I’m grateful for the funny, charming, articulate, and all-round lovely readers who’ve stopped by this blog during the past year. I wish I could give you each some of our candied sweet potatoes. (No, seriously. I can’t stand that stuff. It’s all got to go…)

The Middle East? The economy? National health coverage? Blue or Red state? How to cook the perfect turkey?

Guess which question is on the minds of the 248,709,873 Americans preparing to shred 535 million pounds of turkey this Thanksgiving Day. (Actually, 248,709,872 Americans — my 7-year-old prefers peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.)

My 7-year-old: Q. Which side of a turkey has the most feathers? A. The outside.

When bad crochet happens to good people. [image credit: Classy Crochet] https://classycrochet.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/crochet-vs-knit-which-do-you-prefer/

When bad crochet happens to good people.
[image credit: Classy Crochet]

It’s no surprise that modern cooks are confused about turkeys. In 1621 our pilgrim forefathers, after surviving starvation and disease, not to mention fear of witches, Native Americans, and our pilgrim foremothers, crawled out of their pilgrim forehuts and stood around making gobbling noises.

To local turkeys, these irresistible noises said, “Hey, sailor, new in town?”

Our pilgrim forefathers promptly invented Thanksgiving. Every year after that, Americans would go outside, make gobbling noises, and bring home a turkey. But there have been changes since those pilgrim forebirds. Modern turkeys are naked, frozen, keep their bodily organs in plastic baggies, and are (after years of scientific breeding at the Dolly Parton Research Institute) 95% breast meat.

They are also so much larger that Americans who make the traditional gobbling noises are actually trying to say, “I have just suffered serious physical damage from lifting that sucker and I don’t think I’ll be able to have children.”

My 9-year-old: Q. How do you tell a turkey from an elephant? A. If you don’t know, I’m not eating Thanksgiving dinner at your house.


Americans attach too much importance to Thanksgiving turkey. After all, even if you do blow the main dish of the single, most important meal of the year and are branded a pathetic, incompetent failure in front of your in-laws, family, and friends, the dog will still love you. Probably. If she gets the scraps.

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  • What if you live in Seattle and on Thanksgiving day yours is one of 20,000 homes where the power goes out during peak roasting hours? (And what if someone –we’re not naming names, but he’ll be on sofa sentry until next Thanksgiving — forgot to turn off the grill last time and the propane is all gone? Time for the traditional Thanksgiving bonfire. All those booklets from the power company pointing out that your neighbors are much better at saving energy than you will make excellent fuel. For that festive yet personalized touch, I hear Martha Stewart Online has instructions for making a homemade burnable effigy of power company executives.)
  • What if you forget you’ve put Tom in the bathtub to defrost and all of a sudden you notice you’re showering with the main course? (This little secret is between you and Tom, and I don’t think he’s going to talk.)
  • What if you’ve cooked the turkey in its plastic wrapper and you wonder if those blue and yellow markings on its skin are edible? (Marge seems like a very nice person. I really don’t think she makes this stuff up…)
  • What if you can’t find the neck cavity for stuffing because you’ve never had a relationship with a turkey who wasn’t past tense, so you’re not sure exactly which opening represented his neck when he was present tense?
  • (My personal favorite) What if your kitten crawls into the turkey and falls asleep and as you’re about to pop it in the oven you notice a long furry tail hanging out which you’re pretty sure is not standard-issue turkey equipment?

Marge  was also happy to tell me the easiest way to fix turkey:

  1. Make stuffing. There are only two ways to make stuffing; your mother’s way and your mother-in-law’s way the wrong way.
  2. If you don’t remove the little plastic bag of giblets before cooking, your turkey will not be ruined. Your family, however, will be physically incapable of saying the word ‘Thanksgiving’ without mentioning this incident. (“Remember the time back in ’91 when Great-Great-Grandma cooked the plastic bag inside the turkey?” “Yeah, that was pretty funny.  Um… what’s a turkey?” “I dunno… what’s a Grandma?”)
  3. Rub skin with vegetable oil and place turkey on a flat rack. Cook at 325F/163C until golden brown, tenting the breast area with foil to keep it from drying out. Turkey is done when a meat thermometer says 180-185F/82-85C, NOT when your husband says the guests are going to start eating the piano if they don’t get some dinner soon.

“But you don’t want to overcook it as it could become dry, tough, and shredded when carved,” advises Marge. (Come on, Marge — how could it be Thanksgiving without the traditional turkey shreds?)


My 7-year-old: Q. What do you get when you cross a turkey with an octopus? A. Finally, enough drumsticks to go around.

My 5-year-old: Q. Why did the turkey cross the road? A. It was the chicken’s day off.

bush turkey

A tradition that would have puzzled our Pilgrim forefathers: President Bush preparing to issue a presidential pardon for the national turkey.

A Thanksgiving quiz. Which one is the bigger turkey? 

[Image credit: Business Insider]