- by Rebecca York
If loved ones can’t join you for Thanksgiving, I say just move the holiday!
When my Foreign Service Officer son was home a few weeks ago between year-long tours in Afghanistan, I wanted to do something special for him. So I decided to cook his favorite meal–one he’d remember in the Bagram Air Base mess hall come November. While the neighbors were outside barbecuing, we were in the dining room with the air conditioning cranked up, enjoying turkey, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and my homemade gravy, which is always a high-point of the meal for my son. We topped this off with pies and our family must-haves, chocolate chip brownies.
Turns out, there are several obstacles to moving Turkey Day to the middle of summer. Forget about finding fresh cranberries. You’ve got to use canned.
But the real problem is the bird. Unless you can tramp into the woods and shoot one, you’ve got to rely on the freezer case.
Since I’m a food snob who has never allowed a frozen turkey to darken my refrigerator, I had no idea that it takes days to defrost this entree in the fridge. With the hours before our big dinner ticking away, I went to various Web sites for advice.
Everybody knows there are strict rules for dealing with raw poultry. You’ve got to cook it as soon as it’s thawed or risk a trip to the emergency room. The microwave is an option, but the directions sounded like a recipe for “rubber-made” fowl. Which left the option of the water torture method. The turkey feels no pain, but you’re in for a freezing wet time as you totally immerse the bird in cold water, which should be changed every half hour. That’s after you figure out what container is big enough for the project.
I finally positioned an ice chest in the bathtub, hoping the extra insulation would keep the water cold enough so I could get a few hours sleep before the day’s tasks began clamoring for attention.
But all the instructions fail to mention one important detail. A frozen turkey floats. Unless you have a pair of cement shoes handy, you’ve got to get more creative. I settled on a heavy pot lid, then rolled into bed for some rest before I had to get up and start making stuffing.
Since the off-season turkey was expensive, you’d think it would come with giblets. But no, those parts had somehow escaped the total package, which meant I had only the neck to use for the gravy stock.
Still, it all worked out. I used a festive burgundy cloth and set the table with linen napkins, candles and my good china and silver. My sister and daughter made the desserts. Everyone scarfed down the dinner except my husband, who hates poultry. He ate his usual ham sandwich along with the turkey trimmings. As we sat around the living room, stuffed and happy, we gave thanks that Ethan could join us for the family meal he loves the best. He’s far away from home now, and I know from his e-mails that he misses us. But I also know we shared a wonderful turkey day, and we can both pull out those memories whenever we want to.
If you can’t get together with loved ones for a special holiday, surprise them with a personal celebration. It will mean even more when you do it at your convenience–not the season’s.