My turn. Finally.
After eight years of being a guest in someone else’s home, eight years of pushing food around on a pilgrim-adorned paper plate, after eight years of my aunt’s tongue-curling pumpkin pie and that colorless sludge my mother-in-law calls gravy, I was hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner.
My family was skeptical. Nervous, even.
Can we help? Would you like us to bring anything?
Pleeease. Don’t insult me with your insincere offers of assistance, I can do it by myself. I’ve simply been waiting for my chance to show you how well!
I cleaned the house for two days, made a fridge full of hors d’ouvres, set my dining table with such care and attention I felt sure Martha Stewart herself would weep with envy at its beauty, before wisely forfeiting her empire to me. At eleven-thirty, I put the turkey in the oven for a promised four o’clock feast.
When my guests arrived I kicked in to “perfect hostess” gear. I graciously took coats, offered drinks, pretended not to notice Uncle Fred’s wandering hands as I made sparkling small talk. I passed trays; my crudités hinted at lemon and smugness.
“If Emily Post could see me today,” I thought, “ she’d be very glad she’s dead.”
At three-thirty I opened the oven to check on the bird.
Hmm…doesn’t look real brown…hmmm…thermometer not up too high…little red plug thingy isn’t showing any signs of popping up…say, who wants another crab tartlet? Those are all gone? How about some, um, Wheat Thins? What’s that? We’re all out of Wheat Thins? No more cheese, either? Um…who wants some carrot sticks?
The little chart assured me it would take four-and-one-half hours to cook. I checked it again at four o’clock. It was a slightly darker shade of light beige.
Well Butterball can just go to hell, that’s what.
My sweat glands were now on full-tilt; if only I could’ve cooked that turkey in my armpits, dinner would’ve been right on time. My two-year-old daughter temporarily entertained my hungry guests by putting a Tupperware bowl on her head and running into things, God bless her. I cranked the heat on the oven, poured myself another glass of wine and improvised.
All those carrots are gone? Oh…who wants some, um, Spaghettios? Lemme just open this can…they’re really good on, uh… well. they’re just really good all by themselves!
At four-forty-five the Spaghettios were all gone and I had a kitchen full of people watching me mutter curse words and guzzle Chardonnay. The potatoes were ready, the salad was tossed, the corn casserole was congealed and the monster in the oven was still barking.
Finally the meat thermometer reached one hundred-seventy degrees, the very minimum setting for poultry, and I pulled that sucker out and instructed my husband to start carving.
“But honey,” he said to me, “I think we’re supposed to wait a few minutes, like twenty minutes or so before we carve it. I remember my dad waiting a few minutes.”
“It’s six o’clock and people want to go home. Start cutting,” I hissed. I grabbed a knife and went after that bird like a madwoman. As I hacked, my husband started pulling mysterious plastic bags of flotsam out of the turkey’s nether regions.
Secret bags of turkey garbage…what? What? WHY?
“Didn’t you read the instructions?” Hubby asked, obviously at peace with cementing his celibacy for the foreseeable future.
“Yes. No. I don’t know! It said four and a half hours, that’s all I remember!” I could feel tears stinging my eyes. I could hear the ghost of Emily Post laughing.
By the time we got the meat assembled on a tray, I was too frazzled to eat and my two younger kids were sound asleep. Everyone else quickly ate and even more quickly, left.
My husband started vomiting around ten o’clock that night. Soon after I got him settled into bed, I went to tuck in my oldest child only to be hosed down with the contents of her stomach.
I learned through several timid phone calls the next morning that my entire extended family had also spent the night with their heads in their toilets. Ahh, the holidays.
I still don’t understand how I could’ve blown it all so spectacularly, but rest assured, I no longer grouse about watery gravy or anything else. If other people are willing to have me in their homes, much less feed me something other than a big helping of humble pie, I give much thanks.