I was ten years old the Thanksgiving my mother decided to cook. This wasn’t a good thing since she never cooked, but she decided that she didn’t want to order the usual ham for the main meal – turkey, after all, was what most people had for Thanksgiving – and she always gave our housekeeper and cook, Lorene, the Thanksgiving holiday off. So, there we were, with a mother who thought boiling water for spaghetti was difficult, staring at a 20-pound bird.
Now one would think my mother, being an intelligent woman off in graduate school, would buy a cookbook for an occasion like that, but alas, no, she decided that if other people could cook a turkey, then surely she could, too. So, she peeled off the plastic that wrapped the bird and then stared at the two legs that were held together by a metal clamp. “That’s nice,” she said, “How thoughtful they are to put that clasp there to keep the turkey looking so nice.”
Even I wondered if there might be something inside the turkey, but my mother didn’t seem concerned. She plopped the bird in the roasting pan, set the oven for 200 degrees, and headed upstairs to work on her Master’s thesis.
My father, who knew more about cooking than my mother, came home later and noted that she had the turkey roasting the day before Thanksgiving. “Shouldn’t you wait and do this the day of? Then it’ll be nice and hot and we can carve it right up.”
My mother gave him a disapproving look. “Everyone knows that you roast the turkey on a low heat overnight,” she said. “That way it’s tender.”
“Okay,” he said, sounding doubtful. “I might just run out, though, and get a ham, just in case.”
“I hope you’re joking. I am not going to slave in the kitchen like this just so you can go out and get ready-made food.”
My father raised his arms in surrender, then headed out the back door. “I’m just going off to see Hutch,” he said. “I’ll be back later.”
I knew that Daddy was going over to see his brother just so he didn’t have to sit there and listen to Mother complain about all that cooking she was doing. However, I had to note that besides the turkey, she wasn’t making anything else. We were having canned green beans, canned cranberry sauce, bake and serve rolls, packaged dressing, and pumpkin pies baked at the grocery store. Mother headed back upstairs after Daddy left and it wasn’t long before I heard the clicking of her typewriter. She was back to writing her thesis.
On Thanksgiving Day, we sat around our dining room table with all the canned foods nicely displayed in bowls and the turkey, looking very dry, in the center of the table. When Daddy tried to carve it, it was so tough that his knife barely could cut through the skin.
My mother looked annoyed. “I can’t imagine what went wrong.”
Daddy put down his carving knife. “I’ll be right back.” Of course, he returned with the ham that he’d been told not to buy.
Mother sighed. “That poor turkey. Next time I might need to buy a cookbook.”
“Maybe next time,” Daddy said, “we’ll have Lorene cook the turkey a couple of days ahead and we’ll just heat it up.”