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Enjoy a dollop of humor with Thanksgiving dinner

Most days Queenie lived up to her regal name and was the model of good behavior. Except for that one Thanksgiving when the long, red-haired dog scarfed down the remains of a 12-pound turkey.

An old friend of mine had enjoyed a beautifully presented dinner — golden, succulent roast turkey and all — with her family that year. Everyone retired to another room, with plans to enjoy some pumpkin pie in just a bit.

Soon Queenie waddled in to join the family. Someone mentioned Queenie seemed to be gaining weight. With sides bulging, Queenie sprawled on the floor, very content.

It was time for dessert and the family went to clear the table, but WHERE was the turkey?! Then someone saw what was left of it, under the table, with telltale teeth marks. There were gasps of shocks and then the realization of why Queenie was so full and content. She'd simply hopped on a chair and enjoyed her own Thanksgiving dinner. That left the family with an emergency vet clinic bill to make sure Queenie hadn't ingested any bones with her hearty turkey helping.

All turned out well and as the years passed, my friend's family realized they weren't the only ones with a story of a Thanksgiving gone awry.

Another friend of mine had worked diligently preparing dishes she knew were family favorites. The beautifully roasted turkey was the pride of her efforts. It came from the oven at the precise moment to sit the exact amount of time before carving at the table. Cooling on the counter, the golden bird was like a picture from a cookbook.

My friend reached into an overhead cabinet for a bowl, and it accidentally tapped the side of the cabinet. In a split second the bowl shattered with tiny bits of glass raining on the turkey. Gasps were followed by stunned silence. The turkey could not be eaten!

Her quick-thinking son remembered a nearby place open on Thanksgiving. Surely they'd have something. He hopped in the car and, in a short time, returned with a large container of crispy fried chicken. No, it wasn't mom's turkey, but with other tasty dishes, everyone enjoyed a good family dinner with a memory that has lasted through the years.

I've listened to many Thanksgiving stories and thought of my own years of preparing the traditional meal and all the quirky things that could have gone wrong — and some that did. Mixed in are the funny things that happened along the way.

My first experience at turkey roasting still lingers. My sister and I were teenagers in the mid 1960s, loved cooking and were eager to try our hand with a turkey. Mother's cooking skills were low level and she'd never roasted a turkey herself, so when we volunteered she offered no opposition.

We thawed the turkey and prepared it following a recipe we found in an old cookbook from my mother's 1940s high school days. It turned out beautifully brown and splendid when we took it from the oven — a shocking surprise itself, since we were using a wood-fired cook stove, common at that time in many Appalachian mountain farm homes. Even today, with a degree in home economics and more than four decades of cooking, I would be skeptical of preparing a roast turkey in a wood stove.

We were beaming with joy at our success and began to carve slices of the white breast. But wait! What was the hunk of paper protruding from the neck?! We were clueless, but after probing and pulling, we learned for the first time that a bag of giblets is stuffed into the neck of commercial turkeys. The cookbook we used had not mentioned this since it referred to farm-grown turkeys, not frozen bought ones.

We removed the giblet bag with lots of laughter and enjoyed the remainder of the turkey.

Over the years, as I told that story to friends and families, I've heard many times how other cooks, both experienced and novice, have made the same error.

As families gather this Thanksgiving to enjoy a dinner together, whether it be simple or elaborate, there will be many memories created. Maybe we all can remember that it is the joy of spending time together that is important, and for those meal mishaps that will occur, let's put them in their proper place as an entertaining memory that will last long after we've enjoyed that piece of pumpkin pie.

Enjoy a dollop of humor with Thanksgiving dinner 11/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 9:02pm]
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