Well, it’s that time of year again and I can already feel the stress setting in about the turkey. UGH!
Making the Thanksgiving turkey was always something my mom and dad did together. In fact, they did one every Thanksgiving for the first 39 years of my life! Mom prepped the stuffing and Dad would get up at midnight to put the turkey in the oven. It cooked all night long. I always loved waking up in the morning to the house filled with the smell of turkey. We'd all watch the Macy's parade on TV and then we'd eat at noon or 1:00 pm.
When I got married, we started hosting Thanksgiving at our home with both our families. Mom and Dad still made the turkey but now they would bring it over already cooked. After my dad passed away six years ago, my mom carried on the tradition by herself. I know it must not have been easy it was something they had always done together.
Two years ago, she decided it was my turn. I knew it couldn’t be that difficult. She came over the night before and helped me prep the turkey and stuffing. We had it all planned out. (So we thought!) She had figured out that I didn’t have to cook it all night, but that I needed to get up at 5am to get it started. I followed her directions to the letter. I double-wrapped the turkey and put it in at 500 degrees for the first hour. It would be done by 12:30pm, in time to rest before we cut it.
Around 11:30 am, something didn't seem quite right. I called my mom and told her it didn’t smell as good as their turkey always did. She started to doubt herself and called the turkey hot-line. Apparently, you don’t double-wrap a turkey unless you are cooking it all night! UGH! My turkey wasn’t done.
At 12:00 pm, I turned the oven back up to 500 degrees and took off the foil. By 1 pm, I finally had enough cooked turkey to put one slice on each plate. Then I put the turkey back in the oven until I could get more cooked turkey sliced off. We have around 15 people each Thanksgiving, so each person had a few bites that year. Oh yea, and no gravy as I didn’t have any drippings!
Fast forward to last year…they wanted me to make the turkey again. Okay, this time I cooked it all night. I opened my eyes at 7 AM on Thanksgiving morning and smiled. The house smelled like the Thanksgiving I always remembered. I went down to take a peek at the turkey and much to my surprise, it was already well done! Oh no! We weren't going to eat for another six hours! I couldn’t believe it. I took it out and let it set. My turkey was so dry, it almost had no flavor. The good news was that my mom had great drippings for gravy. Matter of fact, she made awesome gravy and for that I was very thankful. I have never seen my family go through so much gravy.
Well, we are just a couple of days away and I am already stressing about the turkey. This year we had to buy two turkeys to feed everyone. I secretly hope that my mom will make both so I can focus on some of the other things I love to do this time of year.
One of my favorite things is to decorate the table. I actually have a degree in Interior Design so I like nice things and I like everything to be just perfect for each holiday. But sometimes in life, you have to change your priorities and that can be hard when it's things that you really enjoy. I always used to put a lot of time and energy into how my table looked but when you have a son with specials needs, you learn very quickly that all of the nice material things really don't matter. Every year I found myself freaking out that something might get ruined. Finally, when my son was about 4 years old, I realized how foolish I was being about "things" so I decided to make some changes that would help me relax and enjoy the holidays a little more.
Much to my mother's dismay, those changes included not decorating the table, using plastic plates instead of my fine china and just not focusing so much on making everything “perfect”. But my mom wasn't alone. Two years ago, my mother-in-law thought my tablecloth was too wrinkled so she dismantled my table, ironed my tablecloth, put the table back together again and finished just in time for the food to be brought out.
It took some time for our families to adjust but those changes sure made my life more stress free. We all realized it's about being together not what everything looks like. We still enjoy plenty of other family traditions like going to the movies on Thanksgiving night and decorating the house for Christmas the following day. It really does boil down to family and being together .... regardless of how the turkey turns out! Happy Thanksgiving!