Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Exploding Turkey

A fairly new bride, I was planning my first Thanksgiving Dinner. The in-laws would be there, and so would our close friends. I was looking forward to the gathering with a mixture of anticipation and deep anxiety. Everything needed to be perfect. But as with most aspects of life, perfection is a goal, not a reality.

A good rule to follow is not to try anything new when you’re having company. I knew this, but turkey certainly wasn’t new, nor were the potatoes, corn, cranberries, and stuffing. What was new, however, was the method of preparation.

Space-age technology had found its way into the kitchen labs and the result was a marvelous cooking bag. You placed the stuffed turkey into the bag, placed the bag into the roasting pan, and then popped the whole affair into the oven. What could be simpler? No mess! No clean-up!

“When all else fails, read the directions.” Heard that piece of advice before? It’s easy enough to ignore when you don’t think it applies to you. This kind of arrogance can get you into quite a pickle, to use a food metaphor. I was no exception.

The procedure seemed so simple I didn’t think that reading the directions could possibly enlighten me any further. And so I didn’t. “Pride goeth before a fall.” Or in this case, an explosion.

Somewhere between the appetizer course and the ritual of setting the table, a sonic boom roared through the tiny apartment. This was accompanied by smoke. Everyone ran to the kitchen (not a long run) and watched with anxious faces as I nailed the source of the explosion. The turkey was plastered to the oven door, roof, and sides. Pieces hung from the broiling element like Cajun Christmas ornaments.

I had neglected to punch the appropriate holes in the bag. We silently turned back to the table, took up our plates, scraped the main course onto them and proceeded with dinner. Needless to say it became cemented into family lore and I still hear about it, every Thanksgiving. “Remember when Karen blew up her first turkey?” It’s been the stuff of legend for the past 40 years.

I had nowhere to go but up. And from then on, I read the directions, whether I thought I needed to or not.