Monday, October 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Perfection?

I realize I am rushing things a bit as it isn't even Halloween but I was watching a cooking show on PBS the other day and it prompted this.  The point behind the episode was how to cook the perfect looking turkey for the holidays and it really got me thinking.

I admit I have only cooked a turkey once and only for Thanksgiving.  I am not a fan of turkey and honestly cooking an entire turkey for one person is a bit ridiculous.  I cooked the turkey two years ago for a joint dinner with some friends.  My friend had a turkey and was going to cook it, but since I had the bigger dining space we decided to cook the bird at my house to make things easier.  I ended up having to go to the emergency room. I was on blood thinners at the time and cut my finger going into a drawer for twine to truss the bird.  Once the bird was in the oven and I washed my hands again the cut wouldn't stop bleeding so...  Needless to say I will never again cook another turkey.

That is my personal Thanksgiving nightmare and I am sure others have ones that are much worse but my point again is, why should there be nightmares?  I thought Thanksgiving was about being with family and/or friends and eating.  That doesn't mean it has to be perfect.  We are humans and by that very nature, fallible. Nothing is ever going to be perfect and who cares what it looks like, as long as it tastes good?  The other issue I have is traditions.  I grew up eating certain things on the day and the day after.  Since my father died twenty-two years ago I haven't had those same foods because I have never been "home" for Thanksgiving.  My mom and I were invited to various places and after she passed away I have spent the day with friends.  The only tradition has been that we each bring our own part of our tradition to the meal.  In my house it was never a big deal.  Mom would be in the kitchen, killing herself quite frankly and cooking for hundreds, listening to my high school football game.  Dad would be in the living room watching whatever football was on television.  I would hide in my bedroom doing something, either reading or trying to find something on television other than football.  I would hide because I really dislike football and wanted to be as far away from it as possible.  Mom would put a delicious dinner on the table and then not eat.  As she had been in the kitchen all day she was too tired to eat.  She would have leftovers about 10:00 that night after I had cleaned up.  My favorite part of the day was to steal the stuffing that was sticking out of the bird.  It was generally overcooked and I loved it.  Of course Mom would yell at me, mainly because I was faster than her and not occupied so I could steal it before she got to it.

That brings me to another issue - stuffing the bird.  One of the things this program on PBS raised was that issue.  They stuffed part of the dressing into a cheesecloth sack then put it in the bird, once the bird was done that sack would be emptied into the remaining stuffing and that would be cooked. The reason being that  stuffing does not reach the desired temperature to kill bacteria if the bird is cooked to its desired temperature.  My feeling is, while I understand the science behind it, I don't understand the logic.  I ate stuffing straight out of the bird for 27 years and never once went to the hospital or got food poisoning.  Now we are so bacteria conscience we can't do that and what do we have?  A generation of kids who are allergic to everything.  While science has its uses, its taking all the fun out of eating for me.

Thanksgiving is meant to be a day to be grateful for what we have.  We should be grateful for our imperfections.  So what if dinner doesn't look like a Norman Rockwell painting.  We are with the people we care about, warm, safe, healthy and happy - that's what is important.

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