Friday, November 26, 2010

Simple Math: A Beginner's Guide to Turkey

"It's simple math dear."

Words not to be uttered in our house again.  I will also never reveal who said them.

How hard can roasting a Thanksgiving turkey be, really?

I mean, it is really just a big chicken, right?

My Thanksgiving holiday preparation was rolling along at an almost perfect clip.    Menu planned carefully in advance.   Shopping divided among stores and days.   Completed in a timely and organized manner.   Turkey ordered (early!) and picked up to rest gently in a chilled setting until it was time.

I even had a beautiful new roasting pan (thanks Aunt Bev and Uncle Frank!).    Graduated from the kind you have to pick up last minute at the grocery store.

My recipes carefully organized.    Cranberry sauce completed Tuesday night.   Green beans and brussell sprouts washed and trimmed.   Stuffing prepared.   Sweet potato casserole awaiting its final topping.  

All I had to do was flip on the Macy's Day parade, finalize my fantastic sides and dessert and whip out a fabulous turkey.   Really, how hard could it be?

I enlisted John to wash our new friend (we named him, but he shall remain nameless), remove the neck and gizzards (what are these anyway?) and pat him down and lay him to rest in his new pan.    Meanwhile, I chopped fresh herbs and rubbed them lovingly all over "him" (don't worry, the turkey... not John).

"So how long does this thing need to roast anyway?   Do we have a plan?"

"I don't know.   Couple hours.   Maybe 3 - 4.  We'll just keep checking the temperature.   With our new thermometer."

Forty five minutes in, our friend receives a sweet little turkey bath and a fine shield of tinfoil.    Feeling pretty good at this point.    Santa has made his appearance and we are rounding into Eukanuba dog show territory (am I the only one who actually watches this)?

Sides are positioned for final baking/sauteing/mashing.    Looking good.

"Do you think we should check the temperature?   You know,  just to make sure we're on track?"

"Sure.   Let's do that."

"Does this really say 190?"

Enter freak out panic mode.   Turkey overdone.   Nothing else ready.   First Thanksgiving as a married couple.   Ruined.  Forever.   Did I mention RUINED?   FOREVER!

"It's simple math dear.   Didn't we calculate the total time it would take based on the weight of our turkey?"

Fighting words.   Math was never a strong suit.   I rely on data.

"Well, I rely on data AND math. It's pretty simple."

Rapid change in plans.    We are no longer speaking.    We will finish the sides, clean up and sit down to a meal of cold turkey.    We proceed.

"I think it is time to carve the turkey now.   It has been resting for like, an hour and a half."

"Does this look pink to you?"

"Is that blood?"

"Stop poking it.  You are letting out all of the good juices."

"Does it really matter at this point?"

Unbelievably annoying.    We break out the red wine.   Things begin to look a little more promising.   No worries.   We'll just stick it back in the oven and hang out by the fire for a bit.    It is what it is.  

Dinner, when it finally all came together, some hours later, was unbelievably good.   Yes, we had a few starts and stops and moments of escalating tension, but in the end, it was a lovely meal.    We gave thanks for many things.   The turkey and (crack-like) dressing even made it into our post meal top three ranking of Thanksgiving dishes.

My advice for those preparing turkey for the first time (solo or with another non-expert) - It is never that simple.   There are so many factors involved.

I am convinced that this is another one of those situations where practice makes perfect.   I am looking forward to many more years of practice.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving weekend!  Filled with love, good food, good friends and family and whatever else your heart desires!


  1. Sounds like it all turned out well in the end...and yes it takes many years of "timing" practice...though the mishaps and "oooops" seem to add to the memories!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. so glad it ended happily at least.

    we just left our bad boy in the roaster, and thought "hell with it. i'd rather it be over cooked than under." :P

    theres some kind of turkey revolt going on, i fear though. everyone's was "done early" it seems...

  3. also, i very much hate math, especially the deceptively simple kind.

    it is not my friend.

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  5. Hi - great post with just lovely photos. Funny and nice all at the same time. Congrats on your first Thanksgiving turkey.

  6. Meeling - so you think next year might be an improvement? ;) I agree, those oops moments are what makes for a great memory.

    Kelli - was super fun hanging with you on Thanksgiving. I'm so happy it wasn't just me :)

    Sarah - So sweet! Thank you... once I get my act together, you may see an acceptance pop up here. I love your blog!

    Lois - Thank you! All in all, it was a fun day and wonderful first Thanksgiving with my new husband. Wouldn't have had it any other way.


Thanks so much for your comments! I love hearing from you and read each and every one!