My Own Personal Grey

Site Archeology: Talking Turkey


Back in 2000 I had a little tiny website and I wrote this piece about Thanksgiving, so because a friend of mine is facing her first turkey roasting, I thought I’d repost it for her. Over the years, I’ve discovered that I really don’t like the taste of turkey, so my current position is “anything but.” However, it’s still a funny topic, so here y’go, Monica:

Way out there at the end of this week looms one of the ugliest things
in the world: leftovers. Luckily, I shan’t be the one to eat them.
It’s not that I have anything against the remainders of the
Thanksgiving feast (yes, my non-US friends, this Thursday is
Thanksgiving here in the still-headless United States), it’s simply
that I have too many memories of the perpetual turkey.

I like turkey the first time around, but once it’s been recycled into
23 turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey divan, turkey hash, turkey
pot pie, turkey cobbler and turkey a la mode, I’m starting to resent
it’s presence, like a lazy guest who simply won’t pack up and move to
an hotel. Despite it’s annoying habit of hanging about, I feel a fond
nostalgia for the old bird. Many strange moments in my life have been
punctuated with turkey.

One year, the 50-pound me devoured a two-pound drumstick with much
defensive snarling because it was the first solid food I’d been able
to swallow in a week. As a teenager, I once punctuated a tirade of my
mother’s by spewing turkey soup across the dining room. She should
have removed the bones…. A garlic-stuffed turkey drove away the rats
living in the basement, but the guests loved it. Of course, they may
have loved it more for its effect on the rats…. A turkey cooked in
a bag flopped into a compromising position on the carving tray and was
immediately christened “slut bird”.

That was an interesting bird…. It was the first turkey my college
roommate and I had ever attempted on our own. First came the

“How big a turkey should we get?”

“Well, not too big: the oven’s not that large.”

“I think the oven’s just fine.” Opens door, sticks head and shoulders
inside. “See?”

“Well, we know the turkey can’t be much larger than your head, then.
At least we have something to measure against.”

“Oh, ha-ha.”

We did look rather silly in the frozen food aisle comparing turkeys to
our heads…. We finally figured out how much the turkey should weigh
by calling the turkey hotline and asking them what they thought we
should do.

“How big is your head?” the operator asked rather incredulously.

“Uhmmm…. kind of head-sized, I guess.”

“Plus shoulders.”

So, with head and shoulders, we got a 23-pound turkey. This may have
been a mistake.

Then came the preparation.

The operator at the turkey hotline suggested cooking the turkey in a
roasting bag at a low heat for a long time.

But the turkey didn’t want to thaw.

We stuffed it in the bag and into the flimsy disposable roaster anyway
and shoved it into the amazing shrinking oven, which suddenly was a
tight fit for the soon-to-be main course. I’d still swear that turkey
was only about twice the size of my roommate’s head…. Her head must
be bigger than I realized.

Exhausted, we went to bed on Wednesday night, assuming that the turkey
would be happily roasting away while we slept.

And it did. It thawed at an amazing pace and began to produce turkey

which overflowed the bag…

and the roaster…

and spilled onto the oven floor…

and caught on fire…

and woke us up when the smoke alarm began to scream at seven in the

My roommate’s boyfriend leapt out of bed to defend us from the evil,
burning turkey juice and ran into the kitchen, terrorizing the cats,
who were wandering around wondering what that smell was….

Snatching open the oven door, he was visciously gassed by the burning
turkey juice. Holding his breath, he grabbed the potholders and tried
to remove the turkey from the oven.

Now, this was one of those above-the-stove type of ovens, so he had to
pull the boiling turkey out through the flames at face-height and
lower it carefully to the range top.

The evil turkey spat bubbling hot turkey juice on his arms and tried
desperately to launch itself out of the flimsy disposable roasting
pan. But Bart is made of stern stuff and, despite these assaults, the
world’s most evil turkey was wrestled to the range top, bubbling
furiously and overflowing the viscous juice everywhere.

Hot turkey juice dribbled onto the stove and onto the floor. Hungry
cats darted forward to lap up the steaming stuff as Bart did a dance
of burned-footed fury to the sink.

“Damn this turkey! It’s a good thing we’re going to eat it, or I’d
have to kill it!”

Carefully, we girls stuck our heads around the corner of the kitchen
doorway and stayed far away, until the fire was put out with baking
soda. My roommate dragged Bart off to the bathroom to tend the burns
while I mopped up juice and chased cats.

Then we carefully removed most of the juice with one of those leaky
and ridiculous sucking-up tubes with the yellow bulb on the end,
folded the now-ripped bag over the turkey and shoved it and it’s
treacherous pan back into the oven.

Amazingly, we managed to prepare all the rest of the food for the
feast, in spite of the glowering presence of the world’s most evil
turkey. It was going to be quite a feed.

The guests arrived bearing a ham and three side dishes as well as one
box and two bottles of wine and two six-packs of beer. We fell on the
alcohol gratefully, despite the fact it was only 1 o’clock in the
afternoon when it arrived.

And when we presented the turkey to my roommate’s father for carving,
it flopped down, spreading its legs in the most wanton and outrageous
fashion and slumped there like Theda Bara doing her vampish best.

He took one look and threw the sharp and sparkling knife down in
disgust. “I can’t carve that! Just look at it! The meat is falling
right off the bones!”

My roommate and I just laughed, kept our comments behind our teeth,
hoisted our wine glasses and went outside, leaving “slut-bird” to the
untender mercies of two forks and a butter knife.

At least we didn’t have to watch the undressing of the dressing….

And had our revenge by eating the evil bird while sitting on the
terrace of our Long Beach apartment, overlooking the ocean on a balmy
Southern California Thanksgiving day, drinking wine and making jokes
and laughing at the adventures of “slut-bird”.

Man, we must have been drunk….