Many moons ago, I was a young wife and mom of two littles, excited to host my first family holiday. I cooked for days, making what I could ahead of time and prepping ingredients for recipes that would have to be assembled the morning of.
This might be a good time to mention that I had never roasted a turkey. I did not even own a roasting pan. I bought an aluminum roasting pan, read the tiny directions on the plastic turkey wrapping, and woke up before the sun to put it all in the oven. All morning my husband entertained our two young daughters as they scattered the day’s sale papers in the floor while the parade played in the background. Thirty minutes before my family was to arrive, the turkey timer popped.
My first holiday feast was set for perfection.
I opened the oven and slid out the turkey to get a good grip on the pan before lifting it out and that’s when the fit hit the shan.
When I slid the pan out, the oven rack ripped the bottom of the aluminum pan. All the turkey juices spilled out and turned immediately to smoke. I panicked, the smoke alarm blared, the children whimpered, the dogs whined, and my husband began throwing open doors and windows.
I cried, which was a real shame because I am not now, nor have I ever been, a delicate crier. I’m a snot dripping, puffy faced, splotchy skinned kind of crier. Hey, I’m good at a lot of things, crying pretty is not one of them.
With fans strategically placed in doorways to suck smoke out of the house and the vent above the white stove permanently smoke stained, we proceeded to carve the dry turkey before family arrived. That’s when we realized that there was a bag of bits and pieces stuffed inside the turkey. A BAG OF EXTRA TURKEY PARTS. I had roasted the whole dang thing.
I teared up again because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing and my entire family was about to find that out.
My husband casually pulled out that roasted bag of parts, placed them to the side, and carved that bird. He arranged the meat on a platter and then he wrapped up that torn aluminum pan and roasted bag of giblets and carried it all out to the garage to hide the evidence before anyone ever arrived.
The house may have smelled like smoke and the turkey may have been dry. I honestly don’t remember. I do remember that my husband didn’t so much as smirk as he helped me fix the turkey debacle. I remember that he hugged me tight and told me how delicious everything was. I remember that my family came and ate. I remember that my girls plate hopped, going from relative to relative, happily taking bites of only their favorite things. I remember that the cousins played and made tons of noise. Our people came and we gave thanks. And we were together.
I’ve learned a few things in the many years since. Namely…
- There’s a bag of giblets stuffed up in that turkey you’re planning to cook. Giblets is French for “extra parts” (sort of) and you should take that bag out before you cook anything. If you’re super fancy then you’ll know what to do with those extra parts. If you’re me, you still will not.
- Do not slide the aluminum turkey pan out of the oven. Pick it up. Carefully. Better yet, go buy yourself a legitimate roasting pan.
- You may accidentally smoke up the house or forget the cranberry sauce or drop the pie or under cook the potatoes. It’ll be fine. Really, it’ll be fine.
It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, wonderful, and genuinely good. Gather your people and give thanks. That’s what you’ll remember. Okay, fine, and the smoke alarm. You’ll probably remember the smoke alarm, too, but in time you’ll remember it fondly. I promise.
For more stories of living happily in the awkward middle of life, love, and parenting, follow Happy Like This by Mandy McCarty Harris.