I’m off my game this holiday season and I don’t know why.
For example, Thanksgiving turkey. We hosted a bunch of friends like we usually do. This was the 21st time we’ve done Thanksgiving dinner at our place, usually having from 20-some to 30-some people.
After 21 years cooking the turkey, it should be a snap. Turns out it was more of a bang.
At 10:30 a.m. as the oven was preheating, Chris and I noticed smoke rising. While multitasking during a phone call a few minutes earlier, I had reached right past the note taped to the oven that said, “BREAD IN OVEN!” and preheated the oven.
Now we found two big bowls holding small bits of bread that had been drying out to become stuffing. The bread was fine. The ceramic bowl was fine. But the second bowl, plastic, was now simply a ragged plastic ring that encircled bread that seemed to be still hanging there in a bowl shape, just out of memory of the bowl. Below that, molten liquid plastic was raining down to a gooey pool on the bottom of the oven and toxic, carcinogenic plastic smoke was filling our lungs.
The raw, naked turkey patiently waiting on the counter, Chris and I leapt into action, certain this was only a five- or ten-minute sidetrack. With the oven off, we scraped up intensely hot plastic goo. We dumped the bread into the wastebasket and put the ceramic bowl in the sink.
After answering the screaming smoke alarm, Chris returned and, with a knife blade, gently lifted the heating element in the bottom of our electric oven so I could reach under there and clean with a wet cloth. Bang! The oven light and clock were no longer illuminated.
Chris went to the fuse box but all he could muster was click-click-click.
Dead, broken oven. Thirty people coming over.
Sporting a haphazard array of yesterday's clothes, pajamas-with-apron-on-top, unbrushed teeth and hair, and a giant raw turkey in a roasting pan, we rushed off to our friend Deb’s house, one street over. She wasn't home but we let ourselves in. She would no doubt understand. Moments later, we realized our turkey and pan did not fit in her oven. Simply would not go.
Still looking like crazy people, still with a raw turkey, we got back in the car and drove to Lynne and Tom’s house, frantically dialing their number on the way. Interrupting Tom’s greeting, we shouted, “Set your oven to 450 and open your front door!”
After we burst in, after Tom removed what he was already cooking from the oven, and after we finally got the bird settled, Tom looked us over, laughing, and asked, “So, shot of tequila?”
In the end, everything was great. We called our genius chef friend Steven to see what magic he could suggest to recoup the turkey’s lost hour. Not only did he have a number of great ideas, he dropped by and repaired the oven, a valuable skill even he didn't know he had.
Tom brought the turkey back to our place to finish cooking (one more car trip!) and when our guests arrived, they smelled delicious turkey, not burning plastic. The turkey was done in time and, like every year, Chris and I were left to reflect on how lucky we are and what wonderful friends we have.
Now it’s off to Christmas. This year we’re combining the holiday with a remodeling project that entails taking the roof off our house. In Utah, in December.
I’m sure everything will go just fine, but I picked up some tequila just in case.
Barb Guy is a regular contributor to these pages.