Thanksgiving food prep teaches lifelong lessons

Since we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, many of us will spend today baking pies, prepping food, and cleaning for company. Maybe as you gather with your family and friends tomorrow sharing tales from the past will bring knowing nods, bursts of laughter, or eager sharing of similar tales.

Hosting Thanksgiving often brings with it a level of underlying anxiety. We imagine perfection. Life always teaches a lesson though.

Thanksgiving lesson one: too much of a good thing is bad

Much like the time my son’s birthday cake—what we now have come to call volcano cake, which he inevitably requests year after year, probably anticipating another explosion—certain dishes bring cringing memories. When my son, Tyler, was a toddler, I ordered a special farm-grown turkey. This range-raised turkey, fed only wholesome grains, promised to be the best turkey I’d ever dined upon. When it arrived fresh-from-the-butcher a few nights before the big day, it weighed around 35 pounds. As I lugged it to the refrigerator, warnings started blaring in my head. The farmer assured me it was one of the smaller birds.

No roaster bag fit this turkey, so after wrestling with washing it, I plopped him in the biggest pan I had. Looking at him in the oven reminded me of my toddler who weighed about the same. The image troubled me.

Because my husband worked third shift, I faced my monster turkey dilemma alone while caring for my young sons. The pressures of cooking the perfect turkey caused me to check on the bird more often which was a good thing since I discovered that turkey juice was soon to overflow the pan. At first, I ladled it into another pan, but as this didn’t solve the problem, I fretted about messes and grease fires. I had no choice; I had to wake Pat.

“But I can’t lift that turkey out of the oven without risking burning myself. I need you to help me.” I insisted my resistant husband rescue me. Although he thought I overreacted, he obliged; however, he soon realized my fears were legitimate. He didn’t return to bed.

We drained the pan the best we could a few times. The turkey finished roasting. For the record, it tasted delicious. Cooking such a large bird proved too stressful for me though, so now I try to stick to a 20-pound bird, which I still consider tricky to wash. We haven’t been brave enough to try another “organic” bird. The lesson: too much of a good thing is bad.

Lesson two: expect miracles

Another Thanksgiving tale involved pies. My girls remember the evening I found my shortening container short of the required amounts for the number of pies I promised to bake. Of course, I could run to the store on this dark, cold night, except that I was tired and didn’t want to run to the store. I learned that I could still make pies with less shortening. Those pies were probably more healthful to eat. No one noticed a difference. My daughters call it our “oil” story like the Bible story of the widow who collected containers and poured enough oil to sell to pay off her debts.   (2 Kings 4:1-7) The lesson: the Lord provides. Some might not consider it a miracle, but we did because presenting tasty pies is important at these family gatherings. When you don’t follow a recipe, the results might leave you with an embarrassing holiday fail.

I’ll never be a Martha Stewart with beautiful presentations so taking dishes to pass and hosting holidays causes a level of anxiety. Hosting holidays passed along to me and my sister awhile ago now.

Everybody can share a cooking fiasco, I’m sure. My brother likes to bring up my gingerbread house project. Luckily, that’s a Christmas story so I don’t have to explain that one this month!

Will you share one of your holiday stories with us?

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

God bless you and remember any trying experiences this year will make great stories for next year.

Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash.

12 thoughts on “Thanksgiving food prep teaches lifelong lessons

  1. Thanks for sharing this! Recently Terry and I were in charge of the meat for our church Harvest Home dinner. During Sunday school, I went up to check the ham and discovered that someone set the roaster to the warm position instead of the 325′ I had it set at. I panicked. Miraculously, Terry must have sensed there’d be trouble and showed up to save the day. Somehow, that ham was ready to eat on time and nobody knew about our near disaster.

    1. Oh, Deb, I can feel the tension that must have caused. I’m glad everything turned out well. There’s always something stressful about cooking for a crowd. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! Thanks for sharing.

  2. LOL Michelle , love your Story . I admire any women that has to Tackle the Turkey !
    I just am not brave enough … Bob has always been the turkey 🦃 tackler in OUR HOUSE !!! And I make all the other Stuff !

    This GIANT OF A TURKEY…. you did it !
    You Conqued Him !

    1. Thanks, Tammy! Turkeys are awkward, aren’t they? I think I should tell Pat how Bob does the turkey. . . LOL The older I get, the weaker my muscles. I should probably take up some weight lifting, especially near the holidays. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Thanks for taking time to share a comment.

  3. Joe’s niece was the only one to witness the driest bird of my life. I believed the package that told me to roast it for 4 hours. I’m guessing 2 would have been plenty. Old shoe leather would have been moister and tastier.

    1. I always worry about overcooking. Trusting the directions is a live and learn thing, huh? I’ve done that too. I know you are an amazing cook now so I am sure that was never repeated. Did you remain calm and serve with extra gravy? 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving, Lisa and Joe! Thanks for sharing your memory!

  4. My family still talks about the year my brother-in-law dropped the turkey, fresh out of the oven, on the floor. SPLAT!!! We scraped it up and ate shredded turkey 🙂

    On another note, I have never and will never prepare a turkey. That is Dale’s job…he gets it ready, stuffs it, and I do the rest. But as in previous years, this year we are again going out. Easier yet.

    1. Oh, dear, your poor brother-in-law! I’m glad some was able to be saved. I remember eating in a restaurant for Thanksgiving once when I was a kid because we were moving across country. Those circumstances were more stressful than if we would go out now. It certainly means less stress and no cleaning up. Yeah! I’ve never tried stuffing a turkey, but my mother-in-law makes the best turkey dressing in the bird. Of course, she doesn’t cook the turkey anymore, and I haven’t begged for the secret recipe feeling I have enough on my plate right now. Maybe someday. I shared how other husbands were helping wrestle that turkey so he helped me. That was nice since, as I admitted, my arm muscles are lacking. LOL Thanks for sharing. We were moving my MIL this weekend so please accept my apologies for a late reply.

  5. I roast a couple turkeys the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving Day. The kids and I feast on the crisp skin (I had to start sharing this treat once they realized turkeys come with skin) before I (messily) pull all the meat, preferably while watching a Hallmark movie. We usually have turkey for supper that night and the rest goes into the freezer until Thursday morning. I still worry every year that I will poison my entire extended family so I probably cook it longer than necessary. This year I roasted them upside down and I think the white meat actually wasn’t as deadly dry as usual. I will probably continue to want to leave the country for the month of November, and I will probably continue to bake those birds.

  6. My days of fixing 20+ lb. turkeys is over, too. I don’t remember any hair-raising disasters, but my muscles have gone the same way as your, and 20 lb. turkeys are just to hard to handle. For Christmas this year, I am fixing a large turkey breast and a large ham. Thanks for the lessons, Michelle. Very helpful!

    1. Thanks, Donna, for sharing. I think I may consider getting a large turkey breast. 🙂 Pat did help me get the bird prepared for the oven this year, for which I am thankful. Enjoy your Christmas feast. Sounds yummy. 🙂

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