November spawned a monster

"A simple truss"

“A simple truss”

Rainy Thursday morning, Thanksgiving at the lake, all to myself. The level’s come up to the rocks, nowhere to sit. Ginger has a private crap somewhere in the trees. The rain makes a pattern across the surface, little black dots rippling, disappearing, followed by more, repeating. I think there might be something special I’ll see like a blue heron or eagle, but it’s only the ducks. I think about Alan, Heidi’s English husband over in Germany, that year we met and I kept him company in the kitchen while he made the gravy. He smoked right up until he died I think, some kind of cancer, and that was his last Christmas. He handled the turkey gizzards like they were jewels, almost a precious way he laid them out in the frying pan and stirred in the flour, balancing a cigarette in his lips and wincing as he stirred, the blood and the flour turning brown.

I met him once and that was it. He had a bad complexion and long, black hair. There would have been that scene right before we ate we all had our dishes served and held each other’s hands or made a toast and Alan smiled, and we started.

I took the gizzards out of the bag and laid them in the pan like the recipe said, and when the neck was cooked and cooled I stripped what meat I could from it, and used the knife like I was sharpening the tip of a wooden spear.

The last time I wrote in the cook book it said the year with an exclamation point, 2006, pointing at the roast turkey recipe, the James Beard preparation where you cook it on 400, remove the turkey from the oven three times, carefully flip it so it roasts evenly on all sides, a kind of manual, rotisserie effect.

And we touched on that year briefly but I don’t think Dawn or her mom wanted to talk about it much, it was the last one we had with her dad before he got sick, it was the best Thanksgiving because it was just the four of us and Lily, who was only 1, in our little house in West Seattle. The first time I roasted a turkey like that, and it came out so fast it was still light out when we carved it.

Beth said she heard about families not getting together for Thanksgiving this year because of political differences. It made me think of Orwell, of turning people against one another, that divisiveness, and how sad.

But as I walked back from the lake with my dog and the rain kicked up, I realized I was happy as hell, air drumming, thinking about a Morrissey interview my friend Kevin sent (it’s with Larry King), where they talk about Morrissey’s depression, the fact he’s OK when he goes out on stage, Larry gets him to admit he’s even happy performing: Morrissey nods and says yes he is, half-smiles, even.

Categories: musings

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

28 replies

  1. I accidentally cooked the turkey upside down this year and it turned out so tender and juicy. I heard that too, or read it rather, about people not going to thanksgiving dinner this year because their families voted for trump. Seems sad but sometimes a break is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did the same thing at the end! I thought I had it breast-up but it was the back. I got it sorted out. We cooked the carcass yesterday for stock. And yes, perhaps good to take a break; there is that way of looking at it, too. Almost time to get out the Low, now!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Depending on the family, I can see how taking a break would be the most peaceful thing. Most of my family is too far to see for Thanksgiving, so we have to postpone the politics discussion until Christmas. When we’re all spending 11 days (!!) living in the same house. It sounds like the premise of a reality TV show.

    This year I gave up treating my 15-pound bird like it was a standard turkey and trying to just cook it “a little longer” and instead followed a recipe designed specifically for larger birds. It worked *perfectly*. Breast-down, 250F for three hours, breast-up for another hour, then kick it up to 400F for 30-60 minutes until the skin is crispy and it’s all cooked through. Did a dry-brine this year too, so I’m not sure which one to credit, but this was the juiciest meat and crispiest skin I’ve gotten so far. Yay!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay is right Joy! That’ sounds super! By dry brine, I assume you just crusted it with kosher salt vs immersing in water. I do that with a beef eye round roast on occasion and it’s amazing. The family thing can be rough. I figure I’m lucky I love both sides of mine so much, I hate to see politics getting in the way like that. It’s a version of the Grinch theme, taking every last bit if everything! Thanks for reading and sharing. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s 4 Tbs kosher salt and 4 tsp. sugar (which surprised me, but it worked). You have to carefully loosen the skin and put the salt mixture onto the meat itself, under the skin, all over, and inside the cavity too, (Getting to the thighs from the breast is tricky; helps to have small hands and short fingernails.) Then let it dry out uncovered in the fridge for two days. Then cook it as is, no rinsing. I was worried it would be salty but it wasn’t.


      • Thanks Joy — yes, I’ve added sugar to the salt brine when I do chicken, but never with turkey like that. It’s interesting how the salt draws the moisture to the surface, which is kind of counter-intuitive. We did the air dry thing with the turkey, too. I just F-d up the last ‘turn” when I flipped it in the oven, thought I had it breast-up but it was the back, d’oh! Think I was on my second drink, hard to tell the difference between backs and breasts you know. Ha! Bill


      • I know what you mean, it’s like they’re a big round ball these days. I have to look at which way the legs and wings are pointing… 😉


  3. We had our smallest Thanksgiving in years. We have had 15-20 people, but this year only eight. And it was the most enjoyable I’ve had in years just because there weren’t as many people. It was quieter and more attention could be paid to each person and what they wanted to talk about. And there wasn’t the vast amounts of food their normally is.

    Our solution to the whole political divide issue this year is to make sure we don’t have anybody in our family would would have voted for Trump. We are fortunate in that regard … not a one of my family or my wife’s family would have voted for the orange clown. Made for some good gnashing of the teeth conversation Thursday.

    As for cooking the turkey, that’s the wife’s job unless she wants me to smoke or grill it, which I’ve done a couple of times. She prepares it the same way every year and the turkey is typically moist, although she didn’t brine it this year which she has done in the past. Only problem this year was that it was done far too early.

    My responsibilities for the meal — make the stuffing, otherwise somebody would make Stove Top. It was apple, cranberry, sausage this year. And pumpkin rolls — bread rolls that had a bit of pumpkin in them. Oh, and to not say anything too offensive.


  4. damn, this post is making me hungry all over again – my method is to put the whole thing in a brown paper bag, stapled shut and just let it go at one temp the whole time. i woman i used to work with in advertising told me this years ago and it always turns out great. i will probably never be a great chef but i do love cooking. and putting things in bags.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like putting ribs in bags after they’ve cooked so they get all moist and then just slip off the bone. And yes, something satisfying about just putting it in a bag. Voila!


  5. These annual gatherings are always a time for reflection on who we’ve lost, aren’t they? I know we’ll be thinking of my late father in law this Christmas, toasting him too, thinking how much we wish he was with us, sharing a port, watching it make him damp eyed with pleasure to be with us.
    Love the memories of Thanksgivings past that returned to haunt you in this post – those connections over food and shared spaces.
    Very sad this election has split some families up – we had the same here over Brexit – though sadly, we rather enjoy a quiet Christmas, just the 3 of us, as we’ll be working very hard up to the last minute (I’ll get home late ish Xmas Eve) and the thought of collapsing in a chair, just doing as we please and not looking after anyone else is, quite honestly – bliss.
    Can’t share turkey tips as I’m vegetarian, but I definitely think you should start a food blog! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, that’s too bad the holidays become that. I must have finally gotten to that age, or that level of sentimentality. That sort of sucks. That’s a different coming of age, innit? Too much living in the past, hard not to. Good on you for the vegetarianism though. Truly. It’s macabre and screwed up: Morrissey has that part right, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sentimentality comes to most of us I think – the more you live, the more you’ve lost.
        I’ve nothing against meat eating per se – it just isn’t for me. My son eats meat and always has – husband (also veggie) and I wanted to leave the decision to him.
        I’m not in the ‘meat is murder’ camp with Morrisey – that just makes people think all veggies are wackos 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. We haven’t cooked a turkey for years – we usually go up to Seattle and hang out with my wife’s niece’s family. There was a no politics rule on turkey day, although the niece did do a quick check on the side to see if I’d sided with the orange one. I guess they weren’t sure about me (demographics you know) and I wasn’t too sure about them (religion you know). Next day it was more out in the open – no one could stand his bad behavior.

    I think the last time we actually tried making a turkey the electric element in the oven went kerfutz and we ended up bringing the bird over to the in-laws for baking. We’ve never had any oven problems apart from that one time – karma I guess.


    • Kerfutz, I like that word. You sound like you have a good balance and outlook on things. I hate to see people letting politics get in the way of family but I guess it’s a reality; it just gives it too much power I think. Perhaps it’s too late for that. Then again, people let all sorts of dumb shit get in the way of family. Karma goes a long way, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Too bad about the political differences. I’ve read a few articles about how families had to make a promise to each other to not bring up politics. Sad that it’s come to that.

    I’m sorry but the process of cooking sounds gross. I like sitting at the table and having the finished product plopped in front of me. When the armageddon comes, I’m screwed.

    I saw Morrissey at Radio City Music Hall some years ago. MANY years ago. I couldn’t believe how happy he seemed. Told some great jokes. It was infectious. He made the entire concert hall happy.


    • Good on Morrissey for that. I wanted to be clever and include a link to a song that, made +20 years ago had unintended relevance today. I almost put a song on here called Interesting Drug, which has that quality, but the video was kind of distracting. And then I looked at the video for November Spawned a Monster and you know, it was A BIT ODD.


  8. Love that last line. I’m reading David Byrne’s book, talking about how hard it is for even someone like him — David Byrne! — to make money from a record. So you better be happy making the music, because the business is a bitch.


    • My god, something’s gone wrong if he can’t make money — David Byrne! — but glad he set his sites as he did at least, selfishly, for doing what he’s done so far. The money didn’t enable any of that, but think of the art (the art!) that came from it. Thanks for reading and hanging out in my den some, today. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: