The Great Turkey Debacle of ’95

November 23, 2010

It all started with the turkey.

 

The restaurant where I was working when I was, like, 24 years old gave us all free, frozen turkeys as a Thanksgiving present.  So my roommate, Kara, and I decided to make a night out of setting each another up on dates, eating said turkey in the context of a fancy dinner, then going out to Lincoln Center for a concert.  I had always wanted to attend a Handel’s Messiah concert, so we got tickets and we got dates.  Then our friend Mike (and neighbor–he lived one floor above us in our apt bldg) heard about our plan and wanted to join us.  He got his own date.

 

My job was going to be preparing the turkey/stuffing.  Kara (who was a vegetarian, BTW) was going to make soup–a family recipe.  That left Mike in charge of dessert.  Kara and I were unsure of Mike’s comfort level with baking, so we looked up a few recipes and offered suggestions.  We thought something light and fruity would be appropriate pre-concert.

 

He chose to make a Betty Crocker chocolate cake.

 

The day of our event I woke up and went to the freezer to take my turkey out.  That’s right. I hadn’t thawed it.  It was frozen solid.  And our guests were coming over in about 8 hours.  In a panic, I read the packaging on the turkey and it said something about a “quick thaw” method that involved soaking it in a cold water bath.  Whew! I thought. Crisis averted!  I put the turkey in a cold water bath, then left to go on an audition.  When I came back 2 hours later, the turkey was still frozen solid.  I chipped ice off it and tried to scrape the gizzards out of the cavity, but my fingers were getting frostbitten.  I was beginning to think the turkey miiiiiight not be ready to serve in 6 hours.  So I called Kara at work to alert her.  She worked in a wall street office and offered to go around to the executives and pilfer bits of fruit and crackers from the Harry and David gift baskets they had all gotten from their clients for Christmas.  Then she told me she would have to work late and would only be getting home in time for the dinner.  Uh, what?  What about your soup, Kara?  No problem, she assured me.  She said all the ingredients were in a grocery bag and all I had to do was open all the packages and dump them in a pot on the stove.  I said, Uh, Kara?  I can’t cook. (Obviously.)  So when you say, open the packages and dump it in a pot, that is LITERALLY what I am going to do.  I don’t have any method of discerning if I should perhaps add some water or some other soupy ingredient.  I’ll try not to burn it, but at this point, that’s all I can promise.  She was OK with those odds and said goodbye, leaving me again to my turkey dilemma.  I set up another cold bath for the little guy and went about preparing the table.  I had place cards, floral arrangements, china…table setting was my strength and really, I should have just stuck with that.

 

Then there was a knock on the door and it was Mike, stopping by to show me that he had purchased his Betty Crocker cake mix and was heading home to bake.  Uh, Mike, don’t bother me.  I’m thawing a turkey.  After he left I went back into the kitchen and searched through my cookbooks looking for some miracle cure for the chunk of ice and flesh taking a bath in my sink.  Then I saw it.  At the bottom of the page in one of my cookbooks it read:  Questions about cooking your turkey?  Call the TURKEY HOTLINE!  It listed a 1-800 number and I ran to the phone to call it.  Unfortunately the lady who answered my call was moving at a non-New York City pace.  I think she was from, like, Alabama.  Even the way she said hello was slow: Heeeelllllllllloooooooooo-oooooooooo?????  Before she even got to the lll’s I had screamed hello!!!! In about 2.7 seconds I detailed my crisis to her and awaited instructions.  She paused.  For a long time.  Then she said, Sooooooooooo.  Yyyoooooouuuuu’rrrrrrreee ffffrrrrrooooooooommmmmm  NNNNNeeeeewwwww YYYYYooooorrrrkkkkk CCCCCCiiiitttttyyyyyyyyyy????????  Another long pause.  I edited what came to my mind so that what came to my mouth was, Yes.  And I really need some help.  RIGHT NOW!  Then Super Slow Turkey Hotline Lady came through and told me that I could actually cook the turkey while its still frozen, I would just have to add a half hour of cooking time for every pound.  I quickly did some math in my head and realized that if I put the turkey in the oven right then, it would be ready at 10:30 pm, just about the time we would be getting back from the concert.  I was elated!! I thanked SSTHL and got off the phone.

 

Then there was another knock on my door.  It was Mike again.  Renee, do you have a bowl I can borrow?  I was about to criticize him for not having a bowl when he was making a cake, then I remembered that my turkey was still solid as a rock.  Sure, Mike.  Let me get you a bowl.

 

I put the turkey in the oven and called Kara again to check in when there was another knock and the door.  It was Mike again.  Do you have a measuring cup I could borrow?  Ran through my own cooking failure in my head again and edited my comment to, Sure Mike, Let me get you a measuring cup.

 

Then I set about finishing up the cleaning and opening all the packages for Kara’s soup, when there was another knock at the door.  Mike.  2 eggs?  Oil?  I gave him a look that said everything my brain was thinking and after I silently passed him the eggs and oil I slammed the door in his face.

 

Our guests were about to arrive, so I went in the bathroom to get ready and Kara came home from work just in time to greet them with her pears and crackers.  She stopped in at the bathroom to see how I was doing and I was just sitting in a heap crying.  I was so stressed out and felt like such a failure. She talked me through it, gave me a hug and got me on my feet again.  I asked, Did the soup come out OK?  She averted my eyes and said, No, it hadn’t, and quickly exited.  A few minutes later she came back in the bathroom.  She had tears in her eyes and she was holding back a huge laugh as she asked me to come out into the kitchen.  I followed her out and greeted all our guests, who were pretending to like their Harry and David castoffs.  And when I got to the kitchen, she gestured to Mike’s “cake”, which was sitting on the counter.  Actually, it was kind of sliding off.  He had attempted a layer cake.  And I’m pretty sure he was waiting at the oven door for the cake to finish baking with a spatula full of frosting.  Because the cake was still steaming hot and the frosting had turned to “icing/liquid” and was running down our counter.  The top layer of the cake had slid off and was at a 45 degree angle.  And cake was on a cheap Kmart plate.  I loved it.  I laughed so hard that I had to sit down on the floor.  Our elegant dinner was such a flop and we were all losers in the kitchen, but it really was starting to strike me as incredibly hysterical.

 

After our hors d’Oveures we set off for the concert, with the plan that after the concert we would come back and sit down for our “feast”.  The turkey remained in the oven, causing approximately 7 fire hazards.

 

The concert was very nice.  But I have a bit of a sensitivity to people making noise around me in theaters.  I can hear someone sucking on a hard candy across a room full of 300 people.  And unfortunately, the women behind me had just purchased some fascinating opera glasses at the gift shop.  And unfortunately, they were wrapped in what sounded like 13 layers of crinkly, plastic wrap.  And UNFORTUNATELY, they chose the very quiet, sad, alto solo, “He Was Despised”, about Jesus’ crucifixion, to unwrap their new goggles and chat all about them loudly right in my ear.  Kind of wrecked it for me.

 

Anyway, after the concert we went back to my place, where the turkey STILL was not cooked.  It was now late and we were all cranky and starving, so we decided to eat the only piece of food in the house.  The cake.  We sat down at the fancy table I had set up and set the “cake” in the center.  Then we all grabbed our forks and just started hacking away at it.  It was too lopsided and slippery to actually cut, and we were too tired to try anyway.  So we just ate like pigs in fancy clothes.

 

Then Mike left to take his date home.  And my date went home.  Then Kara said goodbye to her date and went to bed.  At 2:30 am Mike returned.  He was hungry and the turkey was finally done.

 

So we carved it up and the two of us ate, what I swear to this day, was the most delicious turkey I’ve ever eaten.

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One Response to “The Great Turkey Debacle of ’95”

  1. […] going. Everyone else in the car was asleep, so I woke up my friend Kara (yes, the same one from my famous turkey episode) and had her look out the window at the car.  Neither of us could see anything wrong, so we […]

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