Every year as I’m preparing the turkey for roasting, I am reminded that I’m much too squeamish to ever be a proper chef.
My daughter asked me last night if I’d be doing the turkey dance. The turkey dance is a tradition passed down from mother to daughter. I don’t recall when it began, but one year some of us kids were watching my mother prepare our turkey for roasting, and as she was rinsing and shaking the naked bird to get out the excess fluids, she suddenly had the turkey break out in dance. With wings extended he waltzed, he sashayed, he did a little jig. It was just like my mother to turn something as mundane as cleaning a turkey into something bizarre and delightful. It would be nice if I could say that right then and there I swore to myself my own children would know the joys of the turkey dance, but I didn’t think much about it until a few years ago when I was preparing my own turkey in front of my kids. I think it was DynaGirl who commented on how disgusting the whole procedure was (which it is). I agreed and then told the story of the turkey dance with an accompanying demonstration, of course. She was as delighted as I had been when I first experienced it, and knowing DynaGirl, I wouldn’t be surprised if she swore to herself right then and there that her own children would know the joys of the turkey dance. I didn’t do the turkey dance this year. All the kids were still asleep this morning during the turkey preparations (and are asleep still), and it seemed silly to do the dance without benefit of an audience. I find myself wishing now that I had done it anyway just so when DynaGirl asks I can tell her yes, and she would know that she can depend on her mother to do all the things she expects her mother to do even when she’s not there to witness.
My culinary skills generally leave a little something to be desired. I am a decent cook, I think. Actually, if I were to compare myself to others based on the offerings of most of the potlucks I’ve attended, I may even be slightly better than average. But I’m no Julia. Or Martha. Perhaps I get that from my mother. Growing up, Thanksgiving meant stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, some sort of vegetable, rolls, pie, candied yams, the obligatory cranberry sauce (though I don’t recall anyone ever actually eating it) and turkey dust. My mother was notorious for overcooking the turkey. Every year it would come out of the oven richly and beautifully browned, renewing all our hopes of a Thanksgiving turkey to remember. But then as she began to carve it, inevitably the breast would begin to disintegrate into dry clumps of turkey dust. With enough gravy it was still delicious (I’m convinced a good gravy can fix just about any culinary disaster). I think my first turkey met a similar fate–perhaps not quite as crumbly, but still a little on the parched side. It was comforting—a little bit of mom at our Thanksgiving table. I don’t think it was too many tries later when I produced a turkey of traditionally desired moistness and consistency. As I carved into the breast forming perfectly sliced portions, it almost felt like a betrayal of my mother’s memory.
I hope she knows that no matter what I do now—whatever “mom” traditions I do or don’t keep going—I will always look back with acute fondness and gratitude.
I would love to hear any Thanksgiving “momories” you would like to share. Among the many blessings I am grateful for today, are all of you, dear friends and readers.