I love roasted turkey. Love it with gravy. Love it in a sandwich. Love it with bread dressing.
Momma Benedetti hates turkey. Hates preparing it. Hates stuffing it. And especially hates cleaning the carcass after we’ve polished off the holiday meal. So, being the imaginative, quick-witted mother that she is, she decided one year – at an age when all of her offspring were pretty clueless – to set up a little white lie and told each of us that the other hated the bird, and that we were pretty special and instead would be treated to a delicacy called Cornish game hens.
And for years we accepted this reality and never questioned Momma’s explanation.
Many years ago, while living in San Francisco, my oldest brother and his family agreed to drive up from Southern Ca. and spend the Thanksgiving holiday with me. I was totally thrilled to have the family visiting and wanted everything to be perfect. After making some brief inquiries, it was discovered that my brother and I were not among the siblings that disliked turkey and that we both actually liked it – liked it a lot.
Before they arrived for the holiday, I asked my office staff for recipes to prep this gobbling, beard-sporting bird. And everyone agreed that the best and juiciest recipe involved putting it in a Crisco-lined paper bag, and cooking it on high.
I meticulously lined the paper bag with Crisco, cleaned the bird, seasoned it; plopped it into the bag, placed it into my spanking-new blue, enamel roasting pan and slid it into a blazing oven.
My family and I settled into the living room to watch the holiday parades, and I snuggled into my rocking chair and smiled; envisioning a meal fit for a king, with a lip-smacking, juicy turkey coming out of my oven a few hours later.
One parade and a football game later, I opened my oven, tore open the paper bag with visions of a Rockwell turkey dinner dancing in my head only to be shocked to see before me a dried up, leather-looking football with scorched stuffing bursting from its seams!
Wanted to cry.
Had five hungry people to feed and there staring at me from my shiny, new turkey pan was a skinny, dried-up, leathery piece of jerky.
Standing behind me, as I carefully pulled out the blue enamel casket containing the remains of the bird, my brother quipped, “I don’t know about you, Luce, but I’ve always been partial to Cornish game hens for the holidays.”
“Turkeys,” he continued, “aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.”
That was my first and last year using a paper bag to roast turkey. Now I just undercook it, or leave the giblets in their plastic bag and cook everything together until the turkey, giblets and bag are a nice shade of putrid brown.
Did I mention that my siblings and the Princess’s siblings have been volunteering to bring the turkey to our gatherings, lately?
I just love cooking for the holidays. Makes me break out in a rash every November that doesn’t clear up until after the New Year.
Have the Merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year, People, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.