Thanksgiving Disasters and Surprises


Kyle Morrison/The Observer


Kyle Morrison/The Observer

Thanksgiving is an inherently awkward holiday. It’s like a starter holiday whose purpose is to get you into the holiday spirit, but there’s nothing really exciting about it. On Christmas or Hanukkah, you get presents; on Halloween, you get candy; and what do you get on Thanksgiving? Turkey…maybe. Plus, the holiday is loaded with the American fairytale of how the Pilgrims and American Indians were best friends. Personally, I think this was invented to shield children from the fact that all the American Indians got from giving the Pilgrims corn was probably small pox. However, all of this doesn’t mean that Thanksgiving can’t be a special occasion, but I don’t think it’s the history, the turkey or the American tradition that makes this Thanksgiving a holiday. It’s the intent of the people gathering.

In my family, we don’t put in a lot of effort to make the holiday about giving thanks, we don’t make the holiday religious as I’ve heard others sometimes do and we don’t buy into the commercial American Thanksgiving. It’s basically just an excuse to annoy each other and eat an obscene amount of food. But sometimes family drama can bleed into the holiday when it’s not wanted or someone moves away, which is always a bummer. Other times, we have a truly spectacular year when everyone is talking to each other and everybody shows up and something hilarious happens.

The best Thanksgiving by far, and it has since become family legend, was when I was eight and my mother tried to hold Thanksgiving at our new house. Of course, everyone disregarded the fact that we had just moved into this house which meant boxes everywhere plus broken appliances and faulty wiring left over from the previous residents. As usual, my aunts began drinking before the appetizers and my uncle, the best cook of the family, was late to arrive. My mom decided that it would be a good idea to start things herself. This exact moment, the moment when she decided this would be a good idea, still gives me some chills down my spine.

Here is a small side note about my mother. She never could cook very well, or I suppose the truth of the matter is that she never really cared to. Often she would just con my aunts into making food for her or she would just happen to ‘visit’ them at the most opportune moments… with me in tow, of course. When she actually tried to cook, her food was usually decent, at the very least it was edible, but most of the time she found something more interesting to do and would only be drawn back to the stove by the smoke alarm.

This series of events, which I fondly dubbed the Thanksgiving Disaster of the Year When I Turned Eight, began with a broken oven. How does one cook a 12 pound turkey in a broken oven? Good question. My mother decided that it would be a clever idea to put the (completely frozen) turkey onto our new grill. Of course, we didn’t have charcoal or anything to put inside the grill so that we could cook the turkey, but instead of going out and actually getting some, Mom decided to use bits of firewood left from our old house that for some strange reason she taken with her to our new house.

When we lit the bits of wood, the flames were nowhere near as large as we needed them to be in order to cook the turkey in time for dinner. The obvious solution? Gasoline. You can imagine how this went. By the time my uncle arrived, the flames had consumed the tin-foil wrapped turkey and black smoke was pouring out of the grill despite my mom’s attempts to kill the fire by slamming the lid shut.

My uncle, however, has otherworldly cooking skills and by dinnertime he had miraculously managed to rescue the turkey from the grill and peel the tinfoil from the rough, blackened surface that was our bird. I remember anxiously waiting as my uncle performed careful surgery on the wreckage, slowly removing skin, and then…

Behold! A perfect turkey. Its meat was glistening and sweet, cooked to perfection and falling right off the bone. It was the best meal I can remember having. All of us in shock, some slightly singed and covered in soot, the smoking wreck of a grill visible from the dining room window. Drinks, laughs, food and more stories for us to tell in the future. There is nothing better. This moment. Perfection.