First Thanksgiving

Poultry and I have a longstanding and failed relationship.

It started when I tried to cook a chicken early on in my marriage and I succeeded in burning the skin to a crisp while keeping the insides cold, bloody and raw. I have since invested in three separate meat thermometers (165°F for poultry!) and have taken a vested interest in regularly praying over my poultry.

My mom (Gramma Flower) and my grandma (GiGi) always took care of Thanksgiving, the two of them perfectly orchestrating an amazing Thanksgiving dinner together for as long as I can remember.

I realize now I should have been taking notes instead of taking naps.

Thankfully I have the more major hurdles in preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal out of the way. Perfect pie crust? Piece of cake. Yams everyone yammers for? Easy as pie. Mashed potatoes with cascading gravy? You betcha. Warm buttery rolls? Checkmate.

But then there’s the turkey. The token centerpiece of a holiday meal. The thing that strikes so much fear into me I’m wondering if anyone would mind if I served a giant pile of grilled cheese sandwiches in the shape of a turkey. At this point I have reason to believe it would be better for my guests and any unsuspecting turkey that I go this route.

Hopefully my turkey terror will be turned to total turkey domination after attending Butterball University. *deep breath*

Here’s what I think I’ve learned from wandering back and forth into the kitchen to stick olives on my fingers the past 27 years.

  • You can never (EVER!) be too prepared. GiGi sometimes made her famous rolls a month or so in advance so that they could be thawed and baked in a manner of minutes instead of with hours of preparation the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Decide what foods are most important to everyone you’ll be cooking for. My in-laws loathe baked pumpkin pie, so while it seems against the natural law of Thanksgiving to go without pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, if no one’s going to eat it? Don’t bother making it.
  • How do you want to prepare your turkey? When do you need to buy it? Do you want to buy it thawed a couple days before or do you need that classic blue and yellow Butterball logo staring back at you from your freezer? Did you know that Butterball even has fully cooked whole turkeys and some even come stuffed? If it’s frozen how many days will you need to thaw it? Do you even have room in your fridge? The holidays in our house always ALWAYS involve elaborate games of fridge/freezer Tetris. My dad has unlocked such secret levels of Fridge Tetris you wouldn’t even believe me if I told you. One cheat for Fridge Tetris is to store your turkey in a giant cooler with ice. If you decide to brine your turkey? This approach is even more handy. (Especially if you’re family is like mine and buys Turkeyzilla, 22 pounds of gobble, minimum).
  • You are never too young or too old to help cook. I love to bake, in fact I have won awards in baking. While this isn’t exactly related to Thanksgiving, I get my 5 year old in the kitchen as often as possible to help me cook. Not only does she know the difference between bacon and prosciutto before entering Kindergarten, I have complete faith that she will never burn a pot of boiling water like my darling sister has done.
  • There’s no right time for turkey. Growing up we started at my moms, had lunch with my Aunt Cheryl and always ended up at my dad’s for a traditional dinner. However my first Thanksgiving with my in-laws, I was called up for “dinner” at 12 pm. We ate ourselves silly, napped, watched some football and spent the rest of the day picking at the leftovers. (Okay, so when I said there’s no “right” time for turkey? I lied. The right time is in the evening, the way my family did it. But don’t tell my in-laws that, okay? Thanks. But if your family is of the noon turkey eating variety? Don’t mind me! Do it your own way! (Just be aware that it’s wrong. Very very wrong. *ahem*))

Which brings me to my final Thanksgiving observation…

  • There is no wrong way to do Thanksgiving. There are only traditions and stereotypes. What we do in my family may sound bonkers to yours. I’m going to try and keep this in mind as I host my very first Thanksgiving in my very own (first!) house for the first time while my guests eat off of paper plates instead of fine china. Because guess what? I don’t have fine china.

Luckily I’ve had the opportunity to attend Butterball University. I have been basted in turkey wisdom and roasted with tips for you and your first Thanksgiving. I hope that when Thanksgiving comes, I will be a success and not a failure. Because even though I claim there’s no wrong way to do Thanksgiving? I know there are wrong ways to cook (burn? ruin?) poultry.


I’m well versed.



  1. Posted November 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I believe the right time for turkey is approximately 3 pm….. that makes for maximum dessert-consumption time in the evening. I’m just saying.

    Plus, if you eat in the evening what do you eat all day long? I’d be starving!

    • Posted November 25, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Cheeseball! And olives. But mostly cheeseball. I don’t like Thanksgiving desserts so it’s all about early cheeseball consumption.

  2. Posted November 24, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The way you described your Chicken-yeah, well that is how my first turkey came out, only worse. So I make ham (I know, I know….first the microwaving of the corn and other such craziness) But I always tell people that Butterball and I have a long standing agreement that I will never try to make a turkey again.

    It was scary, and it quite possibly scarred me for life. In fact, hubs was just laughing at me the other day when I realized he invited his family over for dinner and I totally lost it when I thought I may have to make a turkey.

  3. Posted November 25, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good luck!! And happy Thanksgiving. Hugs and love.

  4. Posted November 26, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thankfully I’m not in charge of (and hopefully never will be in charge of) the turkey. This year I did the pies, potatoes, and cranberry sauce. If I ever have to cook the turkey, I’d better not be in my town with only volunteer fire department services in the middle of no where! I can only imagine how poorly it would turn out! I can’t wait to hear how yours turns out this year! Take lots of those wonderful pictures you always take!

One Trackback

  1. By moosh in indy. » for those about to baste… on November 25, 2009 at 9:30 am

    […] About my first Thanksgiving…it won’t be spent in my new house. Boo. BUT! It will not be spent in a hotel. It will be spent with friends. And my little family. And no matter how my turkey turns out? I am most thankful for them. Comments off. […]

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