Friday, November 27, 2009


(News-Herald, November 26) My daughter feels that I should write about stuffing, which she believes is the whole point of the turkey.
Personally, I rather like turkey, though the combination of turkey and stuffing is optimal. I do not have any special secret family recipe and so in the years that I have stuffed and cooked a turkey, I have started with a bag of herbified bread, some chicken broth, assorted onions and herbs, and a bunch of garlic, because everything in the world is better with garlic.
I dump it all in a big bowl and add ingredients till I like how it smells. Then I stuff it into the bird.
Well, after I finish defrosting the bird. I know there’s a formula that tells me when to put the frozen bird in the fridge so that it will safely defrost (weight times the cosine of the number of bags of leftover restaurant food taking up refrigerator space minus the size of the ice cube maker equals “put the turkey in the refrigerator shortly after the Fourth of July”). I live on the edge, sitting the brick-like bird on a kitchen counter roughly five minutes after I remember that I need to defrost it. On cooking day this is supplemented with a warm bath in the kitchen sink (the bird, not me).
I am aware that I am turning the turkey into a seething cauldron of dangerous bacteria, so I am telling you clearly here that doctors, dietary experts and lawyers for this newspaper all advise that you should absolutely NOT follow any of the turkey instructions I am offering here.
Nevertheless, I have always felt relatively safe from the consequences of my wanton recklessness because I do not eat, lick or otherwise ingest the turkey before I have cooked it an appropriate number of hours (weight of bird times age of oven equals half a day). Stuffing laced with enough garlic to kill all life-forms within a ten-foot radius also helps.
My son is a big fan of chicken, but not so much its poultry cousin. He is not a major fan of holidays in general, so I think he views holiday meals as gilt-edged potholes on the highway of life. He has no strong feelings about stuffing.
My daughter accuses turkey of being boring. I disagree, though I think much of the standard holiday menu makes a good case for the value of boring. Stuffing is as exotic as I care to get. I can appreciate the artistry that goes into a giant vat of sweet potato sculpted into the form of the grand canyon with little marshmallow goats and donkeys prancing around the whipped orange cliffs, but I don’t want to eat it.
I’m inclined to say that Things Made Out of Jello do not belong on the Thanksgiving table, and I think that vegetables that are good enough for everyday use shouldn’t be forced to dress up for the occasion with bread crumbs or nuts or other unfamiliar substances.
But I have to admit that my own Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without cranberry relish, a substance that nobody really eats on purpose. It’s traditional, and I am a creature of habit. Tradition is a useful part of holidays; it helps make them comfortable and relaxing.
Still, even the most traditional of us can bend. My tradition was to watch the Macy’s parade, and then complain about how present-day parades are invariably ruined by “hosts” talking incessantly throughout. Now that I have cut my cable television ties, I no longer get to watch the parade, or complain about it. That may be a loss for me, but it’s a win for anybody who ever had to listen to me complain.
Time eventually forces traditions to change. My son won’t be home, so I can only hound him about eating by phone—not quite the same. But some traditions are immovable. I will play tomorrow night in the Franklin Silver Cornet Band pops concert because I can’t imagine not doing it.
A holiday is just another day—same number of hours, no different air. And stuffing is just bread. In both cases we simply add something of our own to make it into what we would like it to be. It’s that ability to shape a day that we are referring to when we talk about making every day a holiday. Heck, if we wanted to, we could have stuffing every day.

1 comment:

Bethann said...

I got such a chuckle out of your mathematical equations. Nice. Hope you and yours had a lovely Thanksgiving.

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