It was all planned out – turkey, stuffing, candied yams, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and, of course, a pumpkin pie.
With a houseful of guests planned for Thanksgiving quite a few years ago, I was excited about cooking my first holiday meal for the family.
With a shopping list in hand, every item was quickly checked off and bagged, ready just before the big day.
I arrived home with the groceries and a large turkey to make sure everyone had plenty. And that’s when the first hint of trouble appeared.
The turkey wouldn’t fit into the refrigerator. No amount of shuffling or moving shelves would get it into the troublesome appliance.
After a few calls to some of my more experienced friends, I rushed to the store to buy bags of ice and plopped the turkey into a cooler.
There! Now on to the next thing on my long “to do” list: Clean the house, rake the leaves, prep the guest room, etc.
A kindly boss even lent me his smoker to use for the turkey. Not only would I be making my own holiday dinner, but it would be with a smoked turkey.
Family soon began arriving the day before Thanksgiving, ready to celebrate the season and, I think, to see if I could really pull this off.
I conferred with my Dad about needing to get up super early the next morning to fire up the smoker and get the bird nicely smoked by the noon-time feast.
Not being a morning person at the ripe young age of 21, this was a big concession on my part. Ever the early riser, usually before 3 a.m., my Dad eagerly accepted the task.
Before I knew it, the alarm buzzed and it was just before 3 a.m. Dad greeted me with a cup of coffee and laughter as he knew I was barely able to grumble, much less start preparing the feast.
After slugging down a large mug of java, we set about lighting the smoker. Dad asked me where I put the turkey.
Smirking, I relayed the issue I’d had with getting it into the refrigerator and told him of my ingenuous solution.
With a slight frown, he ambled over to the cooler in my kitchen and opened the lid.
Seeing it packed with ice, he glanced back at me and then picked up the turkey.
Then he put it back down again.
“Dawn,” he said, slowly drawing out my name with more syllables than it usually warrants. “You do realize it is still frozen, don’t you?”
“The turkey. It’s still frozen.”
“But Dad, it’s been in that cooler for more than a day.”
Little did I realize, when calling on my boss and friends, that I’d failed to ask about how to prepare the turkey.
Who knew they came frozen at the grocery store? The steaks and pork chops and chicken aren’t frozen. Why would turkeys be any different?
But solid it was – all 32 pounds of it. I’d bought a turkey large enough to feed a small army.
The panic began to settle in. I had bologna, spaghetti sauce and ground meat and a few other odds and ends. But there was nothing in my refrigerator that would cover for a missing turkey.
And it was now 3:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
As the tears began to flow, my Dad put his arms around me and asked for the telephone book. Handing it to him, I watched him scan the yellow pages.
He sent me back to bed and told me to get some rest. Much later that same morning, I awoke to the smell of breakfast.
Dad had snuck off to do some shopping while I was asleep, returning with all of the fixings for a big breakfast and a replacement for the absentee turkey.
At noon that Thanksgiving Day, we had sliced ham with all of the trimmings – stuffing, candied yams, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and, of course, a pumpkin pie.
The turkey? Well, it ended up being a Christmas turkey for some lucky family of more than four after I donated it to our church. No way was I going to go through that again.
Today, years later, I’ve come to realize how special that memory is and how, sometimes, it’s OK if you don’t have turkey on the table. It’s the time spent with family and friends that makes the day special.
May each of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with family and friends.
And may each of you remember to defrost the turkey. But if you didn’t, ham works.
Dawn Cobb is the editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.