A bounty of Thanksgiving mistakes

November 21, 1993|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Staff Writer

Ah, Thanksgiving dinner, a time to count one's blessings, to welcome family and friends for a sumptuous meal . . . to be grateful the dog didn't choke on that drumstick bone little Janie gave him, that cousin Melvin didn't burn down the house with his flaming pumpkin dessert, that you and your spouse are still speaking after the little incident with the Brussels sprouts . . .

It's true. Holiday meals are times of joy and love, but they're also times of small disasters and near-catastrophes. Fortunately, most of the things that go wrong are the stuff of later laughter. If you've ever had such an experience, you can rest assured you're not alone. We asked readers to send us their "Turkey disaster" stories, the events that made one year stand out forever in memory, and a dozen people were willing to share their #i experiences.

Several readers offered stories about those all-too-easy-to-make cooking mistakes. Judging from this sample, turkeys ought to come with a big sticker that says "WARNING: GIBLETS INSIDE."

When in doubt . . .

Hilda Buncy of Glen Burnie recalls giving some turkey-cooking advice to a new bride a few years ago and having the husband call later to thank her. But he added that they had been puzzled by all those paper-wrapped parcels they found inside the turkey after it was roasted. "She forgot to take the heart, liver and gizzards out when she roasted the turkey," Mrs. Buncy writes. "Needless to say she made sure the next time."

Martha Calabrese of Ellicott City actually told her mother she didn't get any giblets with her bird. "The next day my husband and I again decided to eat some turkey and what did we discover but the heart, liver etc. wrapped in paper still inside the bird."

Mark Frank was carving himself a second helping at a friend's house when he found the giblets package inside the bird. The friend's wife said, "Oh, I didn't know you were supposed to remove that."

Getting the bird right-side up in the oven also seems to cause trouble. Helen Mothershead of Laurel recalls the holiday that fell soon after her father-in-law had died. Her mother-in-law wanted to carry on with the meal, so the bird was duly roasted. "It was a beauty to behold. However, we found upon getting ready to carve that the bird was sorely lacking of breast meat. We cut and chopped, only to find out after the meal that in our distracted state, we had cooked the bird upside down. This provided much-needed smiles and lots of leftovers to what would have been a sad affair. Granddaddy was probably behind it all."

Holly Clark of Baltimore recalls how, as new "Navy wives," she and a friend decided to team up for their first turkey-roasting experience. "We bought a beautiful turkey with a handy dandy pop-up timer . . . however, 6 or 7 hours later we were all wondering why our timer was not showing a done bird. . . . Well, after another hour or so, my husband . . . pulled the pan from the oven and started poking around. His discovery was that we had put the bird in the pan upside down, so the timer could not possibly pop up. It left us doubled over with laughter."

Ovens can also act up at crucial moments, two readers reported.

Kathy Bonebreak, of Clarksville, writes that her trouble started when she decided to cook a second turkey to use as a centerpiece. She also decided to line her single oven with foil to prevent spattering. "The combination of the increased volume of food that had to cook with the foil, which inhibited the flow of

heat, caused the dinner to be delayed almost two hours."

Vonnie Francis of Lexington, Va., asks, "Do you want to talk about Thanksgiving disasters? How does 40 pounds of boiled turkey strike you?"

This bird won't cook

It seems Mrs. Francis tried to cook a 25-pound turkey when her daughter came home from school for the holiday, but after the allotted time, the bird was still raw. So she cut it up and boiled it. She tried again later with a smaller bird -- same result. "As my husband and I stood by the stove discussing my cooking ability, I happened to lean against the oven door and discovered it was hot -- not just hot, but HOT. And I said, 'No wonder the bird isn't cooking, all the heat is out here!' "

The insulation in the door had failed, and it was Jan. 23 before the repaired door was restored. "I guess you don't really miss something until you lose it," she says. "Aren't oven doors wonderful?"

Some people are good at making the best of a bad thing. Shirley Carman of Ellicott City recalls a family Thanksgiving nearly 30 years ago when she left her husband and brother-in-law in the kitchen to carve the turkey. Later, after everyone had gone home, she heard about a little disaster that had occurred: the cooked turkey had slipped into a sink full of dirty dishwater. The ++ two men scooped it out, carved it, carefully rinsed off each piece, and served it neatly on a platter. Although Mrs. Carman found out fairly soon, she writes, "It wasn't until 20 years later we told our families."

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