Turkey Tales: An introduction

Editor’s note: This Thanksgiving, My Buckhannon contributor Ann Bergstrom will be bringing readers a series of her favorite recipes leading up to Turkey Day itself. Today, she introduces the series with an amusing (and true) story from Thanksgivings past.

The horror. The horror. Joseph Conrad in his heart of darkness had nothing on me during one long ago Thanksgiving past.

A week before the annual November holiday I made sure to check the use by date on the fresh turkey I was buying at Kroger’s. He was a big fellow or lady, about 13 pounds, and I wanted to make sure he/she would still be tasty on Thanksgiving day since he was fresh not frozen. At the time I was into good health and no frozen turkey would do (although who knows if this turkey had already been thawed by Kroger, grrrr).

Anyway, I lumbered home with the big bird, excited that I was supplying my family with a delicious turkey dinner and fresh, good health. I promptly shoved him way back on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and went to work planning the rest of the meal.

The day before Thanksgiving, I simmered cranberries in orange juice, chopped up bread slices, celery, onion and fresh sage from my herb garden for the stuffing, and baked a fresh pie pumpkin to scoop out and use for a homemade pumpkin pie. The rest of the menu were sides of succotash, roasted, caramelized Brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a relish plate, all to be cooked up next day as the turkey roasted.

As I finished each chore, I checked it off my list and was surprised at how easily and quickly things were going. Martha Stewart, watch your back – a new celebrity chef was being born! That night I fell asleep with a satisfied, hungry smile on my face I am sure.

Alas, whoever tells you (or Facebook shows you) that life is perfect is definitely spreading fake news. Humming away early the next morning while my family was still asleep (husband Harry, Brian and Todd middle school age), I opened the fridge to fetch the turkey for turkey prep. No turkey. I looked again – no turkey. NO TURKEY?!

I practically stuck my whole body in the fridge to search and search but could not find that rascal turkey anywhere! Where did it go??? Did it come back from the dead, escape and fly away? After all, it was fresh and not frozen. Stranger things have happened, right?

Finally I awoke my groggy husband and asked in a scared, weak voice, “Do you by any chance know where the turkey is? It’s gone and I have NO idea where it is! How can a turkey just disappear?”

After a moment or so, he matter-of-factly replied, “Oh, you know, that turkey was so big and taking up so much space in the refrigerator that I of course put it in the freezer.”

Of course. Immediately I raced to the freezer and sure enough, there was my fresh turkey frozen solid. On Thanksgiving morning. Only hours before the expected dinner.

Frozen Turkey
This turkey isn’t thawing in an hour.

If any woman ever wanted an immediate divorce, this was that moment. In horrific anger I grabbed that heavy, swollen mass of frozen meat and threw it as hard as I could onto the kitchen floor. The floor was linoleum at the time but still, I’m pretty sure the neighbors might have heard the thundering crash and crazy lady screaming obscenities that ensued.

The boys, awakened by the crash, each came running to the kitchen in terror, not sure whether to try to calm mom or not.

Not all horror stories have a happy ending but this one sort of does. Sort of, if not emotionally, at least physically. My husband, finally aware of the danger he was in, hurriedly dressed and drove to Kroger’s. There in the meat section lay the very last fresh turkey. Suffice to say, the rest of the day played out according to plan. But believe me or regret it, women never, ever, ever forget.

Now, on to the first recipe…

We all know that the holidays often make us nostalgic for the ‘good ol’ days’ of our youth. As a Baby Boomer, this family recipe is the epitome of the ’50s and ’60s, and will forever remind me of my mom and granny. These days, Jello doesn’t speak to healthy eating, but hey, can a couple of holidays a year really matter when it tastes sooooo yummy good? Enjoy…

1 box of Black Cherry Jello.
1 can of black cherries
Iceberg lettuce leaves

Make Jello as directed; as it starts to thicken, add the drained black cherries. Cut in squares to serve as a side salad on a lettuce leaf.

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