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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Turkey Talk

If you come to our house for Thanksgiving, there’s a high likelihood you may end up poisoned. It’s not that we’re bad cooks, not at all, it’s just that around this holiday, Something Always Seems to Happen.

I would imagine it all began with my Norman Rockwell-esque childhood and the year my mom propped open the oven door and left the turkey to cool slightly on the pulled-out oven rack. Just about the height of our dachshund.

When the door sufficiently cooled, and the turkey bandit looked this way and that, he leaned with his front two paws on the door, wolfing down major pieces of piping-hot poultry, crying as he burned his mouth in the process, yet unable to overcome his animal instincts. That year, we creatively carved around that part.

Another year, Benedetto was living in Israel and intent on celebrating the American holiday. Ovens were not givens in those days, and thus he came to borrow an acquaintance’s home for the occasion. Beyond the tall, narrow wooden doors and Middle Eastern tiles, the bird roasted, delicious and delightful. As the appointed hour approached, and the turkey cooled on the table, unbeknownst to the cook, the friends cracked open the doors to relase some of the heat. In slipped one of the thousands of ubiquitous Jerusalem garbage cats who foraged near dumpsters and now dined among them–clawing, coughing with a tuberculur cacophony, and decimating everything in sight. The fiendish feline dared to stand with all four feet smack on top of the bird, feasting as if there were no tomorrow, chomping away at the choice breast portions. The renegade cat rebelled against the stigma of his past, going for the gold at Benedetto’s expense.

There were guests coming. What to do to mask the major missing chunks?

Just add gravy. Mountains and mountains of gravy.

Gee, wanna come over to our house to eat???

These turkey tragedies were inherited traits. My husband’s sister remembers cooking her very first turkey. It roasted beautifully, but there was a strange black smoke emanating, filling the kitchen with a foreboding presence. She could not figure it out.

When the momentous carving moment arrived, imagine her shock to have a paper sack of seared innards pulled from deep within. What was that-?! She must have been snoozing during family holiday dinner prep growing up. The young lady surprised everyone by eventually overcoming such culinary deficits and becoming quite accomplished in the food industry.

For a number of years, we reached out to share our Animal Farm/Animal House holidays with unsuspecting souls from around the world. As they gathered at our holiday table and viewed the aromatic array spread before them, huge turkey as the centerpiece of it all, it was only then that they revealed that they were vegetarians of the extreme vegan dynasty.

Hold the turkey, please.

I wondered if that was a manufactured excuse and they had somehow figured out that any turkey in our home was bound to be teeming with disease not native to any of their countries. Entirely possible. Recognizing the fact that I qualified to be a senior consultant at the Butterball Hotline in the Strange-but-True Division, helped me not to give up entirely on the holiday.

One of our last disasters before we saw the light, and decided to stay home, was at an elderly couple’s resort getaway. They had been bugging us to come for years and we happpened to be there in late November. She was not the best cook, coming from a generation that knew more about four-star restaurants than how to prepare a four-course meal. That’s what staff was for. But what could go wrong with a turkey?

Apparently a lot.

That Thursday, all day and all night, we heard about the turkey. But we never smelled it. I finally snuck into the kitchen to investigate. To my dismay, the oven was set at 180 degrees F, a temperature at which it might take over a dozen hours just to barely defrost the tip of a turkey wing. We delicately brought the matter to the attention of the elderly matron, whom we thought might be losing her eyesight, and who was not using much in the way of household staff in her later years.

“Yes,” she assured us that she knew what she was doing, “all of the latest research says that the turkey meat should be cooked at a temperature of 180 degrees.”

More likely “TO a temperature of 180 degrees”, but that’s how morning talk shows can mislead and confuse the innocents among us, who catch a snippet here and there while sipping their morning coffee.

By dinnertime, she was still shaking her head and concluding that something was not working. At such a late hour and with no standing reservations anywhere, we were relegated to a local BBQ restaurant, overdressed for the occasion, the gentleman’s Ivy League tie standing out like foie gras amongst liverwurst, but trying to make the best of it and remain thankful through this trial-by-no-fire.

The next day, we all paid dearly for the visit to Grease Alley. It crossed my mind that many of the early Pilgrims who passed away during the first few winters in the New World had sampled the fare at the same establishment.

Now that we are older and wiser, having spent our fill of years sitting stranded in airports on Thanksgiving, or finding ourselves in locales as diverse as Calcutta or Firenze, I can honestly say there’s no place like home, although turning down a dark back lane in the Indian rat-and-homeless capital and being greeted by a swarthy individual who sneeringly told us he had killed many Americans during some war or another that we didn’t quite catch the name of, while we made a hasty retreat that Thanksgiving night, can stick in one’s mind for some years to come. Taking a break from our extremely-public lifestyle, we now hibernate and hunker down for a day of quiet elegance, giving of thanks, and togetherness with our own turkey.

Misha and Grisha are kept under watchful eye and underfoot if any stray scrap might fall their way. The family rallies by the roaring fireplace after our delightful feast. No travel, no tragedies, just the triumph of a peaceful day at home. With four teens and pre-teens, a little peace and quiet goes a long way. Priceless.

We are healthy, we have a roof over our heads, and we have each other. For this, we give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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