Turkeys (#307)

Once upon a time, birthdays were a huge deal in my family. Being showered with cake and presents made it the best day of the year.

My Chinese-American husband’s family wasn’t like that. Birthdays were no big deal. In fact, Andy’s grandmother was very superstitious about celebrating, especially as she reached her 90s. “If you have a big celebration that makes a lot of noise,” she said, “you’re just reminding the evil spirits that you’re still alive. They might decide to rectify that situation.”

After age 10, my birthdays went from “meh” to “completely shitty.” Now I try to ignore my birthday. This past year, I made the mistake of letting my sisters talk me into a once-in-a-lifetime girls’ trip with a stay at a top-notch hotel and spa (they offered to pay, even!). We made plans and reservations at the beginning of the year. Then COVID hit.

I would have taken it personally, but all American non-introverts are having shitty birthdays this year (thank you so much, you fucking inept Trump Administration). I’m just grateful that 1) I wasn’t planning a wedding and 2) we haven’t lost any family members. But even though I don’t feel singled out, I’ve begun to think like Popo—it’s better not to make big plans, because the universe might decide to mess with you.

Andy’s giant birthday éclair

Meanwhile, Andy’s gone from shrugging off his birthday to having expectations. For him, though, it’s not having parties with friends and family. It’s about being spoiled with homemade baked goods. He loves getting coffee cake for breakfast and then either a Devil’s food cake with poured ganache icing, or a giant chocolate éclair (yes, homemade down to the hot fudge topping). Baby D and I pick up his favorite burritos or burgers for lunch. Then I either make him pot roast or we might go out to his favorite restaurant.

Not surprisingly, Andy, who handles most of the cooking, enjoys sitting on his butt and being waited on for his birthday.

Unfortunately, Andy’s birthday is on Thanksgiving this year.

Cue the horror music, because I hate cooking (baking is different!) and I am not a good cook (pot roast excepted). But with fast food places closed for the holiday, there would be no burritos and burgers.

I asked, “What meals do you want for your birthday, honey? Traditional Thanksgiving fare, even though it’s both historically inaccurate and kind of like celebrating the beginning of the genocide of American Indians? Cuz we could have anything. And you love my pot roast!”

“Six-hour cake!” Baby D shouted. “Dad wants six-hour cake! And beef Wellington!”

Andy’s beef Wellington

“Dalton, when it’s your birthday, you can pick what we eat,” I reminded my child. “But it’s Dad’s birthday. We do what Dad wants.”

Baby D subsided with a truculent glower.

“We can do a traditional Thanksgiving,” Andy said.

“Oh-kay,” I squeaked. “What about your birthday cake?”

“Six-hour cake!” Baby D insisted.

“Dalton–”

“You’d better not ask for the giant éclair again, Dad. The cake is so much better and it lasts longer.”

“Not your birthday, Dalton. Please be quiet and let Dad decide.”

“But he’s gonna decide WRONG.”

“How about a chocolate satin pie?” Andy suggested.

“Why would you pick pie when you could have cake?” howled Baby D.

“Because it’s Thanksgiving and I want pie,” Andy retorted. “Besides, your mom always makes that cinnamon coffee cake for me on the morning. Right honey?”

I smiled weakly and only said, “yes, of course,” rather than whimpering, “I’ve created a birthday monster.”

*****

I commenced researching. Comparing and deciding on a chocolate satin pie was easy. Mashed potatoes? No problem, The Joy of Cooking has a great recipe. Stuffing? No one likes it, so forget it. Same with cranberries. Vegetable? Susanna Foo’s cookbook has a delicious and easy creamy cabbage recipe we all like. With my homemade Shaker bread and my dad’s coffee cake recipe, I was all set.

It was the turkey that was daunting. The specter of a half-burned, half- Salmonella riddled bird hung over me like a fowl albatross. I spent hours researching brines. I plunged into debates over basting the sucker versus cooking it upside-down.

Frying the turkey? LOL, not after seeing this video.

This is the only kind of turkey I want to make or eat.

I didn’t like turkey to begin with. Now I hated it.

Then I found that I could not find a turkey. There were none at Costco. Whole Foods was sold out. Even Andy tried to find one. No luck.

Overwhelmed with choices and worried about oven management, I decided to outsource the turkey dinner. There were restaurants that served a takeout turkey dinner. Yay!

They were all sold out.

Crap.

I discovered a new restaurant nearby. They’d hired the executive chef of one of Andy’s favorite restaurants that had closed years ago. The restaurant did not have a Thanksgiving take out menu, but they had very limited outdoor seating.

Perfect.

I made a reservation.

Only to have Andy arrived home from the store with a turkey, a giant bag of potatoes, and TWO bags of cranberries.

“Cranberries?!” I exclaimed. “You want me to make cranberry sauce, too?! And that turkey is huge!”

“Well, cranberries might be nice,” Andy began, only to hurriedly add, “if you want. Or you can do something else with them. And this is the smallest turkey they had.”

“You just want me to utterly fail at cooking Thanksgiving and your birthday dinner, don’t you? Then I will appreciate all you do in the kitchen and you can make jokes about ‘the year Autumn burned my Thanksgiving birthday’ forever. I see you, sadist.”

“Oh, honey, why would you say that? I got this turkey so that me and Baby D can eat turkey sandwiches for lunch all week.”

“And the cranberries?!”

“Ahhhh…”

“I thought so. Well,” I told him smugly, “You can make whatever turkey you want next week and throw cranberries on it, too. But we’re going out for Thanksgiving dinner!”

“What? Where?”

“Remember Chef C? She’s at a new restaurant and I got the last reservation.”

“Is it safe to eat at a restaurant?” Andy asked. We hadn’t been out since March.

“It’s outside.”

“Still…”

“At the beach. At 3 PM, with a ton of wind and they operate at 25% capacity. And of course we will wear masks when not eating. Happy Birthday!”

*****

The triumphant glow of outsourcing the Thanksgiving cooking lasted until last Sunday.

At 6PM, Los Angeles County announced that all restaurants would be closing to everything but take out at 10 PM—on the day before Thanksgiving.

I guess it’s back to the brine.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

25 thoughts on “Turkeys (#307)”

  1. Your excellent writing made this unfortunate situation hilarious! You had me on an emotional roller coaster of anticipation. Also, love baby D’s comments!!

  2. Well. I must strenuously disagree with you on the importance of stuffing and cranberry sauce. Those are the only two Thanksgiving foods that I really, truly miss! (Oh and green bean casserole, too.) Anyway, I am sorry. I look forward to the post when you write about whatever happens next. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. That giant eclair is scary. There I said it, but I’m more of a profiterole girl.

    I feel that societal pressure to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is something that we all can ignore. I didn’t grow up eating a traditional turkey dinner and I turned out just fine. Or fine enough. My point being, do what you want, make what will, enjoy what you eat.

    1. I hate onions and almost all stuffing has onions. Baby D also hates onions.

      My sister raves about stuffing being the best part of the meal if it is done with good cornbread and I generally respond with “the onions! They burn us!”

      But I am sad that you will miss your mom’s stuffing. Glad you are staying safe, though.

  4. I also disagree with you on stuffing. I love it! And if you ever get a chance to fry a turkey, I highly recommend it. SO good! As long as you have a fire extinguisher handy, no big deal, right?

    I do share Andy’s “spoil-me-it’s-my-birthday!” mentality, though.

    1. Andy did a fried turkey once. In the backyard. With a ladder.

      Andy is also a very experienced chef and engineer.

      The turkey was okay. I know people rave about it, but I think I like the one he smoked better (except it took FOREVER).

  5. You’re a master of humor about everyday life.

    Baby D sounds so old and smart. You’re going to have to give him a new name soon.

    I grew up with a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings every year. My grandma was an excellent cook, and her table was always beautiful. Then, when we went overseas, we went for almost 20 years without turkey and didn’t really miss it. In a couple of recent years, my sister and I went out for dinner and ordered seafood. This year I’ll be doing Zoom and eating alone, so I ordered a traditional turnkey dinner for a sidewalk pickup from a local restaurant. Luckily it was easy to make the reservation.

    1. Baby D is definitely smart…as in a bit of a smart-mouth! I am certain he gets that from his father.

      I would have liked a take-out dinner. Preferably sushi! Ah, well, maybe next year.

  6. So… what happened in the end? 😀 BTW; I have your Shaker’s bread recipe saved but… didn’t do it yet, months later. I’ve been eeeh… very busy! But I will do it!

    I’ve never had a Thanksgiving dinner. This year I saw a couple of ads from restaurants here doing it and I thought about trying, but then I thought again… after all, I’m not American and it looked like TOO MUCH FOOD and I’m trying to lose weight xD

    1. I think I’ll have to do a follow up post soon. We had some setbacks and some triumphs. But now it is all over and my feet and back are killing me.

      It is a lot of food, although for us it was merely a very large bird we shall eat for days (Andy already broke p the carcass and will be using it for stocks and soups) and then some mashed potatoes and creamy cabbage and bread. And gravy. Nothing really outrageous.

      Except for desserts.

      I’ve seen your instagram and you look great! So much pressure on women from the Bikini Industrial Complex, though. 🙁

  7. Happy late Thanksgiving!!! That sucks about the lockdown order…. poor Autumn!!! Were you able to make a fantastic turkey? From reading the comments above, it seems like everything turned out ok! The first time I made turkey I was also really nervous, but it turned out well.

    And thanks for validating my hate of stuffing. It tastes so gross. My brother and dad like it, but my mom and I always pass.

    Also, Andy is lucky to have a wife who is a fantastic baker. I would love to have someone make me a handmade eclair cake! Damn that’s impressive.

    1. The turkey turned out, and eventually I will get to the story. And honestly, I wouldn’t have felt right about eating out right now anyway, even outside. It’s been since March…and it’ll be at least until next March before we eat out again, I think.

      I think I could have used some turkey tips from you!

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