PSA: Holiday’s A-Coming

I understand you folks Stateside have a sacred holiday coming up later this week. I’ve been trying to get my head round it through vigorous research around the Web, and it seems to focus on gathering your relatives together for the offering of a sacrificial exotic fowl of fearsome aspect and proportions to the Gods of Oil and Fire.

The Orthodox practise seems to be to bring the local community, along with key emergency responders, together to cap your day by sharing the spectacular Ritual of the Meleagris Gallopavo Explosion In Your Back Yard. Some conduct this stage indoors, but this is frowned upon in more traditional quarters—Why be so insular? And in any case, not everybody even has walls, given the prevalence of hurricanes and floods—Why rub it in on this most auspicious of days?—so in solidarity with those less fortunate, some drag their furniture right out there and let everyone partake of the spectacle. Heck, if they have the resources and forethought, they televise it.

Christ, you must really hate those birds.

Few can afford such lavish staging in these straitened times, so the typical domestic practise is a little more modest in scale. It is positively dangerous to carry a heavy object like a full-grown deep-frozen turkey long distances, so a tradition of thoughtfulness for the cooks, as well as a hedge against inclement weather, dictates that the Ceremonial Pyre be located no more than two steps from the Kitchen Door, within easy reach of the Deep Freeze, and more importantly, the Liquor Cabinet.

Sometimes, if the offering for some reason fails to explode, the result is altogether more low-key, and not all that the celebrants might have wished. This triggers the next stage in the ritual, where the remains are dissected and inspected at length, accompanied by the age-old Lament of the Bemoaning. This is such an important observance that rehearsals begin as early as June.

Given the scope for error, accident, and disappointment through the Orthodox methods, some have adopted new-fangled gadgetry to simulate the overall effect in a tamer, more extended fashion indoors, by brining the carcass in sump oil and feeding it into a purpose-built electric incinerator that is dedicated to this sole purpose. Not that this approach is entirely without pitfalls. In this case, the Orthodox Lament of the Bemoaning is modified, conducted in strict seclusion by a nominated family member, and heavy on the (NSFW) repetitious incantation of certain key words.

This sect fills the time that would otherwise be spent dancing gaily round the Ceremonial Pyre and gathering fragments of turkey flesh and shrapnel from nearby roofs and bushes by actually attempting to eat the smoking remains, which is just bizarre, and traditionally followed by an additional stage, the I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing Chorus, which can last hours, if not days. That’s a lot of oily incinerated flesh for anyone to manage, especially if you’re not blessed with the company of family for the holiday, so one of my compatriots has done his bit for fusion cooking by demonstrating how to prepare a delicious Thanksgiving Dinner for One à l’Ecosse (Includes Dessert).

On a related note, I hear they’re frying turkeys tonight over in DC. Whether there’ll be fireworks accompanied by ritual consumption of flesh, we’ll have to wait and see, but we’ll probably liveblog it just in case.

Posted by YAFB on 11/22/11 at 09:57 AM • Permalink

Categories: FoodI Don't Know Much About Art, But I Know What I LikePoliticsElection '12NuttersSkull HampersYouTubidity

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I’ve been frying turkeys for years. It’s really the best way to cook them.

As for safety, Shatner explains it the best.

I understand you folks Stateside have a sacred holiday coming up later this week.

My wife lived over there for a few years, Grasmere, Nottingham & Leicester.  One year she tried to “introduce” Thanksgiving to a few local friends.  It went okay, until she asked the local grocery store if they had any canned pumpkin for making pumpkin pie.  The grocer looked at her like she’d sprouted stalks, so she made a sweet potato pie instead.

Apparently, Shatner really did burn himself frying a turkey years ago. He also insisted on cooking the crew a turkey for this PSA.

The garbage man is one of my students.

Comment by Jewish Steel on 11/22/11 at 11:35 AM

The only thing I’ve ever used a (new, clean) turkey fryer for is to make beer (brew in a bag).  This is also when I learned that I never, ever want to brew again.

Deep fried turkey done right really is very good. I have only one relative who can pull it off in such a way as to make it memorable without a flaming disaster, though. Myself, I prefer roasting a brined turkey.

I’m askeered of deep frying even little stuff like french fries - would never have the nerve to try a turkey.  I do have a large covered charcoal grill and Turkey Day weather is usually fairly mild here so our tradition is to slow roast the bird over indirect coals. You add a few more coals every half hour or so when you baste it and throw some stalks of sage and rosemary from the garden on top of them to provide some herbal smoke.  It really is the best turkey ever and frees up the oven indoors for the other stuff.

I brine it ahead of time also too.  You do need to cook the stuffing in the oven instead of inside the bird but throwing some celery, onion and fresh herbs inside adds more flavor.

I’m with you Mar; boiling oil makes me exceedingly nervous. 

I must admit though that the first thing I thought of when the nice Scottish gentleman plopped those bars into the oil is “Gawd, what a hideous mess to clean up off the stove top, the walls, the ceiling, etc”.  Perhaps my fear of boiling oil is more accurately described as a fear of excessive kitchen cleaning drudgery.

I do it out in the back yard all the time. No muss, no fuss.

I grew up in, and have now returned to, western Washington, and so the tradition most familiar to me is the annual Thanksgiving power outage. I remember as a kid listening to the radio one Thanksgiving afternoon as people called in to ask what to do about their half-cooked turkey and thinking “well, what did you do last year when this happened?”

Only when I spent several years in Minnesota was I introduced to the annual burn-down-the-garage-while-deep-frying-a-turkey tradition.

Heh, I live in Snohomish and thought the power was going to go out last night.

The only problem I had with frying the turkey was the five gallons of leftover peanut oil. This is generally not a good thing to have around a family full of drunks.

I’d like to take this opportunity to dispel the pernicious myth that turkeys are so dumb they look up when it rains and consequently drown.

What happens is, they slip in the shower.

I put a brand new anemometer on the roof this weekend and was psyched for a wind storm.  7 gusting 16 was all I got all night though. Probably all those 60 ft trees surrounding the house ruining my fun.

Even when you’ve found a way to enjoy it, Seattle weather will do its best to screw you.

We do ham on Thanksgiving and Cornish Game Hens on Christmas. Just never have been much of a fan of turkey except sliced and on a sandwich. lol

Ha, just looked at the one where the cook dropped the turkey on the floor.  I have never done that, thank goodness, but I did once have a chicken enchilada casserole do the same thing.  With six people in the dining room waiting for it.  So I just scooped it back in the pan, threw some more cheese on top and served it.  What else are you gonna do?  And now I put a baking sheet under the pans for added stability. ;-)

I’ve been sentenced to accompanying my husband to a vegan Thanksgiving at a friend/co-worker’s home.  Oh joy. 

Actually, I’ve gone through this before and the fake turkey roast wasn’t bad as long as you weren’t expecting any meat-jollies from it; it wasn’t something I’d ever buy though. 

The problem I have everytime we get invited for a vegan dinner is that I’m hungry 2 hours later.

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