Turkey Talk

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  Suze here wishing you all a most special day. I’m writing to you today from my cabin on a cliff in the north woods.  A woodfire is crackling in the stove, I’ve got a cup of hot perked coffee and a Pillsbury orange cinnamon roll in front of me (trust me, try these), and the surface of the lake below us is smooth as glass.

The view from my cabin window a couple of years ago

The air is quiet except for the occasional crack of a rifle off in the distance — it’s hunting season, after all, and while I love venison, I’m secretly rooting for the deer.  Soon the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will start.  We get one channel here, and this is the only time we ever watch television at camp.  (DVDs, yes. Television no.)    After that, we will head out to my mother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband, who bless him does the grocery shopping for our family (one of my most-hated chores), informed me that he wanted to buy a turducken for Thanksgiving.  For those unfamiliar with this not-quite-mythological beastie, a turducken is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey, all bones removed.

Rare Who roast beast? Nope, it's the elusive turducken!
Cool, right?  Sounded like fun.  Except he then proceeded to inform me that I should tell my mother not to make a turkey.  Let me just make sure you got that.  He wanted me to tell my mother not to make a turkey.  On Thanksgiving.

Now, of course he was right.  There would have been far, far too much food if both a turkey and a turducken were cooked.  But I dreaded this phone call and put it off as long as I could.  Who was I to mess with the centuries-old tradition of a big fat gobbler on Thanksgiving?  My ancestors came over on the Mayflower and lived in Plymouth.  Carried blunderbusses, wore buckled shoes and buckled hats, and had their unprepared English hineys saved from starvation by Squanto and Massasoit.  John Alden and Priscilla Mullins?

Miles Standish, Priscilla Mullins, and John Alden in a scene from "The Courtship of Miles Standish" by Suze's distant cousin, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
They’re my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents.  The turkey tradition runs deep, I tell you.

Finally, I dialed the phone and made the announcement.

There was a pause.  A long pause.  I chewed my bottom lip and pulled the phone away from my ear in a preemptive attempt to save my hearing when the explosion came.

“Turducken,” Mom said thoughtfully.  “You know, I was watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Channel a couple of weeks ago and Guy ate turducken.  That sounds like fun!  I won’t make a turkey.”

So I invite you this Thanksgiving day, in addition to counting your blessings, enjoying the time with your loved ones, and remembering the loved ones who are no longer with you, to do a couple of things:

  • Don’t be afraid to tell your mother stuff — she might surprise you; and
  • Examine your personal traditions and beliefs.  The ones you thought could never, ever be changed, for any reason.  What seems inviolable might just be . . . violable.  And it might be an opportunity for you to grow and for creativity to expand.

Or maybe that’s just your stomach growing and expanding after that last piece of pumpkin pie today!

Because you can never have too many cranberry recipes around the holidays, I’ll leave you with a no-longer-secret family recipe.  As far as I’m concerned, no Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is complete without Cranberry Relish.  My grandmother, Margarette, would haul out her giant metal food grinder, the kind that clamped to the table and was heavy enough to use as a weapon, and make this every year.  Now that we don’t have to work so hard for our food, we use a food processor.  Enjoy, and have a wonderful day!

MARGARETTE’S CRANBERRY RELISH*

  • One bag fresh whole cranberries (see Viv’s instructions for cleaning and inspecting these bouncy beauties)
  • One whole seedless orange, peel and all, chopped into a few pieces (an orange with seeds is fine as long as you remove them)
  • One whole apple (a green one is pretty, but any firm apple will do), cored and chopped into a few large pieces
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, depending on taste

This is best made the day ahead, or at least several hours before you want to serve it.  Fit up your food processor with the regular chopping blade.  Place all ingredients in the bowl, starting with the half cup of sugar (you can always add more later if it’s too tart).  Pulse everything until it’s in fine pieces, stopping short of pureeing the mixture.  Taste and add a bit more sugar if necessary, and serve in a clear glass bowl so you can admire the jewel-like colors.

Delicious with turkey, chicken, or even ham.  My favorite post-holiday leftover is a turkey, cheddar and cranberry relish sandwich.  Enjoy!

** To be fair, I don’t know where my grandmother got this recipe.  It could have been from her own mother, Gladys.  There may be some bickering going on among the angels right now over who should get the credit.  Love you still, girls!

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9 thoughts on “Turkey Talk”

  1. Fabulous post, Suze! You lucky girl to be waking up to nature in the north country this morning. I love your turducken story. Parents do surprise us, sometimes, don’t they?

    Since my husband does most, if not all of the cooking on Thanksgiving Day, I’ve had to let go of a lot of family traditions. We now have butternut squash instead of turnip, greenbean casserole or this wonderful creamed spinach casserole (depending on his mood), instead of my mom’s array of green and yellow veggies, and he gets very creative with stuffing, adding everything but the kitchen sink. Of course I make my cranberry-pear sauce and insist on black olives and the standard mashed potatoes. Even if this means I end up with mashing duties.

    I have to say that I’m really over the desire to make a fuss about holidays. Anytime he wants to play chef, I’m happy to let him at it. The food is always excellent, so this far outweighs my need to cling to tradition. The most important thing is being with family and friends. And yes, leftovers!

    1. You put olives in your mashed potatoes? WOW. I’m a firm believer that foods should not touch each other – even on Thanksgiving. When my dad has that forkful with turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce I have to avert my eyes. One thing at a time for me…and I would never mix…well anything into my mashed potatoes! :) Have a GREAT holiday!

    2. It’s so nice this time of year when there are no bugs! We saw a contingent of three bald eagles several times over the long weekend — two juveniles and one adult with the unmistakeable white head and tail, circling over the lake. Awe-inspiring!

  2. Ok…seriously? You are related to HW Longfellow? How did I not know this?!!!! Have a GREAT thanksgiving and you’ll have tell us all next week about the Turducken. I can’t wait to hear how it was!

    1. Yes, HWL is a cousin. Our common ancestor was Elizabeth Alden Pabodie, John and Priscilla’s daughter. I’m also related to the Roosevelts and Isaac Van Amburgh (the first man credited with putting his head in a lion’s mouth), as well as Revolutionary War General Nicholas Herkimer. Unfortunately, this stellar pedigree has not translated to inherited family wealth! Someday I will do a genealogy post, and we can all compare notes and see if we’re related!

  3. Phew! She took that rather well. I know you were worried. ;)

    I’m jealous of your cabin. That just seems like the perfect place to celebrate the holidays with family. Have a blessed one!

    1. She did take it well — but stay tuned for more on the turducken saga. And yes, my cabin is wonderful, if primitive. Wish we could spend more time there, but it’s so far away. Hope your TG was blessed too, Katy!

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