Ten Turkey Mishaps by Jannalee Rosner, The Food Dish

Golden Roasted Turkey in the oven with a meat thermometer. Turkey, roasted, thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, Holidays, Meat Thermometer, oven, cooking, restaurants, food, dinner,  poultry, cooking, stuffing, golden, cuisine

Golden Roasted Turkey in the oven with a meat thermometer. Turkey, roasted, thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, Holidays, Meat Thermometer, oven, cooking, restaurants, food, dinner, poultry, cooking, stuffing, golden, cuisine

As amateur cooks across the nation try to take on turkey, things don’t always end in golden brown deliciousness. That’s why in November of 1981, Butterball gathered their first force of six home economists to answer what turned out to be 11,000 turkey-related questions. Today the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line® now utilizes over 50 experts including Spanish speakers and men – a first this year – to answer more than 100,000 questions from distressed turkey chefs and chefs-in-training around the world.
Here are just a few quirky questions that the turkey hotline experts at 1-800-BUTTERBALL have fielded over the years:

Thawing:

• One caller asked if, after storing her turkey outside in colder than 40˚ F weather, it would be safe to eat. Unfortunately, an unexpected storm blew through and the turkey was lost in 10 inches of snow!

• Some callers have come up with very creative—and questionable—methods of defrosting the fowl, asking the Butterball experts if it’s safe to do so with an electric blanket, in the aquarium with the tropical fish, or even in the tub with their children!

• Hotline experts kindly explained to one caller that fresh turkey does not need to be thawed.
Preparation

• A few callers have learned that chainsaw oil and bleach do not a safe and edible turkey make! Brining your turkey in the washing machine is also a questionable sanitary move.

• Some callers are on the prowl for the best way to prepare a turkey for a vegetarian.

Cooking
• A new bride was concerned that her turkey would expand while cooking and get stuck in the oven. She was pleased to find out that Mr. Tom would actually shrink, if only a little.

• One truck driver was curious if he could cook his turkey on the engine block of his semi while he was driving. Even better, would faster driving mean faster cooking?

• More than once the folks at Butterball have answered calls from people in peril, asking the all-important question: “What do I do if my turkey is on fire?” The answer? Call 911.

And the crowning calls:

A woman rang the hotline in a panic because her Chihuahua had plunged itself into the turkey, and she couldn’t get it out! After trying to pull on the dog and shake the turkey to get him to fall out, she was advised to widen the hole the pooch had climbed in through and was then able to rescue him.
• Last, but definitely not least, “If I put my phone in the turkey, can you tell me if it’s done?”

They were unable to help this hopeful caller, though it wouldn’t be surprising if someday in the near future these experienced experts could tell a turkey’s tenderness over the telephone!

Our Finest Christmas Tree Tradition

I am the product of a mixed marriage. Mother embraced Christmas with all the enthusiasm of a four-year-old while Daddy had to be pulled, kicking and fighting into the season, dreading the ruckus and expense. Mother felt the Christmas tree had to be up no later than December 18, to get maximum joy from it. Daddy dawdled around as long as possible, insisting December 22 was the earliest it could go up. He always put it off until Mother was about to blow a gasket.

Finally, he’d hook the trailer to his old tractor, fetch his power saw and call us to all pile on for the search. We’d bump over rutted farm trails, hanging on for dear life. Mother and Phyllis would be clinging to the little ones while Mother yelled for Daddy to take it slow. Daddy had plenty of kids and assured Mother we were having a great time as we clutched the rails. Most of the time we were. Before long, we’d be combing through several groves while Daddy rejected tree after tree. Finally, he’d steer us toward the one he’d earmarked weeks or months earlier.

The roar of his power saw signaled the fall of the tree. Sometimes, Mother wouldn’t be quite satisfied and would bring home an extra, which she wired together with the first to make it fuller.

Eventually, the tree trimming was complete, every ball, string of tinsel, and special ornament in place. Mother garnished it with shimmering fiberglass angel hair. Every year when the lights came on, we oohed and ah’ed our gorgeous tree, assuring ourselves that this year’s was the most beautiful we’d ever had.

The Heartbreaking Tale of the Post-Mortem Fruitcake

Egyptian archaeologists discover the world's oldest fruitcake.

Christmas revolved around fruitcake.  Mother pinched pennies for weeks to buy the candied fruit and nuts required to bake the perfect fruitcake.  On December 22, everything else was in readiness for FRUITCAKE baking.  She chopped the nuts, candied fruit, brought out her spices  and pulled out her time honored recipe for the perfect fruitcake which only graced our table during the Christmas Season.  Baking the fruitcake was a sacred tradition, which we looked forward to it simply because it meant Christmas was almost here.  The eating of the cake was irrelevant.  The tradition was what mattered.

My maternal grandmother died December 16, 1964.  We were all devastated. She was the indulgent figure in out lives. Her rare visits had a holiday quality.  Her gifts were provided a few luxuries in our lives  I couldn’t imagine life without her.  She had mailed her Christmas gifts to us on the morning before she died in the night..  It arrived two or three days after her funeral.  It was a macabre feeling, being anxious to find out what she’d sent, knowing she was in her grave.

In the way of kids everywhere, we rallied and had a wonderful Christmas.  The gifts had special meaning, knowing they’d be the last.  I still have a tiny jewelry box from that year.  My poor brother managed to turn this sad situation into a mess.  Grandma had included a small fruit cake in a red tin box.  Mother put it up, intending to serve it on a special occasion.  Naturally, this fruitcake from her mother was elevated to the sacred.  Well, my brother Bill must have had a special occasion of his own.  Mother found the empty fruitcake tin hidden in his room, not a crumb left.

She was furious!  He had eaten her dead mother’s fruitcake……….the last gift she’d ever sent.  He lived to regret his theft.  She didn’t let him forget it for weeks, getting weepy every time she saw the shiny red box, sitting in a place of honor on the table. She keeps buttons and thread in that box till today.

This is probably the only documented story of anyone ever actually eating, much less stealing a fruitcake!

Santa’s Finest Moment

imageOne year when my son was in high school he was especially full of himself. I snagged him to help decorate. Making no complaints, he offered to do the mantel, using the traditional garland, candles, sleigh and elves, paying careful attention to his Grandma’s hand-made Santa, the special centerpiece she always looked for. His enthusiasm was refreshing. The extended family had gathered, and of, was admiring Grandma’s lovely Santa gracing the mantel yet another year. That’s when it became apparent he’d made especially, good use of a giant red and white striped candy cane, enhancing Santa’s holiday charm. I hope he has five boys just like himself!

Twelve Days of Christmas, a Letter

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Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 14 Dearest John:
I went to the door today and the postman delivered a Partridge in a Pear Tree. What a thoroughly delightful gift! I couldn’t have been more surprised. With deepest love and devotion, Agnes
Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 15 Dearest John:
Today the postman brought your very sweet gift. Just imagine – Two Turtle Doves! I’m just delighted at your very thoughtful gift. They are just adorable. All my love, Agnes
Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 16 Dearest John: Oh, aren’t you the extravagant one! Now I really must protest. I don’t deserve such generosity – Three French Hens! They are just delightful, but I must insist, you’ve been too kind. Love, Agnes
Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 17 Dearest John:
Today the postman delivered Four Calling Birds. Now really, you’re being too romantic. They are beautiful, but don’t you think that enough is enough? Affectionately, Agnes Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 18 Dearest John:
What a surprise! Today the postman delivered Five Golden Rings – one for each finger. You’re just impossible, but I love it. Frankly, all those birds squawking were beginning to get on my nerves. Love, Agnes Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 19 Dear John: When I opened the door, there were actually Six Geese-A-Laying on my front steps. So you’re back to the birds again, huh? Those geese are huge. Where will I keep them? The neighbors are complaining and I can’t sleep through the racket. Please stop. Cordially, Agnes
Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 20 John: What’s with you and those f**king birds? Seven Swans-A-Swimming! What kind of a godd*mn joke is this? There’s bird sh*t all over the house and they never stop with the racket. I can’t sleep at night and I’m a nervous wreck – it’s not funny. So stop with those f**king birds! Sincerely, Agnes Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 21 OK Buster!
I think I prefer the birds. What the hell am I going to do with 8 Maids a Milking? It’s not enough with all these birds and maids a milking, but they had to bring their godd*mn cows! There’s sh*t all over the lawn and I can’t move in my own house. Just lay off me, smartass! Agnes
Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 22 Hey Shithead:
What are you, some kind of sadist? Now there are nine Pipers Piping! And Christ do they play! They haven’t stopped chasing those maids since they got here. The cows are getting upset and they’re stepping all over those screeching birds. What am I going to do? The neighbors have started a petition to evict me! You’ll get yours! Agnes
Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 23 You Rotten Prick!
Now there’s Ten Ladies Dancing. I don’t know why I call those sluts ladies. They’ve been balling those pipers all night long. The cows can’t sleep and they’ve got diarrhea. My living room is a river of sh*t. The commissioner of buildings has subpoenaed me to give cause why the building shouldn’t be condemned. I’m siccing the police on you. One who means it!!
Miss Agnes McHolstein
69 Cash Avenue
Beaver Meadow, Col.
December 24 Listen Fuckhead:
What’s with the Eleven Lords a Leaping on those Maids and Ladies? Some of those broads will never walk again. Those pipers ran through the maids and have been committing sodomy with the cows! All 23 birds are dead, they’ve been trampled to death in the orgy. I hope you’re satisfied, you vicious, rotten swine. Your sworn enemy, Agnes Law Offices
Badger, Bender & Cajole
303 Knave Street
Chicago, Ill.
December 25 Dear Sir:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your latest gift of the Twelve Drummers Drumming, which you have seen fit to inflict upon our client, Miss Agnes McHolstein. The destruction, of course, was total. All future cor-respondence should be sent to our attention. If you should attempt to contact Miss McHolstein at Happy Dale Sanitarium, the attendants have instructions to shoot on sight! With this letter you will find attached a warrant for your arrest. Cordially, Badger, Bender & Cajole

How to gift the Finest

imageThe most thrilling Christmas gift I ever got was a red wooden rocking horse, named Rocky. I was so excited Christmas Eve I woke up half a dozen times asking if it was time to get up yet. Finally, about four o’clock, Mother and Daddy gave up the battle. We had to stay in our rooms for eons till Mother got coffee made. When she and Daddy were finally settled in the living room, they let us come in to see what Santa had brought. The tree, lights shimmering beneath the angel hair was breathtaking. Off to one side sat my red rocking horse! It was really bouncing horse on springs. I must have bounced ten-thousand miles on Rocky, the frame jumping off the floor till Mother couldn’t stand the racket and slowed me down.

Santa also brought me some other gifts. I was delighted to see the biggest box of all was for me unfortunately containing a tea set. I was initially disgusted, but later found the plates and cups very useful in my construction projects, excellent for scooping mud and sand for road building. The tea pot came in handy for irrigation. Despite my insistence that I didn’t want one, Santa just couldn’t get it through his head that I really, really hated baby dolls. This year’s model was a hard plastic life-size doll with molded hair. I hated it on sight. The icing on the cake was opening my grandma’s gift and finding her twin. There’s nothing better than two of something you hate! I was worldly enough by this time not to announce to the world that I hated dolls as I opened them, so I am here to tell the tale

Billy got the obligatory cap pistols, holster, and hat. I tried to work up a trade for my twin babies, pointing out we could hang them, then have fine funerals. I almost had him convinced till Daddy heard me trying to get his boy to swap guns for baby dolls and …………..well, it didn’t happen. Phyllis got a fine pogo stick, which worked just great till she wore out the stopper on the end. After that, she hopped around punching holes in the yard till she hit a soft spot and buried up. That could be fun, too.

It was a fine Christmas. Thanks Santa, Mother, and Daddy. Oh yes, except for that stupid tea set and baby doll. I told you I didn’t want one!

Fleas Go Home for Christmas, Willie Tharpe, Part 2

imageEven Daddy, determined to be the “Man of the House,” found it hard to defend Willie Tharpe after Willie set the bed on fire, sneaked the dogs in the house, and left us with a maddening infestation of fleas that Christmas. Though he never acknowledged his embarrassment, Daddy never invited Willie to sleep in the house again. Periodically, Willie would drop by for a visit or to see if Daddy had any work for him. Daddy usually scrapped up a job that earned him a few dollars and didn’t qualify as a handout. Willie was way past ninety when I knew him. A Choctaw Indian born in Florida, he told a story of shooting his step-daddy with a shotgun when he was only nine to stop him from beating his mother. The pair hurriedly buried the body. His mama helped him pack a few things in a goat-cart, for his escape. Willie fled Florida, making his way west till he reached Dorcheat Bayou in Northwest Louisiana. Dorcheat looked so much like home, he settled.

He made his living as a mule-skinner, working a team of mules in the timber. He was known for his expertise with a bullwhip. The object of the whip was never to hit animals, just to direct them by cracking it near their heads. Willie Tharpe had made occasional appearances during all during Daddy’s hardscrabble childhood his gifts of game and food earning the family’s everlasting gratitude. Sometimes he’d hang around a few days to fix the roof, butcher a pig, or help put in a crop. Willie Tharpe, with his gifts, fascinating stories, must have been a God-send to Daddy’s family enduring grinding poverty, near-starvation, and hopelessness after his mother was left a widow with seven young children.

Willie lived in the pre-cursor of the RV, a shack he could hoist onto his 1949 Ford Truck and move whenever he chose. The next December, during an ice-storm just before Christmas Daddy decided that he and Billy needed to check on Willie. They found his ancient truck/shack parked on the banks of Dorcheat Bayou. Knowing there wouldn’t be any heat in the shack, he feared finding Willie dead in the twenty degree weather. He strode up and banged on the door of the shack. No answer. He opened the door, a bit and called out, “Hey! Uncle Willie! Are you okay in there?”

“Uhhhh! Come on in!” About a dozen dogs lunged at him from beneath a mass of covers, desperate to get at Daddy and Billy. A naked Willie, waving his trusty shotgun followed them, cursing and swatting the dogs intent of killing the intruder.

Willie struggled into his “overhalls” and other rancid clothes while Daddy made a campfire and coffee. They visited a while. Willie planned to spend Christmas that year with Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel. Satisfied that Willie hadn’t frozen and had expectations of shelter and hospitality for Christmas, Daddy complacently went on his way. I don’t believe he could have said the same had he tried bringing Willie home for Christmas a second time.

Uncle Albert lived in what would now be called a rustic cabin. Back then, it looked like conglomeration of two old houses it actually was. The front part was log, the back still unfinished graying lumber. The front room was a bed-sitting room with a fireplace whose hearth extended out into the floor. A large bedroom and kitchen completed the house, with the obligatory porch stretching across the front. They drew their water from a well and enjoyed an outdoor toilet. They’d lately upgraded and gotten electrical power, which greatly enhanced their lives. Someone had given them an old TV. It was now the center of their lives.

Willie was ensconced in the living room. He was “down in his back” and chose to sleep sitting up in a rocking chair in front of the dying fire. The dogs specifically invited not to sleep in the house, were unhappily sleeping without Willie, a very upsetting situation for them. They set up a ruckus a few times, requiring Willie to curse loudly at them and pound on the shack.

Hopefully, settled for Christmas Eve, Willie wrapped in his quilt and dozed restlessly in front of the fire, uneasy without the protection of his dogs. Not a great believer in “Peace on Earth,” he’d concealed his pistol handily beneath the quilts. After some time, Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel, snoring away in their bedroom, were awakened by a hail of blasts. “POW! POW! POW!” Willie was firing at the walls and cursing furiously! His hosts dropped to the floor in their bedroom. Uncle Albert shouted through the door, afraid to come out till the gun was empty.

“Willie! Willie! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! You’re in the house! Don’t shoot!” Satisfied Willie was awake, he finally ventured out. The room was a shambles! Bullet peppered the walls and blown out the screen of their precious TV. “What in the hell happened in here, Willie?”

Willie didn’t have a politically bone in his body. “Oh, them G—- Damned %^#$%&*s was a’stealin’ my gas an’ I blowed ‘em to Hell!”

The Most Appreciated Cards of the Season