...and we're going to Turkey in the spring!
Adam, Lake Superior Provincial Park

The defining characteristic of 2018, for me, was that it was a long year. I say that because, seeing some of these “year in review” pieces that newspapers here put out, I can’t believe that all of the things happened in the same year. At the same time, it was a year in which I wasn’t able to do half of the things I wanted to: I have work I wish I had finished, and trips I had hoped to go on. But those are for 2019 now. One memorable thing about 2018 that I’d like to share with you is a story about how I learned about something completely new this year.

As you begin to make your way in the world, you start to develop your own way of doing things. Some are large changes - where you work or live, how you manage finances and relationships - and some are small: how you sweep the floor or make a sandwich. Along the way, you might realize that the way you grew up doing something is either weirdly inefficient or just plain weird, and you start doing it differently because hey, there’s no rule against it. Other times, you might realize that something that was absolutely taboo where you grew up is actually quite common: maybe you grew up in a slippers-in-the-house household only to emerge into a world where people wear socks, go barefoot, or even (shudder) keep their shoes on indoors.

 
Yummm... lamb!

Where am I going with this? Well, it turns out that 30 years after being born and more than a decade after leaving my parents’ house for (mostly) good, I found that I had been clinging to a piece of orthodoxy that I had never once questioned: that once a year, families in North America gather around the Thanksgiving table to feast on a bland, bland turkey. How did I know it was bland? Because my parents told me so. We enlightened folk ate roast lamb and scoffed at the bland-turkey eaters ignorantly scoffing their tasteless meals because they had never thought to do otherwise.

And yet, neither had I: I had eaten actual roast turkey maybe once in my life, and just accepted as the gospel truth that turkey was the food of the unwashed masses, who spent their days suffering under the yoke of unflavourful poultry. But how could I know that if I’d never tried it? I had to have a Thanksgiving turkey - no: I had to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.

 Ceci and Jorge
 

This realization was mostly triggered by the fact that we were preparing to host a major family visit over Thanksgiving - major for our family being anything over five people. Steph’s family had taken advantage of an airline sale earlier in the year and booked tickets for an October visit. They would be just in time to see the fall colours and the first nip of late-year cold. We hosted Miriam, Steph’s mother, Jorge, Miriam’s partner, and Ceci, a family friend, for a week at the beginning of October. Aside from our Thanksgiving escapades, they were able to tour the city, head to Niagara Falls and hike through a couple of nearby parks that were at peak fall during their visit. On one of their last days, I accompanied Ceci and Jorge up the CN Tower, which has changed quite a lot since my last visit umpteen years ago.

Anyway, back to the turkey: in preparing for the big day, Steph and I read probably dozens of recipes, watched and re-watched an embarrassing amount of YouTube videos to learn how to do something millions of people across the continent had been doing their entire lives. I won’t bore you with a long recipe, because I don’t think I can properly remember, what we did, but the general outline was this: first, don’t stuff the bird, except for a few sprigs of herbs and maybe a lemon slice or two; this helps the inside heat more evenly. Second, separate the skin from the breast (gross gross gross gross gross) and work in herb-butter between the skin and meat (supergross) to keep the meat moist and the skin crisp. Third, rather than putting the bird on a rack, place it on top of a bed of roughly-chopped carrots, celery, and onions, which will do the work of keeping it elevated above its drippings while also flavouring the said drippings. Add a cup or two of chicken stock, some garlic and the neck and giblets (again, gross) to the pan for more drippings-flavouring. Cook it uncovered for a bit, then cover it with foil for most of the time, then uncover it right at the end and it should cook well, evenly and not burn or dry out.

The croutons and la croutonniere 
Table, with turkey

The night itself went wonderfully. Nihal came down from Waterloo for the occasion, so we used every chair in the house and some borrowed cutlery to accommodate everyone. The meal itself is a blur, though I do remember Tim and I running back to the kitchen to hurriedly make the gravy between the soup and the main course. Tim also brought one of his famous apple pies with the apple slices all pointing the right way, as is tradition, while Meher contributed a salad with her famous croutons. That might sound like a minor thing, but it really made the meal.

Foolishly, there are a very limited number of pictures from the big day, and almost none of the cooking process, because I was very self-conscious of the result I would produce. But trust me: it was glorious. I hadn’t realized, however, just how enormous turkeys were! I thought that the whole “leftovers for a week” think was hyperbole, but even with Steph’s family over for the rest of the week, we struggled to eat the entire thing. I don’t know that I’d do it again for that reason, since I don’t often have reason to cook for 8 people. At the same time, it was good to discover that I had been wrong about something, even through simply not thinking about it.

 Everybody! (save one)
Some of the people

Wishing you all a glorious 2019!

 

Steph, Lake Superior Provincial Park

text and some images on this page are © S. Esquivel and A. K. Dickinson 2018

- - - Adam and Steph