Don’t get me wrong: I love Thanksgiving. All things considered, it’s my favorite holiday; it’s much less stressful (and cheaper) than Christmas. But I won’t go so far as to say that it’s anxiety-free. While others are busy putting together posts listing what they’re thankful for, or perhaps railing against retailers that are opening their doors on Thanksgiving, I’m in The Zone. I’ve got a menu to plan, items to buy, ingredients to prep. Knives sharp? Check. Oven clean? Affirmative. Thankful? I don’t have time to be thankful. I have a feast to prepare.
I am the very model of the modern dad; I blog, I work from home, and I’m the family cook. This is both a boon and a curse to my wife, for every year I insist on having Thanksgiving dinner at our house. I come up with the usual reasons/excuses: too much of a hassle to make the drive up a car-jammed freeway with the kids and the dog to Los Angeles to spend the holiday with my in-laws, too expensive to fly to the midwest to spend the holiday with my parents. But the truth is this: when it comes to cooking that elusive Perfect Turkey, I have an obsession that ranks right up there with Ahab’s. The bird tasks me. And I shall have it. Every Thanksgiving I become a fixated jerk, a Gordon Ramsey in a Norman Rockwell painting. When my guests offer suggestions or help, I snarl at them. The children cower in fear. The dog whimpers in the corner. The kitchen becomes a No Man’s Land, and woe be to he (or she) that dares enter. Do you want juicy white meat and crackling skin? THEN STAY THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY. I’m on a mission, and the mission takes precedence over all.
And I love doing this, even though my only reward is ending up exhausted and caked with flour and gravy. When the meal’s finished, and I’m awash in the adulation of satisfied diners (and yes, even a hard-bitten cynic like me acknowledges the simple truth of cooking: the ability to prepare great meals for loved ones is a gift, as is the meal itself, and really, that’s why I cook), I can finally relax and have a well-earned beer. And make a mental note to use smoked paprika next year, because THAT would really make the turkey sing.