Thanksgiving day has come and gone, but the memory of my undercooked, 10 pound bird has not. I began with the no-fail oven bags until I quickly discovered the bag had expanded, melting to the coils. Luckily I caught it right away, thanks to my handy dandy nose and the noxious fumes emitting from the oven vent. This is probably another reason not to use plastic. After rescuing the turkey, removing the bag, removing all racks (yes, my oven is that small), I switched to foil and voila! Or, so I had hoped. After repeated basting, thermometer probing, and foil applying and removal, I proudly set the perfectly golden main course on the kitchen counter to carve.
The breast was streaming clear juices and the meat white and moist, causing our mouths to water. Finally! It was time to eat. One bite later, I was getting the bird instead of eating it. I’m pretty sure meat should not be stringy and chewy. Maybe all those years as a vegetarian has messed up my kitchen mojo. Or perhaps I never had any?
Despite my constant desire to be the greatest chef my family has ever known, that dream has yet to come to fruition. I was raised eating a lot of not-so-good-for-you foods. With a family of 7 on two teacher’s salaries, the budget was tight. But I never felt deprived. I remember eating a lot of the same things over and over, and eating out at a restaurant was a rare treat. The cuts of meat we could afford probably led to my vegetarianism.
I love reading recipes and trying new things. I have to keep the dream alive. My boyfriend complains that I try to make all the good food too healthy, but if he had his choice we would eat hamburgers and fries almost every night. I’m a much more adventurous eater than he is, and it’s hard to find a good balance sometimes.
Thanksgiving reminded me to be thankful for the bounty we have. It allows for my experimentation, my successes and my fails. The majority of us are blessed living in the United States, and especially in Southern California. The plethora of fresh foods is unbelievable, thanks to our climate and proximity to Mexico. Farmers markets run year round and new restaurants are constantly being promoted. Thankfully, we have professional chefs that keep my taste buds inspired and my kitchen creativity in check.
As for the Thanksgiving turkey? There is always next year!
Contributed by Nanette Murray