Saturday, November 29, 2003

Thanksgiving favorites

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Pardon me, but do you happen to have a toothpick handy? I’ve got this wedge of Meleagris gallopavo caught in my teeth.

That’s turkey, bub.

This Thanksgiving, I had a great deal to be thankful for: I was thankful that my parents made a turkey and shared it with me. I was also thankful that I got to eat some of my in-laws’ turkey. And I was thankful that my wife and I could make our own turkey just for the hell of it, part of which is resting in peace in my refrigerator, covered in sage and rosemary.

I like the turkey. Turkey is definitely my favorite Thanksgiving food.

Just yesterday, after I had inserted a whole leftover drumstick into my mouth and pulled out the clean bone, I heard one of those not-quite-news news stories that claimed the average American eats 14 pounds of turkey every year.

Even though I like the turkey, I don’t eat much of it outside of the holiday season. I have turkey sandwiches and turkey burgers — but those don’t count, as far as I’m concerned. I mean the real deal, jack, with the drumsticks and wings and the plastic button in the chest.

So to be an average American, I have to eat 14 pounds of turkey at Thanksgiving alone.

Can I manage it?

Yes. Yes, I can.

After I read that, I peeked in my refrigerator. The turkey we made was 13 pounds. I did some quick math in my head: take away the bones, which are impossible to eat, no matter how hard I try. Now divide that by half, and I ate — what? A measly 5 pounds or something? No wonder why I’m starving for more leftovers.

Even if you add up all the turkey I ate at my parents’ house and with my in-laws, that’s only about 7 pounds or so.

I have some catching up to do. Anybody got a spare half-turkey lying around?

We have enough canned cranberry sauce to go with it. Since this was our first year including cranberry sauce in our meal, we stared at the can, occasionally poking it.

“Do you heat it up?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” my wife said.

Then she spotted the instructions on the side of the can.

“It tells you here how to take it out so that it keeps the shape of the can,” she said.

It’s true. There was even a diagram. With a snap of her wrist, a wave of her hand, and a hearty “Hi-yo Silver,” it slid into the dish with a gassy, rude noise. It was a rather slimy, purple, ridged blob.

“Perfect,” I said.

I’m not sure if there are statistics on the average American’s annual pumpkin pie consumption, but I probably exceed it. Without question, pumpkin pie is my favorite Thanksgiving food.

My taste for pumpkin pie is simply not logical. People just shouldn’t like a dessert as much as I like pumpkin pie — it’s not right.

In college, I had a roommate named Clint who liked the pumpkin pie as much as I did. One year, starting in September, we saved all the spare change we could. We dug through the couch cushions of the dorm’s common rooms. We reached through sewer grates, prospecting for nickels. We tipped freshmen upside down and shook them until their pocket change fell out.

When late November rolled around, we put our change in a pillowcase and took it to the bank. When the poor slob behind the counter finished tallying our total, we ended up with something like $12. We ran with it — literally, we ran — to the Star Market grocery store on Boylston Street in Boston. There, we spent the entire proceeds on pumpkin pie.

Four pumpkin pies.

For the next three days, all we ate was pumpkin pie. We had it for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, midnight snack and high tea. Only three fit in the mini-fridge, so we had to eat one right away.

This year, I’ve only eaten maybe one, if that — hardly enough.

I forgot about the stuffing.

Wait — stuffing is my favorite Thanksgiving food.

I don’t care if it’s inside the turkey or outside, as long as I’m eventually the one who ends up stuffed. I used to prefer Stove Top with crumbled chourico mixed into it. Lately, I have a new favorite. It’s a recipe from my wife’s family, made with three kinds of meat. Next year, I’ll try to sneak some chourico in there to make it four.

The stuffing makes a fantastic binding agent for my absolute favorite Thanksgiving food, Leftover Sandwiches. A Leftover Sandwich contains everything that was on the table between bread, with a little bit of gravy — my favorite part of any Thanksgiving meal — liberally drizzled on it.

Happily, we have a colossal pot of stuffing in the refrigerator, something like 10 pounds of it — more than enough to stuff a yak. It’s also the secret to our famous Roast Stuffed Yak recipe, which is, hands down, my favorite part of Thanksgiving.

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