By Annis Pratt
Here comes Thanksgiving, with my annual Turkey Panic. Is there anyone else who has reached a ripe old age and, having prepared Thanksgiving dinner for what seems like eons, still gets her knickers in a twist over baking that great huge bird?
Illustration published in The Birmingham Eccentric, Nov 23 1992, by T. Graves
I have kept this picture for years, covered with scribbles and post-it notes. You would think memos like “14 lb took whole 5 hours,” “Use foil at browning time, not throughout,” “In at 9 done by 12.30 but too dry – baste more,” or “O.K., no problem – cooked in 4 hours,” would reassure me that I have lived through this before and will again, but I always confront some new worry.
There was the time my ten year old daughter opened the over so many times to baste the turkey that it took eight hours to cook. There was the time when I roasted it at home and brought it to my younger daughter’s apartment an hour’s drive away, only to find it stone cold and dried out on arrival. There was the year that my older daughter became a vegetarian because she didn’t want to eat anything that “had eyes and could look at me.” She was delighted with her Tofu Turkey, but the rest of us felt weirdly guilty feasting on our succulent bird. Then there was the time when my younger daughter ordered a complete dinner from Whole Foods because she would be coming home from the hospital with her new baby on Thanksgiving Day.
“Put your forks down,” declared my son-in-law, brandishing a ladybug he had found in the stuffing. “We can’t eat this!”
Thawing a frozen turkey was always problematic, so I decided to order a fresh one, only to find it icily solid, fore and aft. I telephoned the butcher in a panic. He told me to immerse it in lukewarm water for an hour and a half on each side; it felt like giving a bath to a wrinkled baby.
When the family is all at the table and we are saying grace at last, it is always, always worth it. In 2001, in spite of the enormous tragedy of 9/11 and my husband’s death the year before, our hearts were full of thanksgiving for two new arrivals in the family. My granddaughter had been born on September 18 and then, in October, my younger daughter and her husband underwent an arduous trip to Ukraine to bring my seven year old grandson safely home. The first time he saw a potato he wanted to peel it and cook it. He only spoke Russian, but it was clear to us that he had spent a lot of time in the orphanage kitchen.
He was puzzled by the turkey on his first American Thanksgiving, but wolfed down a big serving of the mashed potatoes he had prepared himself. Then, with an enormous grin, he realized that he could ask for more.
Although she grew up in New York City, Annis Pratt makes her home in the Midwest, where she taught English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for many years. In 1990 she threw her full professorship out the window to move to Michigan, where she is engaged in community activism and novel writing
Passionate about the environment and an enthusiastic sailor, canoeist and kayaker, she chose a genre where she could create compelling fiction about ecological degradation.
At 75 years old, she feels like she is in the second out of her ninth inning, having published the first volume of her historical fantasy trilogy when she was 73.
Blub: The Marshlanders and Fly Out of the Darkness are the first two volumes of The Marshlanders Trilogy, historical fantasies about the conflict between self-sustaining Marshland communities and Merchant Adventurers trying to drain their lands. These are page-turners about the conflict between people who respect their environment and developers who see it as a source of income.