Thanksgiving, a day to reflect on what we are grateful for and to abide by time-honored traditions — whether it be mom’s apple pie, grandpa’s inappropriate jokes or an after-dinner football game — has come and gone.
For me, turkey day always seemed like the warm-up before Christmas. This is mostly, I think, because my parents always made the exact same meal for both holidays. I never really understood this, being a big fan of the Christmas ham myself.
Sure, there are small variations — swapping the Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole for my brother-in-law’s favorite twice-baked potatoes for Christmas, but it’s more or less the same meal. “Everyone just loves turkey so much though,” my mother has been known to say in response to my ham inquires.
Ah, OK. I mean, I do love turkey, it’s great, but so is a little variation, right?
Anyhow, I figured that once I had a family of my own, I would finally have a chance to do Christmas my way, ham and all. And it has been that way, most of the time. However, this year we visited my parents for Thanksgiving, which means my husband wasn’t able to fry his beloved turkey.
For anyone uninitiated to the idea of the fried turkey (basically, most of us Northerners), let me fill you in. For one, it’s not a giant piece of fried chicken in turkey form, like I had always imagined it to be and which always sounded totally gross. Rather, it’s quite tasty — juicy inside with a thin, crispy skin on the outside. Possibly for this reason, it really seems to attract the diehards. My husband learned the art of frying a turkey from his Uncle Ricky, a South Carolina native, and has been dedicated to the task ever since.
“Done improperly, it can be an extremely dangerous situation,” he lectures me every year as I feign interest while stuffing munchies in my face to stave off my pre-turkey appetite. “The turkey must never be frozen when it goes into the fryer or there could be an explosion, my preferred oil of choice is peanut and the oil must be maintained at just the right temperature as to produce a mouth-watering specimen of a bird,” and so on and so forth.
Usually as he’s saying this, he’s drinking a beer and slathering our naked bird with his prized ‘Cajun’ spices, lovingly dumping what appears to be about four pounds of seasonings on the thing. And, it always does come out incredible.
But, back to my original point — no fried turkey for hubby this year. I wondered how long it would take for him to bring up making the darn thing for Christmas, ousting my ham in the process. Sure enough, just days after deciding our Thanksgiving plans, he came sidling up to me one night.
“So, I was thinking,” he began in a well-rehearsed speech. “Since we won’t be here for Thanksgiving this year, I won’t get to make my fried turkey. And since Mom and Dad (my in-laws) are coming for Christmas, Dad will just be so disappointed if I don’t make one.”
“Your dad will be disappointed, or you will?” I said, stifling a laugh.
“Well…” came the reply.
In the end, I obliged him, putting aside my own beloved ham and smiling a little as he walked away with a big grin on his face.
Because when it comes down to it, being appreciative of the people in your life — including the ones willing to make you a fried turkey — and giving to others, even if it’s just a “poultry’ wish granted, is what Thanksgiving and Christmas is all about.