Freudian Slips: The Pampered Chef

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

November 25, 2004

The Pampered Chef

I may have bit off more than I can chew this Thanksgiving. Twenty salivating sit-down guests and a 34 pound fresh killed farm fed turkey. Anytime you tackle that many houseguests and a turkey that weighs half as much as your ten year old son, you should expect a fight on your hands. If this turkey didn't do steroids, the hens he ate for breakfast did.
I hear the alarm clock sound at 2am and tip-toe into my daughter Jenna's bedroom. I whisper in her ear to see if she still wants to help daddy make the homemade stuffing. The only one of the four kids who expressed a remote interest in becoming an assistant chef, Jenna is fast asleep. She is difficult to stir much like an uncooperative gravy. I nudge her. She is warm and cuddly. I almost want to say to hell with Thanksgiving dinner and just lay down next to her and drift back to sleep. Children can scramble priorities. Instead, I whisper kitchen chores in her ear fold.
“Uh-uh.” Jenna replies.
In kiddy talk, this meant not a chance, what are you kidding, at this hour, call me when it is ready. So I eased her bedroom door closed. The family needed their beauty sleep anyway. They are to rise early to go to the Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia, where a room has been reserved at the fabulous Four Seasons hotel so they can watch the parade festivities from a bird's eye view while I stay home by my lonesome. The Thanksgiving Day cook always reminded me of the designated driver on New Years Eve. Down the dark stairs, I shuffle. My nightly dose of Zyrtec adds an additional layer of film to my eyes. My mouth opens and closes. Yawning is as much a staple for a cook on Thanksgiving as is a turkey. I put on a pot of coffee and turn on a Peter Gabriel CD on the surround sound at volume 8 for anyone keeping score at home.
I cube a loaf and a half of the supermarket’s finest poultry bread and lay it out on the table to get crisp. My Iron Moto sized knife works with precision. An obsessive compulsive personality worries about each cube being the same size, even in the middle of the night. The food processor makes mincemeat out of the mounds of celery stalks and raw onions. The bagged beast squirms in the refrigerator upon realizing that I am getting the trimmings ready for his cremation ceremony. The smell of poultry seasoning mixes with the raw vegetables and melted butter in the frying pan. There may be no better smell on the planet. Chopped garlic, raisns, salt, and crushed black peppercorns are added. I wonder what Martha Stewart is doing right now.
As the ingredients simmer stovetop, I remove the beast from the refrigerator. Its weight is great. My paultry biceps flex hoisting the bird to the sink. I thrust my hand into the belly of the beast. It is cavernous and I consider grabbing a small flashlight for internal inspection. The beast swallows my arm up to my elbow before I can remove the guts. This is a necessary evil, which I suspect has made vegetarians out of millions. The neck bone is gigantic. I swing it around in my hand for dead of night frolic. For a second, the thought occurs to me that I bought an ostrich not a turkey. Nah, I throw the gizzard, kidney, testicles, and neck bone into a stock pot. Good thing everyone is sleeping. There is no denying that these internal organs and cold cadaver body parts are my ingredients for delicious full-bodied gravy. The slumbering family only wants the finished product so I will spare them the details until they read my Blog entry. I pamper the bird with a cold water shower in the sink. Next, I combine the stuffing mix with the cubed bread. Kneading of the hands produce a nice consistency for stuffing. I stuff the bird front and back and realize something for the first time in my life. The larger Tom turkeys sure have distinguished anatomical parts. Sadly, I can recognize everything and this may be why they say, “It always tastes better when you eat someone else’s food.” I hog tie the bird’s trapped doors shut with #2 twine available at any hardware store. Check local circulars for a store in your area. I coat the roasting pan with no-stick spray and slowly lift the beast into its metal coffin. One huge problem. The beowulf of turkeys is too big to fit in my only roasting pan. I slap wildly at the beast before calming my nerves. I take a step back and down a sip of my coffee. Peter Gabriel is singing “Red Rain” right about now. The floor above me is thankfully quiet. Nobody has witnessed me abusing a dead animal. I like to cook a turkey upside down, it seems to keep the meat more moist but this turkey didn't fit in my roasting pan upside down or right side up. I wedge him on his side and none too gracefully. In the melee, I may have broken one or two of his meaty legs, the size of a rolling pins. I put the roasting pan housing the beast on the floor, cover it with a metal lid, and actually stand on dinner. I thank God the family is asleep for this step. I hear a few animal bones break but I pay it no mind, it will taste good in the end as a first course, stovetop leftovers on Friday, and maybe even a little turkey salad by the weekend. Waste not want not. I heave the panned turkey into the burning oven. After a sinkful of dishes, I calculate that this turkey will need to cook all night and into Thanksgiving Day, and then cool for about an hour and a half before my electric carving knife gets to his bronzed skin.
Everything is proceeding as planned. I decide to write this Blog before retiring. I am pecking and pawing away at this entry when what is that I hear? The sound of the smoke alarm tells me time to start basting may be here.
I'll be back. Hold that thought.........................
Okay, I’m back at the keyboard. Basting couldn't have been further from the problem. The colossal bird escaped from its metal cage despite my standing order. Drippings caused a small grease fire but I quickly restored order. The ghost of Martha Stewart is alive and well. I still got twelve hours of cooking left. I got to wonder if this turkey is going to say "ouch" when I plung a meat thermometer into his heart come tomorrow. The blaring smoke alarms awoke my son but nobody else. Smoke surrounds us as I greeted him at the top of the staircase.
“What are you doing down there, Joe?” my stepson asked.
“Cooking Thanksgiving dinner.” I snicker Grinch-like.
“It smells like you are burning Thanksgiving dinner?” Jimmy tables.
In raising kids, their sarcasm can come at all hours with no time off for good behavior. I convince Jimmy there is no real fire or practice fire drill. I tell him I am smoking the turkey this year and encourage him to go back to bed. Talk about a smokescreen! I stay up another hour as a precaution. It is now 5am and the sun has yet to give thought to rising. A strange car pulls up to the front of the house. From the library window, I watch a man get out of the car. I realize my Blog has moved to the present tense. “What is he doing?” I wonder.
I hear a loud thud against the front door. The sound startles me. I had just turned off the house alarm to open the windows to fumigate the first floor. Burglars scare me more than grease fires, apparently. Alas, it’s only the paperboy delivering the morning paper in what looks like an older model Ford Taurus. I guess he is not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year.
This Renaissance man in a full length apron goes up the winding staircase to his bed for a catnap. Thanksgiving is for the birds! I still have to make the homemade cranberry sauce, three other starches besides the stuffing, and four vegetables, but what are holidays for. The side dishes will be for another day. I need some shut eye. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



Blogger PaxRomano said...

Wonderful story, Joe. Read it aloud to Whatshisname and we were both laughing.

Anyway, I am impressed by your cooking skills so here's the deal; I am hosting Xmas Eve at my place this year. How much do you charge for catering services?

8:13 PM  

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