Friday, November 12, 2010

the ever elusive turkey

Tomorrow, friends are having an early Thanksgiving celebration for 30 people. Last weekend, Tom volunteered me to cook the turkey.

Tomorrow, I will cook a turkey for 30 people. Four words for you: eff ee aye are. That's right: fear.

Lets be real: the turkey kind of makes the meal right? And so, if you're in charge of the turkey, you kind of have a big responsibility. If you bring a really terrible rendition of green bean casserole, its no big deal because people can slyly pass over it without anyone noticing. But have you ever heard anyone say: "no, I'll pass on the turkey this year." No! Unless they're vegetarian. But a carnivore just isn't going to pass on the turkey.

So I was nervous. Not to mention that one of our friends coming to the party is a chef. Like a real one. Not one who blogs about her silly mess up recipes during her free time, but one who went to chef school. And works with food. And teaches cooking classes. Plus, even non-chefs want to eat delicious turkey, and I feel its my duty to serve one.

Enter pressure, stage left.....

So I found this really great brining recipe last weekend, and thought: OK, I'll brine this turkey and it will come out great. However, you're supposed to brine a fresh turkey, not frozen. Do you know how hard it is to get a fresh turkey more than two weeks before Thanksgiving? Hard. Really hard. So I've been looking in a few places all week, and I can't find one. My chef friend didn't have one at the Whole Foods store he works at. Last night I thought I struck gold by trying out the DeKalb Farmers Market, but they won't get them until Saturday.

Get this y'all. I took a day of vacation today. I literally took a day off today because I have got to get this turkey going if I'm going to stick it in the oven tomorrow. And I'm past the point where I can just buy a frozen 25 pound turkey and thaw it by tomorrow. Really, I was feeling serious pressure this morning. I started calling every grocery store in town, and was repeatedly told no, no, no, no.

I was really starting to panic.

You know that song "Under Pressure" by Queen? That's kind of how I was feeling today. One of the stores was even playing it while I was on hold with their meat department. Coincidence? Clearly not.

Speaking of which, I've been meaning to share this video with y'all for a while. It went viral a month or so ago so you might have seen it, but if not you should watch. It really hit me straight in the heart, and I think you should experience it too. You need to listen to it because the words of the song make the video.

Powerful right?

So this morning I called the secretary at work and told her I needed to find a fresh turkey somewhere in the southeast and that I needed to take a vacation day to search one out. I explained my pressure, and how Tom very casually volunteered me without my consent. She thought it was all very hilarious, and I guess to an outsider it is.

Knowing that my straits were indeed very dire, I practiced my visualization exercise. Sound corny? Its not. Not when you are under real pressure. So I visualized that I would find a turkey today, and that it would be under two dollars a pound.

I started calling around. To every store I could think of. I was repeatedly told 'No' or that they were getting them in tomorrow. Or Monday. One Whole Foods about 3,000 miles from here had organic free range turkeys for 4.99 a pound, but gosh I've got to pay for my children's college in thirty years or something, and if you think I'm going to shell out that kind of cash for a bird you've gone plum crazy.

Three butcher shops, two Publix stores, six Whole Foods, one farmers market, and one Costco later, I was getting seriously stressed. Tears may or may not have been shed. OK they were. I'm not ashamed. "I have," I pouted to myself "quite possibly ruined Thanksgiving." I was so set on getting a fresh turkey for my brine that I never considered that I wouldn't get one and that it would be too late to get a frozen turkey.

Before losing myself to self-loathing, I decided to call a Trader Joe's across town. This was my friend Carrie's idea, and dang if that girl isn't a genius. I didn't have a lot of hope, mostly because Trader Joe's doesn't really even have a meat department, but when I called them up and asked about their turkeys the guy on the phone (Bob) says that yes they surely do have fresh turkeys, that they are already in brine, and that they've got a 28 pound one right now. I may have told Bob that I loved him, I'm not sure. I don't remember through all the happiness.

Of course after this conversation I had the intense panic that perhaps they only had one turkey in their store, so I hauled you-know-what right over there to lay claim. I walked in, and this is what I saw:

You know how in the movies a ray of sun comes down from the heavens and there are all kinds of angels Hallelujah-ing? That's what happened to me today. Thanksgiving? Saved. Assuming I can cook the darn thing.

Naturally I dug around through all the turkeys looking for the largest one I could find, but they only had a 20-pounder. Bob (yeah, phone Bob is also store Bob, and both of them were really helpful) went into the back and dug through all their boxes in the fridge until he found a 24-pound turkey (he must have been fibbing about that 28-pounder). Trader Joe's totally came through for me today, and I am all gladness about that.

Want to know the best part?

Operation Visualization was successful!! I paid 1.79 a pound, and the best price I had been quoted (for the turkeys coming into stores tomorrow) was 2.29 a pound!

When I got to the car I put the bird in the passenger seat.

I knew that the crazy had set in when I started to think about how funny it would be if I buckled it up. I was about to drive off when I realized that if I got in a crash this bird would become a projectile capable of killing a small army. So I buckled it up. I'm not even lying, I drove home the whole way like this:

The irony of the whole thing is that my turkey is already brined, so I don't even get to use that really cool brine recipe that was the inspiration for this wild goose turkey chase in the first place. That's OK, I'm pretty sure the TJs brine will be just fine.

So here are my pre-Thanksgiving thanks:

Thank you 24 pound turkey, for giving up your life for the enjoyment of a 30-person dinner.

Thank you Trader Joes, for coming through where every other store and butcher shop failed.

Thank you Tom, for signing me up to make a turkey for 30 people. I was scared, but I feel better now that the turkey is in my possession. And even though I think you should discuss these things with me beforehand (because lets be real: "we" are not cooking the turkey, even though "we" signed up), you are right: I do enjoy cooking, this is a good blog topic, and this will be a good experience.

And if any of you readers have turkey-cooking tips, please don't be bashful. Help a gal out.

Happy Friday!


  1. Wow. That was like a short story, not a blog post! I was feeling the pain right there with you as I was reading :) I'm so glad you found a fresh turkey! I hope your early Thanksgiving is wonderful tomorrow.

  2. Yeah I guess I got a little long-winded there!

  3. Oh sorry - that's not what I meant. I meant that is was like a mini thriller novel or something. Not too long at all, it just captured my interest so much and held me in suspense!

  4. I especially liked the seat belt picture. But seriously, I have heard of a turkey becomming a projectile and causing damage to the driver - really, I heard about it a couple years ago!


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