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November 25, 2010

Getting the Bird on Thanksgiving

By  Elaine Viets                Large roast turkey

Only the head of the family could carve the Thanksgiving turkey.

The reigning woman got the honor of cooking dinner for a dozen or more people.

We kids got to eat the food if we followed strict instructions: No talking with our mouths full, no elbows on the table, and no white meat until all the grownups were served.

We kids loved turkey breast, but my family had a strict hierarchy for turkey eating:

Dad got a whole turkey leg, and didn’t have to share.

Grandma got the turkey tail, known in our Catholic family as the Pope’s nose.

The other adults got the white meat.

We kids ate the dark meat, thighs and wings until the adults were served. Then we could have the remaining white meat – usually small slivers. This was before factory farms produced birds so breast-heavy they could hardly stand.

While he carved, Grandpa tried to remedy this inequity. He would cut a thick slice of breast meat, place it on the table and say, "Oops, I dropped it!" He made sure he dropped enough turkey breast for all seven grandchildren, unless Mom caught him and made him stop.

Butterball But one glorious Thanksgiving, Grandma popped for a Butterball turkey, the last word in white meat. We all admired this Dolly Parton of poultry. It was big-breasted, just like the ads said.

"Now everyone can have white meat," Grandma said.

By three p.m., the turkey was roasted to a golden brown. Grandma set it on the kitchen table to cool, while Grandpa sharpened the carving knife.

Grandma whipped the mashed potatoes, beating in thick dollops of butter and cream.Mashed potatoes

The dining room table had been set with a lace tablecloth. Grandma’s good crystal, silver and china made their annual appearance. A folding table was set up for the grandkids. We ate off everyday china, but had a real tablecloth.

Grandpa started carving in the kitchen. He cut through the crisp brown skin and turkey juice oozed out. My mouth watered. He cut off a generous slice of white meat and said, "Oops! I dropped it!"

A small hand snaked out and snabbed the white meat. We ate in order, littlest first, oldest last.

Cranberry sauce Meanwhile, my mother and aunt set out the green bean casserole topped with French’s dried onion rings, lima beans embedded in cheese sauce, creamed cauliflower, sage dressing and jellied cranberry sauce. I thought the lines from the can showed where to cut it.

Grandpa was still carving the turkey. "Oops, I dropped it," he said, and another slice reached a hungry young mouth.

My aunt set out real butter in a crystal dish and more butter for the kids’ table. Normally, we had to eat margarine. Butter was reserved for the refined adult palate.

"Oops, I dropped it," Grandpa said again. And again. I’d had two slices so far and was waiting for a third.

Mom found the bottle of Mogen David in the back of the fridge, where it had chilled since last Thanksgiving. That was the only wine Grandma served. A new bottle of Durkee’s was waiting for sandwiches later.

Grandpa was still "dropping" turkey slices for the grandkids while Mom and my aunt filled jillions of cut-glass dishes with green tomato relish, bread-and-butter pickles, cha-cha, grape jam, strawberry jelly and homemade apple butter. Grandma had spent her summers helping out at her uncle’s farm in Tennessee. She still cooked like her guests had just plowed the back forty.

My father and uncle were busy arguing about politics (my uncle had left the family religion and voted Republican).

"Oops! I dropped one," my grandfather said. By this time, I’d had four slices and was waiting for a fifth round

Gravy The gravy was poured into the boat. The mountain of mashed potatoes had a butter river flowing down its sides. The table sparkled with crystal, china and cut glass. Serving spoons were at the ready. Pies were cooling on racks.

"Dinner is served," Grandma said. "Bring in the turkey."

Grandpa carried in the huge platter. On it were two turkey legs, two wings, two thighs, the turkey tail and a pathetic mound of white meat.

"I don’t know what happened to the white meat," he said.

The disgruntled adults picked at the remaining white meat. We kids were truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!



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Come have turkey with us, Elaine. The white meat is the last to go and usually what winds up in pot pies because we like the dark meat much better. Your granddad sounds like my father-in-law, who used to swallow the knife before carving. Or so the wide-eyed grandchildren thought as it disappeared down his shirtsleeve instead of down his throat as it appeared.

Happy Thanksgiving all my American friends!

I love turkey thigh and wings so I never fought for the white meat but I did like the crispy skin over the breast.

Have a great day and meal to all of you.

I love your memory Elaine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

My favorite turkey is the sandwiches on Friday!

Now that's a fun Grandpa. A very nice memory, Elaine.

I'm with Kathy--best part are the Friday sammiches. White meat on white bread with white mayo. Yum. Some people like to add a slice of cranberry sauce to the sammich, but I suspect those people are communists.

Happy Thanksgiving to TLC!

What an absolutely beautiful story, Elaine..:) Sounds like your grandfather was one of a kind...:)

I'm a ham guy. Slow roasted, glazed with repeated applications of Grandma's Secret (a mixture of French's mustard with a touch of brown sugar). No cloves stuck in the top. Tossed salad, cole slaw, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple pie with a chunk of cheddar. Mix in favorite relatives, and Life Is Good.

Game Plan Today: Eat until borderline comatose, use remaining energy to move to patio, light cigar, puff until unconsciousness sets in...:)

The simple plans are the best, and the cliche is true: "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Happy Thanksgiving One and All!

Oh, the cigars! Yes, William, that detail added to Elaine's memories of grandfathers. Back in the day, my mother allowed all the men to smoke post-pradial cigars in her house. I wonder if that ever happens anymore?

Enjoy the day, everyone!

A part of our day today will be listening to Alice's Restaurant and reading a well worn copy of an old column from the post-disgrace, "Two Thanksgiving Dinners" by Elaine Viets.

Have a good day everybody.

What wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing them. This sort of meal with family is what Thanksgiving is all about.

SO, so great Elaine, thank you!

And happy turkey to all...

Love all the memories--and yes, the leftovers are my favorite part, too. We basically make open-faced sandwiches ( a piece of toast with turkey, dressing and gravy all piled on top. Or, if you're my sons, mashed potatoes added between the turkey and dressing). Pie for breakfast on Friday.

I'm already counting down to when I can eat that crispy hunk of turkey skin, diet be damned.

And in 30 minutes I get to go pick up my older son from the airport -- he hasn't been home since Easter!

Aw, I love your story, Elaine. Thank you.

Ramona, lol!

Judy, you must be thrilled. I am, for you!

Happy Left-Overs Eve, Everybody!

Judy, that's lovely for you, and for him, I'm sure.

Elaine, I'm half in love with your grandpa. What a great guy he must have been.

One wild turkey is smoking in the Weber; the other one will go in the oven shortly. We made the pies yesterday: pumpkin, chocolate bourbon pecan, and wild blackberry (berries I picked at our farm this past summer). There will be 12-15 of us at dinner. You never know around here.

Thanksgiving Day here has a different tradition. The oldest running race in America happens in Cincinnati, 6.2 miles, and all three of my girls, plus their significant others if in town, try to run it. I dropped the youngest two and one boyfriend off this morning; my son-in-law was already downtown after celebrating my oldest daughter's 40th birthday last night. We were out until 2 AM, and I was the designated driver. The girls rode the bull, and we closed down two bars. I'm exhausted. LOL

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May your tables be laden with food prepared with love, and surrounded by those who love you best.

I loved your Thanksgiving memories. Everyones.
My 12 hour day will be spent at work, in our local ICU. I get a free turkey lunch with all the trimmings. I'm leary about eating too much because they frown on afternoon naps! My hubby will be coming up to the hospital to eat with me so I am thankful for no cleanup when I get home.
Tonight I plan to go to bed early so I can get up early and hit Walmart before I go to work at 0700. Happy Thanksgiving All!

Great post, Elaine. So interesting to hear about family traditions. I was an only child and was always served first with whatever I wanted. I do the same for my children and my husband whose family was much stricter was firstly surprised to see this.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

A lovely story, Elaine!

Getting together with family today.
Here's hoping that everyone has a great Thanksgiving Day! Thanks to all the beautiful TLC people who have made it such a beautiful year.

Thank you, Kellee, and the other people who work this Thanksgiving so we can enjoy ourselves.
Yes, Nancy M., Grandpa smoked Dutch Masters cigars. I actually like the smell of cigar smoke.

Great story Elaine I can picture the gathering. I can definitely identify with being at the kid's table.

My mom always had ham and turkey with all the side dishes and made everyone's favorite pie. At mom's funeral my niece's husband said he knew he was part of the family when mom made sure she had baked his favorite pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I'll be doing the thing I do best - taking the wine to dinner with friends.

It was a big day when we got to graduate from the kid's table to the dining room table.
My favorite Thanksgiving pie is still pumpkin and mincemeat, though it was made with raisins and apples,not real meat.

Cherry was my favorite although they were all so good I rarely ate just one kind. I never cared for mincemeat though.

It definitely was exciting to graduate to the dining room table. I was the "baby" with siblings who were 13, 15 & 17 when I was born so I always ate with the grandkids. It really was a big deal when I was old enough to be at the table with my brothers and sister.

I love your grandpa, Elaine! Reminds me of my mischievous dad and our Uncle Don, fun and funny!!
We used to joke that my grandma, mother of seven, who served herself last, had eaten the necks and wings of fried chicken so often that she really believed they were her favorites.
Alan, any chance that you'd share that vintage column? I'm just guessing that the P-D will not be publishing a compilation of Elaine's columns anytime soon, though perhaps I should ask them??

Elaine, at our house we try to mix the kids and the adults. I feel very strongly that children should learn early to converse confidently at the dinner table with adults. It's more fun for everyone, I think.

I stand corrected: Grandma's "favorites" were the necks and backs of chickens . . . Poor Grandma! It's a good thing there were always plenty of her good rolls and mashed potatoes!

Thankful for having this lovely group in my life! . . . and the friends I'll be joining for the meal, friendship formed in the waiting room of Dr. Cannon, our allergist (there's a silver lining!) My P.T. Mara had me put in a bid for her for TLC books in the Y auction, as well as donating a myo-fascial body work session -- silver linings all over the place!!
Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you all eat well, laugh much, and enjoy the day. Thank you for being so entertaining, and sharing your memories. I'm already full, and I haven't eaten yet.

Mary, you can read my old columns in a book called "Urban Affairs." The library should have it, or you might get it cheap secondhand.

Just learned that Rita Scott, our joyously crazy friend, died suddenly of a heart attack. Waiting to hear more as the news develops. Got the call from Tom Barclay and Mary Lynn Reed.
We are so sorry. Rita was tough and funny and kept going no matter what.
The world will be a duller place without you, Rita.

Oh, Elaine - so sweet. Thank you. And "... jellied cranberry sauce. I thought the lines from the can showed where to cut it." Me too! :)

Just got off the phone with my "Auntie Mom" and enjoying the happy noise of a room full of deaf men watching the Patriots beat Detroit.

I was raised mostly in Catholic homes but never heard of "the pope's nose." Hilarious! I'll have to ask Auntie Mom.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
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Oh well... so much for ascii text on TLC. :)

Elaine, such sad news!!

I enjoyed Rita's posts. May her soul rest in peace.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We grow up battling for white meat, too...and my nother told us the best whte meat was "really dry." She said that's what "made it good." So we all grew up thinking so.

It wasn't til we were alll grown up that we realized...


Oh,what sad news. I'm so sorry to hear this.

Oh, I am so sorry to hear about Rita Scott. I did'nt see your message before I posted mine above. Really sad. Very sad.

Oh no! I'm sorry to hear about Rita. I enjoyed her posts here. I hope she and her family can find peace.

So sorry to hear about Rita, her 'voice' will be missed here.

They don't make 'em like Rita anymore. Farewell.

Oh, no. Rita was such a funny, wry voice, and had a quirky take on almost everything. She will be greatly missed.

Elaine, Mary Lynn, Tom, and Mary: Please accept my condolences on the loss of your friend.

I saw Elaine's facebook post about Rita and I had to come here to see if anyone knew what happened. I have a picture of Storyteller Mary, Rita, Elaine, and me at a book signing here in St. Louis. She was hilarious and told me silly stories the whole time.

RIP, my friend. You will be greatly missed by everyone.

Gone too soon. We'll miss her humor . . . Elaine's cat will miss the catnip . . .

I just realized that her FB photo is the one from the books signing, to which Pam just referred and which I just sent to Elaine for tomorrow if she wants it.

My thoughts are with you on the loss of your friend. I enjoyed her posts.

I grew some catnip this summer thinking the fur-babies would like it. They had no problem in telling me it was not as good as Rita's Cosmic Cat Nip.

I reserved Urban Affairs from the library, but then went to AbeBooks.com and found it . . . at a price that was more like a gift, so it's on its way! Signed copy much more expensive, but I'll bet I can get that taken care of later ;-)

I am so sorry about Rita. She was always funny and so warm. TLC was blessed with her comments.

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