I stared at the carcass of a turkey, seemingly taunting me from the table.
“There is absolutely no way I’m sticking my arm in there,” I said, shaking my head and crossing my arms. Just the thought of reaching up between the legs of this deceased creature to remove the guts and gore from its stomach made me ready to skip right past Thanksgiving. “Mom, I think I might go vegetarian.”
“Oh, stop it!” she said, rolling her eyes. “I’ll do it, for Pete’s sakes!”
“This was so not a good idea,” I mumble under my breath as I wandered around the kitchen, pretending to look busy so that my mom would not request that I partake in another gruesome task.
This Thanksgiving was important to my mom, and I could understand why. It was the first Thanksgiving with our “family of five,” as my mother would call it. She just married her husband the previous summer, and she invited his whole side of the family over for Thanksgiving this year. She described it as being the perfect time to get everyone together as a family. I knew that she really just wanted to impress anyone, but I did not think that cooking was the best way for her to really give a positive impression. You see, the thing everyone should understand about my mom is….well to put it lightly, she can’t cook. Like seriously can’t. Before my parents divorced, my dad was the one who did most of the cooking. Afterwards, we were stuck eating Voila meals most nights, which consist of bagged pastas that can be ready to eat in ten minutes. Sure, they did not taste so bad, but usually if my mom attempted to make any dinners more complicated than that, they ended up in some sort of disaster.
The other thing people should understand about my mom is that she will not admit that she cannot cook. I could accuse her of this time and time again and she would defend herself in one way or another. My mom’s best meals are when she orders take out, and I tried my best to talk her into catering this Thanksgiving. After all, no one would have to know that she did not really cook the food! However, to my dismay, she wanted to give this a shot. So there I was, in her kitchen watching her stick her whole arm up in the private parts of a twenty-pound turkey and grope around for mush while squinting in disgust.
“Mom, this is ridiculous. Do you even know how to cook a turkey?”
“Of course I do!” she exclaimed, waving around her printed directions from the Internet. “How hard can it be?”
As much as I tried to reason with her that holiday, I knew that it would never work. I could not even be hard on her for being stubborn because I inherited that trait from her. I could tell how important this was to her, which is why I agreed to hang around the kitchen and give a hand. I knew that probably would not do much considering it would just mean that there were two people in the kitchen who had no idea what they were doing.
Perhaps the most memorable dinner disaster that I could remember at that point in my life was when my older sister had a German exchange student one spring, a few years prior to that. Over the course of the three weeks that we had Christina with us, we mostly went out to eat and visited places around us to that she could get a feel for our culture. One evening, my mom felt that Christina should experience an American family dinner! So, she decided to make lasagna. Trust me, the irony of her making an Italian dish for this American dinner was not lost on me. My mom spent the evening preparing this meal, and at first, I thought it was going to be okay. When it came out of the oven and my mom rushed it over to the table, it was overflowing. Marinara sauce was dripping over the sides and dripping on to the floor.
“I put just a little too much sauce in it!” My mother chimed.
Sure, it did not seem like too big of a deal. Okay, so a little sauce dripped on the floor. How bad could it be?
Well, then my mom tried to cut it.
Splat. Sauce. Everywhere.
If I could best describe the “American” dinner, I would probably compare our dinner table to Pompeii. I was not even sure how so much sauce could fit into the lasagna pan. I had no way of knowing that my mom went to store to buy that much Prego. So, after that event, I did not really have any high expectations when my mom would decide to cook a family meal.
After removing the gore from the inside of the turkey, my mom was left with some of the easier preparations while the turkey was in the oven cooking. She had cooked mashed potatoes time and time again in the past; so, as she was mashing the potatoes, I helped cut vegetables and prepare them. Suddenly, I heard a slam and a gasp. I looked over to see my mom looking at me with her jaw hanging open.
“What happened?” I asked.
She pointed to the saltshaker. The top had fallen off on to the floor and the rest of the shaker was now upside down in the mashed potatoes, emptied out completely into the whipped substance.
“Are you serious?” I said in amazement. “Did that really all spill in there?”
The time for dinner was now getting extremely close, and there was no time to run out to the store and get more mashed potatoes to prepare them again. We just had to put up with some seriously salty mashed potatoes.
When the family members started arriving and removing their coats and getting settled, the atmosphere in the house became welcoming and family oriented. The best part about the holidays is being able to spend it with the people you love, and it was amazing being able to have everyone in one place together as a family. I realized that this was the true reason my mom took on the huge task of feeding everyone who came over. Even though our time in the kitchen was a struggle, it was worth it to see everyone come together again.
We served the salty mashed potatoes and the not-so-cooked turkey to our guests. Everyone laughed when they downed a mouthful of the salty delicacy and cringed in surprise – we did not warn them in advance of the mistake.
To this day, family members still remember this Thanksgiving. They may not remember it for the well-cooked food. After all, my mother is no Chef Ramsey! But it was a time when we were able to get the family together. Memories involving food can be made even when it is remembering just how bad the food was!