Hasn’t everyone had the occasional disaster happen with the Thanksgiving Dinner? If you haven’t, you obviously haven’t hosted Thanksgiving. I’m no expert — I’ve only hosted maybe four or five big Thanksgiving Dinners — and I’ve just had my third fiasco. I reckon that gives me enough cred to write about it. My three events are all totally different, except, come to think of it, the common denominator appears to be me. Now that is a worry.
Fiasco #1: I’m reaching way back through the mists of time for the first occasion–forty years ago. Memory has dulled the pain. I’ll just give you the basic facts: twenty pound turkey, tons of food, 18 guests, plumbing crisis. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Fiasco #2 occurred in 1983. My eldest son had just become engaged, and was about to go back to the US to study. This would be the first time we observed Thanksgiving in Australia, and would also serve as a ‘meet the fiancee’s family’ dinner. All was humming along splendidly. Until I took the 20+ pound turkey out of the oven. He was a handsome bird–perfectly cooked, with an appetising golden brown skin. As I proudly carried him across to the counter where he could rest while I made gravy from the luscious-smelling pan juices, Tom decided to fly again. Out of the pan, onto the floor, taking half of those lovely pan juices with him.
First he slid across the floor, then the pan juice splashed across the floor, enabling me to glide across the floor like something out of Ice Capades. I’m sure it was graceful. But what to do about the turkey? I decided that as the skin on the bottom side of the bird was the only bit to have made contact with the floor, that could easily be eliminated. The bigger problem was the loss of gravy. No real solution for that, unfortunately, but I can report that turkey juices give a lovely sheen to your floors. Caution is recommended when walking on them, however.
Fiasco #3 is recent. Very recent. Thanksgiving 2011. In the end I wasn’t actually hosting the event, just the fiasco. Namely, the bonfire. Right up until late on the day before Thanksgiving I was slated to be the stand-in host for Thanksgiving Dinner due to a family crisis. I had a few items to prepare, and several family members would arrive early on the day to help with the set-up. So, grocery shopping done, on Wednesday afternoon I began to prepare the food I was responsible for: an apple pie, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and dinner rolls.
I wish to state at the outset that I have been baking my apple pies successfully for forty-plus years in a brown paper bag, and I have never had one catch fire. Until now. Let me also say up front that this particular pie was set to be a triumph. It was Huge; and it was Gorgeous. Perfect in every way. A pie to be exceptionally proud of. But, as we all know, pride goeth before a fall.
Imagine my surprise–nay, dismay–when I first noticed the little flame in the oven. At the time it didn’t register that the flame was on the floor of the oven, not on the brown paper bag in which the ever-so-splendid pie was cosseted. That’s probably because in approximately a nano-second the bag was alight as well. At this point description becomes difficult because, frankly, I was too busy reacting to take notice of what was going on. I do recall that the apple pie flambé was very heavy, and very inclined (sic) to slide off the baking tray–which it was on for the express purpose of catching any juices so they wouldn’t drip onto the oven floor and cause a fire–where was I? Oh, yes… getting the flaming pie from the oven to the sink, which turned out to be more difficult than you might think. This was a large brown paper bag which was fully alight–with flames of a size that you would rejoice over, were it in your fireplace on a wintry night. It occurred to me, fleetingly, as I carried the burning, sliding 500-pound pie across to the sink that it could easily set my hair alight. It didn’t, thank goodness, though I have no idea why not.
I won’t bore you–nor remind me–of the details of the clean-up, but just say that the damage toll was confined to a sink mat, a dish towel, an oven glove, and a very nice vegetable peeler. Oh, yes–and the ruin of a pie. The family returned home, exhausted from a ten-hour drive, in the wee hours to a house smelling of smoke. I got up the next morning to find all the doors and windows open, and Tom on his knees, scraping melted plastic from the floor of the oven. It turned out that my paper bag was not the culprit. Unbeknownst to me, the plastic-handled peeler had been stuck to the bottom of the bag when I put the pie into the oven. It had fallen off in the oven and eventually caught fire. My part of the clean-up was a piece of cake compared to what Tom got stuck with. I don’t think he’ll be asking for apple pie real soon. MM