Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Ghost of Turkeys Past

We have worked the last 30 or so Community Thanksgivings in a row, so there is some compulsion/addiction/PTSD to continue to cook the American Traditional Brown Meal on third Thursdays in November.
I had to order turkeys in August…not because of some failure of Joe Biden, but because of the continuing failure of the American meat industry to recognize the value of its workers and: a) protect them against a devastating disease in the workplace; and b) pay them actual money for doing the worst job in North America.
A job so stressful and awful that no actual North North Americans will do it….at any price.
I ordered two turkeys….Diestal organics. We had already decided to have nothing to do with the Community Thanksgiving shit show, but last year we had a Beach Boy and a dear friend panic at the last minute looking for a turkey….so two seemed like a good call.
And…turkey dinner is Amanda’s favorite meal. And the hounds like turkey.
Twenty years ago or so was our first Thanksgiving after buying the Cachagua Store. We were feeding our normal 300 or so in town, plus we were on site to protect the 50 or so meals that were supposed to be dedicated to Cachagua. Town folks had to come to us to get the food for town folks, so Cachagua was in the cat bird seat. Back then, the original values of my Mom and Dorothy and June Campbell were still in play: Thanksgiving wasn’t cheap food slopped in a to go container, but real food served on china, with linen and flatware….and even glasses for the wine. Yes….wine.
I think I did 30 turkeys that year. Plus all the sides, etc.
The deal with working for Pat, Dorothy and June was the food had to be fresh and hot. Normally the Thanksgiving free dinner folks start cooking the turkeys a week or so out, and just reheat them. Along with everything else.
No, no, no, no with those ladies.
To have 30 hot/warm fresh turkeys by 11 am, I had to start early.
I had two ovens that could hold three racks of sheet pans each. We brined the turkeys in our walkin the day before, then cut them all in half. We cut out the backbones, roasted them to make gravy.
I think I started about 1am in actual turkey cooking. I could fit three half turkeys on a sheet pan, three pans to an oven…two ovens. So nine turkeys at a time. 2-3 hours per load, three loads, 27 birds, plus three for Cachagua later.
It wasn’t just throw them in and forget them. I had to take each sheet pan out, flip it around, and move it up and down in the oven to make sure they all cooked evenly. At that time we had inherited Dave Fox…a local houseless person who pretended to tend bar in the Pub, and who slept on the floor of the bar at night. Bartender, night watchman, burglar alarm.
Except that Dave was nearly deaf. Sometimes in the mornings it took actual gunfire or small explosives t wake Dave up to open up the Store for us and actual customers.
That night I started at 1am when Dave closed the bar. I set up next to my ovens in a sleeping bag, and Dave set up next door in the Pub.
I set my alarm so I could get up every hour and switch out the sheet pans of turkeys, front to back, top to bottom, middle to top, etc.
After four or five shifts of switching roasting hot pans on an hour’s nap, I was getting a little bit punchy. This time I staggered a bit, slipped and dropped the edge of the sheet pan…and poured boiling hot turkey fat on to my stocking clad feet.
I screamed bloody murder, shoved the pan back in the oven, and ripped off my socjk….taking all the flesh off my foot with it.
I screamed again. Fuck.
“Mike? You, Ok?” Dave came around the corner of the kitchen. At a dead run.
Are you fucking kidding me?
“Here. This will help.”
Dave was holding up and ice cold beer and a Vicodin….
Cachagua first aid.
That is when I first really knew I was home out here.
Thanks, Dave.
Miss you, and Amanda and I think of you and laugh and laugh every Thanksgiving.


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