Forget turkey tartar; I'll take mine real hot

Lynda Hollenbeck

There are certain foods that I like year-round, but they don't come to mind until special seasons of the year.
One of these is candied yams. I could enjoy these any day of any week of any month of any year, but unless something brings them to mind — or really to eye — I just don't think about them.
While sweet potatoes themselves have more or less come into their own in recent years, I have to be reminded that they're around — though truth be told, I never met a sweet potato I didn't like.
We're now into the season when this vegetable is being touted along with other Thanksgiving fare, so I've been thinking about a dish featuring it. And, just for the record, I'm going on the assumption that a sweet potato is a vegetable, although I haven't researched it.
Anyway, I recently found myself placing a phone order for a vegetable plate from a local restaurant and initially ordered yams.
"We don't have yams today," said the voice on the phone.
I mentioned a couple of other things I'd like and was still needing a fourth vegetable when I asked for some suggestions.
"Well, we've got sweet potatoes," the voice said.
Go figure.
I'm not expecting any catastrophes to occur in the preparation of our Thanksgiving feast, but regardless of what might occur, it isn't likely that anything could top the holiday horror story that has found its hallowed place in the annals of family history. I've told it several times, but I've yet to come across anything to top it, so once again, here goes.
It all started with a grocery store ad in The Courier.
Why wouldn't I believe what it said? The Courier doesn't lie.
The colorful, full-page ad featured a fully cooked turkey on a platter, surrounded by the usual accompaniments for a seasonal feast. The message was: "Let us cook your Thanksgiving dinner."
Everything would be done except putting the food on the table and serving the guests. The gist of the spiel was that you could pick up the whole dinner, it would be ready for the table, and all one had to do was just sit back and enjoy the fun. The meal would include turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, rolls, candied yams and pecan pie.
I was planning to add the obligatory green bean casserole, a corn casserole and mashed potatoes, but everything else would be ready and waiting.
My Cotton Plant relatives were scheduled to arrive at our house around 11:30 or 12. A little before 11 o'clock I drove to the store to pick up the food. And therein is where I received a major shock.
There waiting for me was my order, which included piping hot dressing, gravy, yams, dinner rolls and a wonderful-looking pecan pie. All according to plan with one little hitch: the turkey. It was raw.
I paled when I saw it.
"Why isn't the turkey ready?" I gasped.
"What do you mean?" the store clerk inquired.
"The meal is supposed to be ready," I explained, "as in COOKED."
The woman looked puzzled.
I picked up a copy of the ad lying on the counter and showed it to her.
"See! This doesn't mention anything about an uncooked turkey. The bird is supposed to be ready to eat when you pick up your order."
Clearly confused, she argued with me. "The word 'cooked' isn't anywhere in there."
"Well, how does 'ready for the table' strike you?" I countered. "How many times have you served raw turkey to anyone?"
By this time, people were beginning to stare, but I didn't care. I had reached the panic mode.
I knew that before long, if it wasn't already happening, a car hauling my mother, my aunt and three cousins would be pulling into my driveway, and none of them was expecting an uncooked entree.
The employee decided to call for the manager, which was a fine move, I thought.
"What seems to be the trouble, ma'am?" the man said upon approaching me.
"Well, I'd say we have a little problem. I came to pick up the Thanksgiving dinner I ordered, and I see that the turkey hasn't been cooked. Can you explain that to me?"
"Why would you have thought it would be cooked?"
"Well, because that's what your ad said. 'Let us COOK your Thanksgiving dinner,' and I agreed to do just that. But when I came here today, I found hot rolls, dressing, gravy and candied yams, all ready to eat, so why in the world would I ever have thought I'd be given a raw turkey?"
My stage voice was rising to the occasion, because I expected the man to tell me there had been a horrible mistake, that he was firing his whole staff or that he had another turkey — a cooked one — in the kitchen.
"We just never thought anyone would expect the turkey to be already cooked," he said.
"Then why would you have cooked all the other stuff?" I shrieked.
His face was beet red by this time, but it was no match for mine. I was the color of a fiery furnace.
I wish I could say the store made everything "right," but this isn't what happened. I left the store with sackful of cooked foods and a raw bird. When I got to the house, I had to start roasting it — on a much higher temperature than normal.
Some of the children's accounts I had read about "how to cook a turkey" came to mind, but I really thought it needed more than three minutes as one little boy suggested. At that juncture I had never heard of fried turkey; if I had, I probably would have been tempted.
Fortunately, humor runs in my family and we all had a great laugh about it, though everyone was pretty hungry by the time the meal finally was served.
I never fell for that kind of promotion again, and the next year I noticed that the store's Thanksgiving ad explicitly stated that there would be "some cooking required" for the turkey.
I baked my own.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.