The turkey challenge

What happens when there's no way to set the oven's temperature and you have to roast the Thanksgiving bird?

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The year my son wasn't able to be home for Thanksgiving, we decided to take our holiday meal to him. Just out of college, he was working as manager of a store and felt he would need to get up early to be ready for his first Black Friday, the make-or-break sales day for retailers.

This would be our first visit since Stephen had moved to New Jersey. He was renting the top floor of an older house and proudly gave us a tour of the rooms, ending with the dining area where he had a table and chairs. Oddly enough, a pair of regulation handcuffs was locked onto one arm of the overhead light fixture, evidently left by a previous tenant who had taken the key. Stephen referred to them as his conversation piece.

Before leaving home, I had prepared all of the food for our dinner except the turkey, which I planned to cook the next day. The stove in Stephen's kitchen sat off the floor on four dainty legs. It had a chipped enamel surface that spoke of years of use. Even so, it quickly heated up when I turned the oven on. After sliding in the turkey, I reached for the dial to set the temperature and was surprised when it spun loosely around without stopping. The oven was hot, but there was no way to know how hot.

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When asked about the stove, Stephen said he had never used it. "You know, Mom," he explained, "there isn't anything you can't cook in a microwave."

"Except this turkey," I thought looking at the small microwave on the counter.

In the end, my daughters and I spent most of the day at the stove checking the appearance of the turkey. "Do you think it should be hotter?" we asked each other. And later, "is it too hot?" Judging by the color of the turkey and the temperature in the kitchen, we tweaked the dial on the elderly appliance, hoping for the best.

Finally, we tested a slice of the turkey and agreed that it was done. Gathered around Stephen's table, under the lights and the handcuffs, we gave thanks for all our blessings and passed the turkey.

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