Joanne Palmer: Turkey horror stories add fun to holiday |

Joanne Palmer: Turkey horror stories add fun to holiday

Joanne Palmer

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or

— I've been picking up on a lot of turkey chatter lately. As I've been diligently yet surreptitiously eavesdropping, nearly all of the conversations I've been privy to go something like this:

"How many are you having?"

"How are you cooking the bird? Really … brine, you swear by it, huh?"

"Have you ever tried cooking it in a deep fryer?"

"Did you hear what happened to me last year? It was a disaster! I had to visit family in Arkansas. My uncle won't eat turkey because he claims he can 'taste the feathers,' the rest are vegetarians or diabetic so we ate dried-out salmon with blackberry cobbler for dessert. They served 'dinner' at 11:30 in the morning. After 'dinner,' we had to drive an hour to see the gravesites they had picked out. Thanksgiving in a cemetery, fun."

One of my very favorite things about the holidays are the stories that surround them, the stories that get told year after year, the stories that make everyone groan, grimace and guffaw. There's always an appliance that breaks down, usually the oven. As one friend told me, "I was entertaining the in-laws for the first time and followed careful instructions from my mother in-law. 'Just put the turkey in the bag, cover and let cook for three hours. Do. Not. Peek.' So I didn't. Everything was done. Time to take turkey out. Not done! The pilot light went out and the turkey was raw! I was aghast. I served summer sausage instead."

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Of course, sometimes the oven malfunctions because of the cook. One friend put it this way, "After coming home from culinary school in New York, I was eager to show off a new potato dish and proceeded to start a fire in the oven. The dish was served with a healthy portion of humility."

Oftentimes, the star of the story is Tom Turkey himself. Just as you pick up the carving knife to start slicing the turkey, some family member will pointedly ask, "Did you remember to take the bag of giblets out of the turkey this year?" Giblets! Yuck.

In the Palmer household, my mother used to chase us around the house with the turkey neck when we were kids. She loved to sneak up behind my brother while he was watching football and tickle him on the back of his neck with the frozen turkey neck. The ensuing high-speed scream-a-thon chase around the house was one way to burn off calories before we sat down to dinner.

Sometimes giblets are not the only things that get stuck in the turkey. While cooking Thanksgiving Day dinner with her 12-year-old son, a friend of mine decided to play a joke on him by hiding a Cornish game hen in the turkey cavity while he was outside playing in the snow. When he started to carve the turkey, he found the hen and thought the turkey was pregnant. Horrified, he called his cousins to tell them he cooked a pregnant turkey. Finally, we let him in on the joke."

Broken appliances, practical jokes, family dramas and giblets are reasons to do what the Pilgrims did — drink beer. Yes, beer. The Pilgrims carried a large supply of beer on the Mayflower. In 1620, beer was considerably safer to drink than water because nasty bacteria couldn't grow in it. A kegger on the Mayflower, who knew?

So take a lesson from the Pilgrims. Pop open a cold one, give thanks for the leftovers and, above all, keep your sense of humor.


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