Parenting Perspective: Matt's Turkey Troubles

November 25, 2009

Perhaps you are not surprised in my lack of involvement in holiday meals whatsoever. Remember, this is a dad of the garden-variety speaking - one whose involvement in household tasks borders on nil.

I wanted a deep-fried turkey for dinner one summer day.

So, I would cook it myself.

Oh, a bunch of relatives would be showing up.

Big pressure.

We borrowed a deep fryer from our neighbor. I hooked it up in the backyard (everyone seemed so adamant in reminding me not to cook the turkey indoors - risk of explosion, fire, mayhem, etc.). I connected a propane tank to the base. I purchased a few gallons of cooking oil. I dumped the oil in. And I fired that baby up.

Not surprisingly, it takes a long time to get a large amount of oil to begin to boil. So, I got it going early. Meanwhile, a hungry crowd gathered at my home. Two children, a wife, a brother, a sister-in-law, father-in-law, parents - for us it was a full house.

A lot was riding on this fried turkey scheme. We would not want people going to bed hungry.

It took longer than expected to get the oil boiling in the pot. This did not seem odd because it was quite windy on that summer day. I found some old boxes to set up around the fryer, forming a fortress-like blockade around the flame. This seemed to help.

It was time to drop the turkey in the boil. This is the point in the process that can be the most dangerous, as you can imagine. I've heard of turkeys that are still frozen, being placed into the boiling oil, and literally exploding to bits - because the super-heated oil causes the ice inside the bird to super-heat, which causes the bird itself to expand and blow up.

Also, sometimes the bird is dropped too quickly, causing an oil overflow, causing it to seep over the pot and onto the flame, causing an equally explosive situation.

None of that happened, of course. I wore long fireplace gloves and used tongs to slowly lower the thawed bird into the boiling liquid. Extreme caution led to success - the bird was now in the pot.

I can't remember how long we were supposed to cook the turkey, but it was at least a few hours. So, I left it unattended.

I later found out there was a propane connection problem, and the flame was much less than what it could be, or should be, leading the cooking oil to be less than boil-worthy, leading to the turkey being cooked at a much lower temperature, leading to a complete time throw-off. In fact, the whole process was the only thing that got cooked.

Again, I discovered the propane problem later.

Back to "now."

6pm became 7pm. The table is set. The side dishes are ready.

The bird is still not cooked.

7pm became 8pm. The salad is being served because the masses are hungry.

The bird is still not cooked.

8pm became 9pm. Again, why did we let him cook the turkey this year?

Geez, the bird has to be cooked by now.

The bird is still not cooked.

Finally, at 10:30pm, the turkey seemed done. Seemed.

I brought it in, and proudly began carving it up.

We all sat down (finally) and proceeded to dig in. I think it was my wife who first noticed the white meat was still blood red.

The turkey, while crispy on the outside, was barely warm inside.

My entire family went to bed on that summer night, starving.

I woke up the next morning, fired up the cooker again, and the moment of eureka finally arrived. A simple reconnection of the propane valve led to a healthy stream of flame. We dropped the turkey back in, and it was fully cooked by breakfast.

And we had turkey for breakfast on that next morning.

And that was the last time I cooked a turkey, much less anything else.

My, how us dads have changed since our hunting and gathering days.

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