On 74 Narrows Pond Road, Thanksgiving, that day of gluttony, always involves some intense negotiation. It boils down to this: My husband, Clif, has a zeal for roast turkey that goes beyond human reasoning, and he could eat roast turkey any day of the week. I, on the other hand, am iffy about this big bird. No, that is not true. In fact, I’m not at all fond of turkey, with its mound of white breast meat that always turns out to be dry and bland, no matter how it’s cooked. In short, we are a divided family. Clif’s philosophy is: The bigger the turkey, the better. My philosophy is: Why bother with turkey at all? Why not just go with the writer Calvin Trillin’s proposal and have spaghetti carbonara? (With tongue firmly in cheek, Trillin’s suggestion is that spaghetti carbonara is really the original dish served at Thanksgiving, a little recipe the Native Americans picked up from that “Italian Guy”—Columbus.)
Thus, a week or two before Thanksgiving, it begins, always with the question: “So, what size turkey should we buy?” This year, I started low, as I always do, knowing I would have to go up. “Eight pounds,” I answered. “After all, there will only be six of us, and one is a vegetarian.”
“Eight pounds?” Clif gave me a look that suggested that I was only a hairsbreadth away from being as miserly as Scrooge. “Thirty,” he shot back quickly.
“Thirty?” I was nearly overwhelmed with the horror of that much dry breast meat. “It wouldn’t fit in our roasting pan, not even the big one. What about ten?”
Clif snorted. “How can we have leftovers with a ten-pound turkey?” For Clif, leftovers are nearly as alluring as the actual Thanksgiving dinner. “Twenty-five!”
For me, leftovers just mean more of that darned dry meat, but I had to acknowledge he did have a point about a ten-pound turkey. “Twelve!”
We finally settled on fifteen pounds. Well, all right, since I’m the one who does the grocery shopping, I settled on a fifteen-pound bird, figuring Clif wouldn’t sulk too much when I brought it home.
He didn’t, but he couldn’t resist making a catty remark about how puny it was, knowing very well that a fifteen-pound turkey hardly qualifies as puny.
And there it sits, huge and hulking, in our refrigerator. Tomorrow, it will be oiled and stuffed and slid into a hot oven. Soon the house will be fragrant with turkey. Even I have to admit it smells good as it’s cooked. Potatoes will be riced (never mashed in our house!), bread will be sliced, and cranberry sauce will glitter bright red in the cut-glass bowl.
And I although I would never say this aloud, I have to agree that dry though it is, there is something about turkey that spaghetti carbonara just couldn’t replace. Nevertheless, next year the negotiations will commence, as they always do. They have become as much of a tradition as turkey.