Thanksgiving means different things for different people. Maybe it’s a chance to gather and see family you don’t usually hang around with. (I’ll leave out the jokes on arguments – for now) Or you could be like me and look forward to a long weekend without work. That’s assuming you’re a smart freelancer and crossed the days OFF your calendar. Plenty of people set the day – the month, actually – aside to reflect on everything they’re grateful for. And then, of course, there’s Thanksgiving dinner.
The sacred ritual of ending a turkey’s life.
Allow me to clarify: I HATE turkeys. When we lived in Washington, we’d go up to my grandparents’ farm. They had the MEANEST turkey on the face of the planet. That asshole chased me around every chance he got. And he was HUGE! We’re talking Turkeyzilla, here. Maybe the average turkey destined for the Thanksgiving table is designed to snap its ankles under the weight of all of that meat, but he was in a class by himself. He could tear after you at top speed. And when he got in reach, that sharp beak snapped out toward every bit of exposed skin he could find.
Courtesy of that trauma, I don’t attend turkey pardons. I’m a firm believer in the sacrifice of one of the birds as reparation for Turkeyzilla’s actions. (And don’t you dare try to pawn off a tofu substitute; I know the difference) It’s one of the few traditions I hold to that my family finds amusing. Incidentally, it’s also one of the last meaty proteins my body seems to tolerate. (I feel karma’s doing me a favor)
But Thanksgiving holds an extra meaning in our household. We share a home with four other turkey fiends. And while they may not understand how to read a calendar, they KNOW when Turkey Day comes around. And if we DARE to step through the door without the proper Turkey Toll, we’re in for serious reparations.
We don’t, typically, host Thanksgiving at our house. Not due to any lack of culinary skills (my husband’s a fantastic cook); it’s just never cropped up. The holiday’s about family, so we troop over to be with my parents or his family.
However, we have cooking/baking responsibilities for the meal. The sort of cooking and baking we don’t do the rest of the year. Things like rolls and pumpkin pie. And cats and dogs? Their sense of smell outstrips ours.
So even before we’ve stepped out there door, the watch gets posted. They get on their game faces and let us know we’d BETTER return with the Turkey Toll.
On occasion, we’ve packed up the kiddos for the trip. It results in an amusing game of “How many people can trip in the kitchen?” As soon as they pick up the smell of turkey, sausages, and spices, they refuse to leave the sacred cooking space. They’re determined to stay in prime position for any “accidental” droppages. And trying to carry pans, pots, and bowls AND watch your feet is impossible. The little turkey fiends are persistent. And trying to bribe them with treats – even their favorite treats – doesn’t work.
They want TURKEY!
Once dinner arrives at the table, they MUST be paid their due. Forgetting – or omitting – the Turkey Toll results in cats on laps and a dog circling the table like a shark. (It’s not pretty) It’s best to fork over the light and dark meat and be done with it.
When we leave them at home, we have about TWO MINUTES to produce turkey from the Tupperware containers. Failure means Tonks on the counter, hunting for her toll. Not to mention Firefly and Squeak underfoot, attempting to trip you and drop the entire thing.
Pay the toll or pay the price.
(I know, it sounds so dramatic!)
The Turkey Toll doesn’t end on Thanksgiving, though. If your family’s anything like mine, you leave the meal with – well, extra meals. I love my mother, but she continues to cook for a family of six, even if there’s only three of us sitting down. (And she cooked for an army when there were six of us. So that’s a lot of math) It’s the best part of the holiday: not needing to worry about cooking for the remainder of the weekend. Plus, leftover sandwiches? How can you top that?
Of course, those canine and feline noses don’t switch off simply because it’s no longer Thanksgiving. They know the smell of the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. And if WE’RE enjoying leftovers? They insist on doing so, too.
That means we have to pay a Turkey Toll every time we decide to make a sandwich. Or build up a plate. (And you can’t sneak anything past them. They KNOW the sound of those Tupperware and pick them out from every other container in the fridge)
We have to ration all of our leftovers to ensure there’s enough for EVERYONE in the house.
This is why we always consider how much to bring when my parents ask us what we want to take home. There’s the turkey WE want, and the toll. And everyone thinks it’s hilarious. But they don’t see those faces when we step in the door. Those kiddos mean business. Worse than any troll under a bridge, they’ll exact vengeance if we fail to produce the toll. (If you share a home with cats or dogs, you KNOW what they’re capable of)
Besides, having the extra turkey on-hand prevents them from stealing it out of our sandwiches or off our plates. (And, yes, that happens)
What can I say? They know good turkey!
(May everyone have a fantastic Thanksgiving!)