On Eating and Loving Food

Thanksgiving, in all its spatchcocked glory

Posted:  Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 8:15am

Thanksgiving. Turkey with stuffing and gravy, mashed potatoes, squash and cranberry sauce. Those are typically three of the items that will be found on most tables on Thanksgiving.

And how delicious is that meal, and the aroma of the turkey roasting in the oven when you walk into the warm kitchen on a cold Thanksgiving day.

Every year I ask myself why I only have this particular meal on Thanksgiving. There’s no law against having it on any other day of the year, but most of us rarely do. Maybe that’s one of the reasons it’s always so awesome and delicious on Thanksgiving day.

And it’s not like we have to eat some of everything on the table, or load our plates to the brim and join the clean plate club.

But it seems to be part of the tradition to make gluttons of ourselves, then sit around moaning and groaning, complaining of being too full. “Oh my god,” we say. “WHY did I eat so much.”

Well, duh. We eat too much on Thanksgiving because the food is, like, totally awesome, and it’s the one day of the year we eat it, but for the leftovers.

Like most, I grew up with the requisite stuffed turkey. And of course Mum’s stuffing is the best in the world. Isn’t everyone’s mother’s stuffing the best? Mum makes it from scratch, starting with onions and celery sauteed in butter, with bread cubes and Bell’s Seasoning.

Like most, we’ve always had the requisite mashed potatoes and squash, and something that has always been a tradition in the Thayer household: creamed onions. Dad loved creamed onions. For me Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without creamed onions.

This year, like last, I’ll be going to my cousin Richard’s in Cushing, along with my brother Peter and his wife, Kerry, and kids Wendell and Sophia. With other cousins, aunts, uncles and close family friends, I think the total is 17. Yikes. Luckily Richard likes to cook, and with a fire blazing in the Russian fireplace, and a big table in a room overlooking the St.George River, it’s a nice place to spend the day.

And of course everyone will be bringing, or taking, something to the table, literally. There’s going to be a lot of food.

At the forefront will be Richard’s “spatchcocked turkey,” whatever the hell that is. He has never been big on taking the easy route: A simple stuffed roasted turkey. Once he made one of those turducken things: A deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, stuffed into a deboned turkey. Gross. Luckily I wasn’t invited that year.

And I was determined to not give Richard the satisfaction of Googling “spatchcocked turkey,” but my curiosity got the better of me. This is what Serious Eats has to say about it, and judging by the photo, spatchcocked means splayed out on a couch like your drunk old uncle after Thanksgiving dinner.

“This particular method is for folks who don't give a damn about whether or not the whole, barely adulterated bird makes an appearance at the table, but want the fastest, quickest, easiest route to juicy meat, and ultra-crisp skin. Basically, it's a method for lazy folks with great taste.”

Anyway. Here’s what will be at Richard’s Thanksgiving, barring any unforeseen problems: appetizers, including Kerry’s famous marinated fennel, that drunken (but no doubt delicious) spatchcocked turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, a rice casserole, squash, creamed onions (duh), roasted brussels sprouts, corn casserole, turnip, and, of course, stuffing and cranberry sauce, both fresh chunky and canned jelly. And also of  course: pies – probably  pumpkin, apple and god knows what other kinds.

Another Thayer Thanksgiving custom is vodka and cranberry juice. The aroma of roasted turkey will usually summon up a thought of that drink.

Oh, and Richard also warned the masses that the beer he’ll provide will be Bud. Peter and Uncle Gary are beer snobs, so they’ll be bringing their own latest gourmet brews, which is fine by me. More Bud for Richard. And me.

I don’t think anyone will leave the table hungry.

Happy Thanksgiving.

See ya next week.