A few years back, we hosted The Dinner. So, it was my job to make gravy. Easy-peasy. I’d made enough gravy in my life to fill a hundred gravy boats. (Google “gravy boat”).
From around the turkey roasting in the oven, I ladled drippings into a saucepan on top of the stove. Then I stirred in a generous cup of broth made from simmering giblets in water for a couple hours. Giblets, by the way, is the term granted to the collection of innards: the liver, heart, gizzard, and neck of a fowl. Giblets are usually removed (which I did) before the turkey is cooked, and often used to make gravy, stuffing, or soup.
I sprinkled rosemary, sage and other spices into the pan of drippings and turned the heat to low. Then I got busy. Probably cleaning. More on that later.
After 45 minutes, I broke away to check on the gravy broth. The saucepan was about half full. Perfect. Next step: Drizzle some flour-water paste in to transform the liquid into a thick gravy.
I grabbed a wire whisk and poked it into the drippings-giblet liquid. To my horror, the liquid erupted — nay, exploded. The hot foam spewed over the edge of the saucepan — like lava surging from an active volcano—and onto my hand that was gripping the handle.
What happened next remains a blur. In a blink, I yanked the pan off the stove, flew to the sink, and plunged my hand in cold water…
Thanksgiving is a busy holiday, not just for people hosting a dinner, but if you think a moment—for flight attendants, gas stations, firefighters, emergency crews, restaurants (did you know that Thanksgiving Day is Cracker Barrels busiest day?), utility departments, and emergency room personnel.
And what about those cooking hotlines? I love listening to NPR’s Thanksgiving Q&A show. And have you ever called 1-800-BUTTERBALL? The folks behind the calls and online sites come to our collective, last-second, meal-making rescue.
I found a few gems for you.
Q: My turkey has no breast meat! What do I do?
A: Turn it over.
Q: I sliced my bird in half with a chainsaw—will the engine oil be a problem?
A: That would be yes.
Q: My bird barely fits inside my oven—will it rise too much for me to get it out?
A: (In a calm voice) Turkeys don’t rise.
Plumbers work overtime on Thanksgiving Day. There’s the story of a woman (I’m not being sexist here) who called a plumber because her toilet had jammed and now there was the worst kind of flood. Turns out she had tried to flush her Thanksgiving remains down the toilet. Why did she do that? She didn’t have a garbage disposal.
Which brings me to the list of what not to put in your garbage disposal: Bones, celery, fibrous foods like artichoke leaves and pumpkin rinds, fruit pits, pasta, and GREASE.
Back to toilets. Save your guests the embarrassment of asking for a plunger. Leave one in plain site next to the toilet. And consider posting a friendly, ‘do not flush’ list (baby wipes, tampons, Q-tips, paper towels, floss) on the bathroom wall. All boat owners are keenly aware of such lists.
Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your house or just having a casual gathering with family and friends over the holidays, now is a great time to get your house in order before things start getting hectic. It might sound overwhelming, but tackling a few tasks make a big difference.
Ditch the clutter: Go from room to room with an empty laundry basket (or five) to pick up clutter that doesn’t belong in the room. Sort through the items before your guests arrive or stash the basket in an unused room.
Start with the kitchen: The kitchen is where the action is. That’s where most folks spend the majority of their time during any visit or gathering. Clean out your fridge. Toss expired stuff. Clean off your countertops and sink. Wipe down the exterior of your cabinets and appliances. If no one notices, no biggie. What’s important is that you’ll feel better for it.
Spruce up the bathroom: Decorate if you want, but make sure the bathroom your guests will be using is clean and well-stocked with toilet paper, towels, and soap.
STAY CALM AND PASS THE GRAVY
Disasters are relative. I mean, what might seem like the worst event ever (who forgot to thaw the turkey?) might end up as a bundle of laughs. Here are a few tips to help you maintain calm, no matter what happens:
1. Let go of perfection
2. Set a simple table
3. Prepare ahead of time, as much as possible
4. Take mindful breaks
5. Pause before digging in: Say a special grace, read a poem or ask everyone to share something they’re grateful for.
Whatever you do, pausing before the meal is part of what makes Thanksgiving a true day of gratitude.
And don’t forget the plunger.
Sign up for Marion’s “Goodness from Kodiak” newsletter and get her free Photo Tips PDF when you s. Look for details on her blog at MarionOwenAlaska.com or find her on Facebook and Instagram. Marion can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org