The Road Leads to Our “Gathering” & Other Turkey Tales…

It’s Getting Closer…

I write this on a gray and misty November morning, two days before Thanksgiving. It’s quiet here in our little place, in our little corner of northern Illinois, and I know that during the next 48 hours, there will be laughter and chatter and all kinds of sounds that seem only to happen during our annual Thanksgiving “gatherings.” During the next two days, there will be tables to set up out in the garage–our “headquarters” for the occasion–and coolers to be readied for leftovers, and oh, so many other tasks to finish. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have already begun many of these “preparatory” tasks, such as beginning to thaw the two large turkeys that will be my charge beginning mid-morning on Wednesday when bird number one will take its rightful place upon the Weber kettle! Bird number two meets the same fate very early Thanksgiving morning. The distinct aroma of charcoal will waft about, signaling that the Thanksgiving “gathering” has officially begun.

Why two turkeys, cooked on two separate days? The first will be for those wonderful sandwiches throughout the holiday. The second will be the one served at dinner on Thursday. Sounds as though we’re “working backwards,” but it’s just another one of those traditions around here that always seems to work well. I always cook the turkeys on the Weber charcoal grill, thus freeing up room in the kitchen. Plus, it allows me more time outside in the garage–“headquarters”–where there’s cold draft beer to enjoy and football on TV. Sometimes, it seems, the preparations–the “getting ready”–are better than the outcome of it all. Half the fun is getting there, or something to that effect!

By 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, turkey number one will be ready to hit the grill and begin its journey to deliciousness. Every forty-five minutes or so, I’ll add a few coals to maintain a steady, even temperature. My twenty-pound bird will take about six hours to cook, and since both birds will be stuffed with my famous dressing, there is a definite need to make sure things get cooked all the way through. We’ve all read and heard the warnings about not stuffing a turkey when using the charcoal grill. And though there might be something to this, I have never shied away from loading it up every Thanksgiving holiday. (Knock on wood here!)

Once the turkey has been placed in the Weber charcoal kettle, it’s time to relax and chat with whomever might have arrived already. The weather forecast this year indicates that it’s supposed to be rather pleasant and comfortable–and dry–so that only adds to the flavor of the occasion and the fun involved in getting the turkeys cooked for one and all. I’ll get up early on Thanksgiving morning and get right to work on bird number two. I’ll follow the same steps, except the cooking will begin much earlier to allow for a dinner start of 2:00. Each year the birds seem to taste better and better: moist and tender and flavorful!  

It’s work, but it’s fun. I would not stop doing it for anything.There have been many fine memories grown around the charcoaling of our Thanksgiving turkeys. Those “garage tales” are such an important part of what has become our annual “gathering.” I think back many, many  Thanksgivings and smile when I recall those who have been with us and shared in our “gathering” and feast. Some still make it each November; others have, for one reason or another, had to miss from time to time. We welcome relatives and friends, and friends of friends, and anyone else who might have no other place to go. There are nephews and nieces and cousins and in-laws and outlaws. There are grandmas and grandpas, great-grandma, too. There are sons and daughters and grandsons and kitties and doggies! There are young and old and somewhere in-between. There are those from Ohio and Michigan and Nebraska, happy to meet right here in the middle–northern Illinois!

The Thanksgiving road winds and meanders to our house, and we’re very much looking forward to the arrival–safe and sound–of the pilgrims who will travel her. How I love this time of year and Thanksgiving! Safe and happy Thanksgiving, all…MLA

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