But some of us fathers just happen to know our way around a kitchen. For instance, I am recognized throughout my household for my expert preparation of the following meals:
1) Hot dogs;
2) Tacos, from box;
3) Salami sandwiches (note: does not technically involve cooking).
But I know that not every dad can share my culinary prowess, which is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m sure those fathers can do plenty of things that I can’t, like swing a golf club without injuring themselves, or earn a living wage. So with that in mind, I thought I’d share the following Thanksgiving meal facts to help fathers stay up to date with their Turkey Day knowledge.
The turkey: Most of what I know about cooking a turkey I learned from my mother, who every Thanksgiving would get up at dawn to start stuffing that year’s partially defrosted specimen, get dizzy as soon as she put her hand in and have to go into her bedroom to faint, at which point my father would wake up and say, “Stuffing the turkey already?” This is a true story.
So that probably means if God wanted us sticking our hands up giant birds, he’d have made my mother less prone to nausea. Combine that theory with my daughter’s recent assignment to write a story from the point of view of a Thanksgiving turkey, which she empathetically entitled, “I’m Too Young to Die!,” and you have some serious ambivalence about the main course. On the other hand, what are we going to eat, pork loin? You see my dilemma.
So assuming you stick with the turkey, here are a few things to keep in mind: For one, even if you only have six people coming, you have to get at least a 30-pound bird. This will provide you with turkey sandwiches for weeks, and also make for a bigger target for the dog when you leave it unattended on the counter. Please don’t deny him his one chance to pounce on prey that’s already been basted.
Also, dads, even if you don’t take part in the actual cooking, don’t ever give up your traditional role as the carver. Carving is one of those universally approved manly cooking activities — for fathers, it’s the next best thing to pulling the turkey out of the oven, wrestling it to the ground and dismembering it with a machete.
The cranberry sauce: Cranberry sauce is one of those great dinner components that, in a pinch, could actually be a dessert (see also: glazed pecan rolls covered with cinnamon). And as an added bonus, it retains its shape out of the can, so you could, in theory, stick little plastic eyes and a nose on it and it would jiggle around like a gelatinous Mr. Potato Head. Just try that with creamy scalloped onions.
The vegetables: These are an important part of the Thanksgiving meal, given that they’re among the only components that can be easily baked in cheese sauce and/or cream of mushroom soup and then topped with little fried onions. If that doesn’t disguise the taste, there’s always more cranberry sauce.
The pies: You can’t help but wonder who was the first one, in the middle of making a Jack O’ Lantern, to look at the discarded innards and say, “Hey, that would make a great pie!” And yet pumpkin pies are a Thanksgiving staple, except among people who actually, you know, like pie. (True aficionados prefer pies made of chocolate pudding, like the ones introduced to the Pilgrims by Squanto.)
Most importantly, though, for dads, moms and kids alike, is to take a moment among all the bounty and recognize how lucky we are to have food on the table at all, much less enough to feed every Baldwin brother, should they happen to show up. So dads, if cooking isn’t your thing, you should still pitch in to show your gratitude — even if it means doing the dishes.
Just suck in your stomach and you may be able to reach the sink.
CNC managing editor Peter Chianca is busy shopping for the perfect turkey; this column is from 2006. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.” See the column at North Shore Sunday.