Making Turkey - Short Story
Food is one of the few things in this world everyone agrees on. All I have heard over the past year or so (I am not keeping an exact count there) is what divides us, how we are different, and why we are separate. We are so unique with our takes and cultures that we see ourselves as enemies, as obstacles to overcome, rather than seeing the common ground we all share.
Food is one of those common grounds. Everyone likes to eat. Everyone has a meal that they especially like to consume. We have all been stuffed by eating way too much food. We have all been starved by eating too little food.
We unite over food. We bond when we see a table with plates and forks. Many storytellers and authors have their characters doing the most basic task, eat. Why? Because we all get it.
I can have some bread. You can have some ham, and then we can both talk about what is on our minds.
I had an easy day at work. Not the easiest day of the week, but one that was definitely easier than yesterday. Your boss secretly wrote an email complaining to the owner how everyone will quit the job if conditions don’t change. We talk. We chat. We enjoy our company until the plates are cleaned and the napkins are used up.
Somehow this burden to continue putting food into our bodies unites us in a way that we would otherwise not have. Cause we need food to survive. If you go too long without it, you receive an expiration date from the Grim Reaper, and that is all for you. That is not like an expiration date on your car either. Once you get it, you are out.
There is something that you need to eat when you wake up in the morning, then something during the day when you are busy running around, and then there is another meal to end the day on. That is not even including dessert and snacks. Each time you eat, you must participate in someone else’s life, whether it is a full-blown conversation about work gossip, or your struggle with a stranger when buying milk, or a casual interaction of just acknowledging that you see the other being in the room. Because that food is there, you gotta communicate with that person. Even though food feeds our bodies and is the core aspect for maintaining life upon this planet, it is also feeding our social needs too. We are not only feeding our physical stomach but our social one, which requires us to talk to others and listen and be heard.
Of course, some food is naturally going to be preferred over others. We will like it, so eat more of it, and then try to get more of it.
Some food is attached to things that have nothing to do with the food at all. Apples and being healthy. Bubblegum and baseball. Bananas and well, you know. We associate the food with that thing. We encourage kids to eat apples to be healthy, even though eating grapes would be just as good. We think of baseball players as chewing gum, even though other athletes do it as well. We avoid seeing someone eat a banana, even though it is not the banana that is dirty.
And that gets me one of the granddaddies of them all. The OG of food. The Mansa Musa of meals. The Da Vinci of dinners. If there was an MVP voting on the best food of the year, then this food is on the list each year. You know you could say that this food was the first thing to ever make a superteam. Yeah, before the athletes decided to team up and make a team much better than anyone else, this food combined with other foods to make the greatest meal of all.
And honestly, nothing really comes close.
That food is turkey (which, did you know that Benjamin Franklin suggested this bird as the national bird, not the bald eagle? Don’t say that this blog never taught you anything.)
Oh yeah, it’s turkey’s time to shine.
Move over ham. Put away the chicken. Leave out the bacon. Let the turkey be the king of meats today.
With this special honor, the host of the event has to be especially careful with her making of the turkey. I say it is a woman because, from my experience, the best hosts are women. I wouldn’t trust a dude making my Thanksgiving turkey. If he is trying to, then I am getting my Uber Eats order in early because I know that there will be a problem. Women are better cooks, and from what I see, they take pride in unifying the family that they run under one roof.
She gets her kids together. She can finally get the husband to not watch the game while he eats. And she can get those relatives over the household. And with the intent of telling them the important message. “Family is the key to your life. You see these people at this table. Love them. Because they are all we have, the money will come and go. We will all get different jobs. We all will lose the items we had as kids. But this gathering, these around us, is what matters.”
That is a message that many can get behind.
And what starts it? Food.
Without food, the family doesn’t get together, the meal is not made, and the message of “love the family” is never told to anyone.
This year, Gina has taken over the mantel of host for Thanksgiving this year, from her mother. A questionable decision for the family to hear. There was certainly speculation at the various homes of the family members over this.
“Should she do it?” “Do we want her to do it?” “Is she really the best choice?”
The reason the family accepted Gina’s offering because her mother had passed away the past year, and so in honor of the woman she respected above all, Gina took over the duties of host for Thanksgiving.
She is not as good of a cook as her mom, though. She doesn’t make meals for the family as much as her mom used to. She is not familiar with the oven. The most she makes food is when she orders Chinese food for her and her husband. What she lacks in skill, she makes up for in effort, for she is not doing this for the family this year. I mean, yeah, she is doing this for the family; that is the whole point of the event. But she is doing it for her mother. The woman who she tries to emulate. She remembers the Thanksgiving dinners that her mom had with the family over all the years growing up. Those gatherings always brought a smile to everyone’s face. They brought everyone together. Even as a kid, Gina could see that some members of the family needed this dinner as a getaway. Uncle Joey was having a hard time since coming back from the war. Aunt Jesse was a widow and having a hard time finding someone new. Uncle Fred had chronic injuries and could never be healthy. But they all seemed comfortable at Gina’s mom’s Thanksgiving. Like they belonged there. Like they could just kick up their feet and be themselves. That is the gift that Gina’s mom left behind. That was her legacy. She didn’t live in a house. She lived in a home where all members of the family were welcomed. That is why Gina is making the turkey this year.
Gina was standing over the oven, going over the steps to make the turkey.
“Ok. There is the turkey. Duh. God, I can’t believe someone actually shot this thing. And I will have to clean it.” She took a look at her turkey. “Gross. Then I stuff it and then… “
Gina’s husband came in from the living room and opened the refrigerator to get a drink.
“Hey honey, are you still making the turkey this year?”
“Yes. Why wouldn’t I be making it?”
“I thought if you were really busy that maybe someone else could make it.”
Jake, the brother-in-law, called out from his position on the couch in the other room. “Yeah. We thought if you needed help.”
“Shut up, Jake,” Gina answered firmly.
“You don’t think I can make a good turkey, is that it?”
“No.” Her husband back-peddled. “I don’t want you to stress, is all. I know how busy you have been with the school and teaching and the kids.”
“You don’t think I can do it.”
Jake interjected, “I mean, you don’t have the best record with food Gina.”
“Shut up, Jake!” The couple yelled at the brother-in-law.
“You don’t think I can do it.” She asked her husband.
“No. I uh… I uh… I love you. And I support you and everything you do.”
Gina rolled her eyes, “Say that after the meal.”
He walked away, mumbling to himself, “If it doesn’t kill me.”
“What did you say?”
Gina’s husband has learned that the support of his wife is better than a debate over it. Gina is making the turkey, whether he likes it or not, and the best he can do is be there when she most likely fails with it.
He sat back down on the couch in the other room. “We may have a causality at Thanksgiving this year.”
“If it is Uncle Vinny, then that is fine. Or cousin Zach, or that annoying little kid that Benny and Jenny always bring over.
“That is their kid.”
“Oh. You know, the more I think about it, having Gina make the turkey this year may be a blessing in disguise.”
Gina then busted out of the kitchen and headed for the front door.
“Where are you going?”
“Out to get stuff.”
“Like sugar or something?”
“No. I don’t have any oven mitts.”
Gina slammed the door.
Thanksgiving will be a success this year at Gina’s house. Perhaps the turkey will not be as good as the previous ones. Maybe the stuffing may taste a little funny. And she won’t use the canned foods properly. The success of Thanksgiving dinner is how much the family enjoys being at your home. How comfortable they are. And with that, Gina is well on her way to making a great dinner. Her mom taught her well.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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