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How NOT To Cook A Turkey October 5, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Humor.

In letters written by my grandfather to dad in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, my grandfather mentioned getting up early to dress the turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings.

Most years, his calculations resulted in a stuffed bird ready to be eaten at the appointed hour.

But not always.

In 1971, he wrote my dad the day after Christmas to say:

The Royces were here in time for the gifts.  Previously, I started the turkey at 5:45.  Let it rest in the oven during gifts.

When I took it out it was OK ~ OK but the meat was off the bone, in the bottom of the roaster, all ready to lift out with a fork.  Which I did and filled the platter with delicate hunks.

The dressing was contained by the skeleton and I could see right in to get it out fine.  The dressing was dry and well seasoned with sage from the garden.   They were so hungry by then it was a big success and they cleaned the platter.

It was a happy day.

In the same letter, he shared a moment about his wife Margaret’s Christmas:

She insisted she could not be happy with anything except a new toilet seat.  I tried to tell her what a good one the old one was.

No Soap.  It just had to be.

I dangled a new watch, diamonds, a few dresses, another coat ~ No, A Toilet Seat.


I had Hi bring one down from Shepards.  I worked all one forenoon trying to remove the old.  It clung to its position till in desperation I cut the bolts with a hacksaw.

The new one went on better and Margaret got a new set of table linen for it.  It sure looks nice especially the bib about the base.

I don’t long for the old days and old ways.  I recall how the wind whistled in the olds . . . out in the shed.

Public Toilets ~ Wikipedia (in Public Domain)

Aah . . . indoor plumbing . . . that’s better!


1. Silver in the Barn - October 5, 2014

I so enjoy these occasional whispers from the past. Your grandfather was a wonderful writer with a wry sense of humor.

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

I’ve enjoyed reading his letters and plan to share a few more “golden nuggets” (and silly bits) in the coming weeks.

2. Jill Weatherholt - October 5, 2014

I love reading letters from the past. Thanks for sharing, Nancy! One day I might write a post about my first and only attempt at cooking a turkey. 🙂

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

Yes, please! I remember my first time . . . trying to figure out how to wash the dead bird without actually touching it. 😛

3. katecrimmins - October 5, 2014

My childhood home had an outhouse. By the time I can remember anything, there was an indoor bathroom but it was in the basement. People still used the outhouse when they were outside. My parents moved in 1958 and the new owners ripped out the outhouse and eventually put a second bathroom on the second floor where the bedrooms were. I hated the outhouse. It stank and the seat was always damp. Yuk! Guess I wouldn’t have made a good pioneer.

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

Me neither, Kate. As far as I’m concerned, indoor “facilities” ranks right up there with the BEST invention ever.

We watched a show on a newly-wedded couple shopping for a “dry cabin” (no plumbing) in Alaska. The outhouses were, in a word, horrendous. One didn’t even have a door! Just a curtain. Yeah, like that’s going to keep a grizzly bear at bay.

I cannot imagine tramping through the snow, in the dark, listening to howling wind (and wolves) to sit on a frozen throne.

katecrimmins - October 5, 2014

Or at 3 a.m. when my bladder says, “Up and at um!”

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

One of the houses had a closet with a toilet seat (no bowl) over a bucket for midnight runs. Nasty, but so worth it when it’s 60 degrees BELOW zero.

ericjbaker - October 5, 2014

Not mention that the suspension system on my Nissan is a lot easier on the back than that of a covered wagon. I’d have made a bad pioneer too. Heck, I still live in one of the 13 colonies.

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

Can’t imagine crossing this vast country via covered wagon. We’ve done two cross country trips in Air Conditioned cars. Not sure I’d do it again.

Too much ground to cover in a covered wagon for sure.

4. NancyTex - October 5, 2014

As a child I visited my paternal grandparents in Europe in the early 70s. They STILL had an outhouse, despite being very middle class and owning be of the largest homes in the neighbourhood. I think it was just pure stubbornness that kept them from putting in an indoor toilet. (They had all manner of other indoor plumbing..). Anyway, even as a child I knew that was just plain wrong. 🙂

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

Exactly. It’s just plain wrong! (Of course, some people say that about my stubborn refusal to get a Smart Phone).

5. granny1947 - October 5, 2014

Oh my word…those public toilets!!!!

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

I would have to be REALLY desperate.

granny1947 - October 5, 2014

Don’t think I could ever be THAT desperate!

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

You might be right. Better to hobble over to the nearest shrub and crouch. 😛

6. Pix Under the Oaks - October 5, 2014

Love the letter from your Grandfather. “no soap”.. haven’t heard that in awhile. The picture of that public toilet is my worst nightmare.. 😮

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

“No Soap” was my favorite line . . . that and the image of him dangling diamonds in front of my granny. Not likely!

At the home show last weekend, they had the most LUXURIOUS “porta-potties” ever! Marble countertops. Running water in the sink. Hand towels. Awesome.

7. valleygrail - October 5, 2014

Family stories are the best! Wonderful memories.

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

I’ve had fun working my way through my grandfather’s letters ~ especially enjoyed his occasional turn of phrase (e.g., “no soap”).

8. diannegray - October 5, 2014

It must be so lovely reading these letters, Nancy. Thank you so much for sharing them with us! 😀

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

Glad you enjoyed, Dianne. My grandfather always looked so serious that I’ve enjoyed seeing him goof around. I’m going to share a few more gems. Maybe once a week, plus or minus.

9. Grannymar - October 5, 2014

Nancy, I’m smiling and remembering the first time I cooked the turkey. I was all of twelve #12 years of age.

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

Fantastic telling, GM. Such a wee bairn to be plucking a dead bird. I’d have run squawking from the kitchen.

I’ve never had to behead or de-feet a fowl, much less pluck its feathers. From the sounds of it, you did well!

Grannymar - October 6, 2014

AND lived to tell the tale!

nrhatch - October 6, 2014

And tell it well. 😎

10. jannatwrites - October 5, 2014

Thanksgiving as a child was always a flurry of activity… and I don’t know if there was ever a year where all of the items were ready at the same time…it seemed something was in a holding pattern no matter what.

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

Mom managed to get the bird out to rest in time to use the oven to keep everything else warm until she was ready to serve. I doubt she would have done as well on Christmas Day with presents competing with cooking. So I think my grandfather did pretty well . . . good thing everyone was hungry.

For Christmas, we had roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, veggies, and plum pudding for dessert.

11. Eric Tonningsen - October 5, 2014

The last photo makes Port-o-Pots look kind of sanitary… or at least private. Over the years I have found turkey prep to be hit or miss. I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve prepped in differently each year., Then again, I don’t always follow recipes precisely, either.

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

Yes. Communal pits for pots are the pits! I want access to a sanitary private interior pot . . . with no breeze.

I bet your pups get treated to some turkey too, don’t they?

It’s been years since I’ve cooked a turkey ~ I don’t miss anything but the aroma wafting through the house. Fixing Thanksgiving dinner is much easier without Big Bird hogging the oven.

We host Thanksgiving for my sister’s family, but they’re all vegetarian or vegan too. So it’s no fuss, no bother.

And plenty of room for pie! :mrgreen:

12. Behind the Story - October 5, 2014

Those old letters from the past are fun. You’re lucky to have them.

My grandma always prepared an excellent turkey dinner–everything just right. Roasting a turkey is no problem; it’s taking the meat off the bones after dinner and cleaning up the mess I could do without.

nrhatch - October 5, 2014

You’re right. Getting it into the oven is a breeze . . . unless you’re 12 years old and handed a bird with head, feet, and feathers intact. To read more, see the link at comment #9 to Grannymar’s post.

13. uju - October 6, 2014

The out-house looks better on whatever part of the world that is. Back home here my folks used to handle their business in dug holes in the bushes 😀 In-door plumbing still trumps anyway.

Had lots of gun reading this 🙂

nrhatch - October 6, 2014

Hi Uju . . . thanks for swinging round from Timi’s blog. I so agree. Indoor plumbing is a modern necessary for most of us. I bet that’s why one of the nicknames for a bathroom is “the necessary.”

In Alaska (and elsewhere), they dig holes for their business and construct a small hut with a seat over the hole. Instant Outhouse. When it’s “full” . . . they dig a new hole, fill in the old hole, and move the hut. I wonder if that’s why football players say, “hut one . . . hut two . . . hut three . . . hike”? 😛

14. Three Well Beings - October 6, 2014

I would love to have the wealth in family letters that you have, Nancy. They are such a peek into our past and I think tell us more about who we came from then relying on memory. The little quirky details are just so rich! I can remember an outhouse at my great-grandmother’s Missouri home. We would travel by car from CA to a little city, Cassville, MO, and my memories are vivid of the vegetable garden and sweet smiles and hugs…and needing to get up in the night and use the outhouse. I was appalled! We spend so much time thinking about the “good old days” and going back just into my own childhood and we get to the place where indoor plumbing wasn’t necessarily an expectation! Hahaha!

nrhatch - October 6, 2014

This morning, I filed the letters in two 3-ring binders, by date. So anytime someone wants a peek into the past, they can enjoy a bit of time travel without feeling discombobulated by bouncing around the time capsule.

The closest experience I’ve had to your nocturnal visits to your great-grandparents’ outhouse in Cassville MO occurred when camping with my parents (who often chose parks with no plumbing). My siblings and I referred to non-flush commodes as “shit pits” . . . much to my parents’ chagrin. :mrgreen:

15. Sun Temples and Druids | Spirit Lights The Way - June 17, 2015

[…] posts re dad’s dad:  The Other Side of Retirement * How NOT To Cook A Turkey * Pragmatic Thoughts on Life & Death * Wry Observations on Dry Politics * Flying Squirrels […]

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