Have you seen the current sign on the Hawaiian Rent-All building on Beretania at McCully? It says the government is trying to cancel Thanksgiving. The most consistent theme of the owners is that government screws things up. But cancelling Thanksgiving? Government is trying to tamp down the size of tomorrow’s gatherings and discouraging travel as Covid-19 ravages most everywhere but Hawaii.

There’s usually plenty of cooking and entertaining stress on a normal T-Day without worrying about who at the dinner table might look okay but be infectious.

If anything about dinner can go wrong, it will go wrong that final Thursday of November.

My wife and I arranged a T-Day dinner for the NBC News bureau members in Saigon in 1972 at the Ramuncho Restaurant. We bought the ingredients at the military commissary and then instructed the Vietnamese on doing the traditional American meal. Here’s the poultry herbs for the stuffing and inside of the bird. The spices for the pumpkin pie.

The dinner came out with a heavy cinnamon taste to the turkey and stuffing. A strong sage spice taste to the pie.

Stories abound of disasters or near ones. And disappointments.

“My first vegetarian Thanksgivings,I attempted to make my own version of tofurky. We ended up with a football-shaped tofu dome filled with stuffing. The tofu the color of carpet and the texture was awful.” 

Bon Appétit says many of you will break your garbage disposal with potato peels, cook the paper liner into the crust of a store-bought pie, and accidentally use powdered sugar instead of cornstarch to thicken your gravy. 

What’s most common? Forgetting to remove the bag of innards or a wad of paper towels in the cavity after drying the turkey.

One family’s distress: “We purchased our fresh Thanksgiving turkey in advance and had to freeze it. The freezer was too small. We forced the turkey in. When we went to remove it to thaw, well, water expands when it freezes. The turkey was solidly stuck. We left the freezer door open for hours but it wouldn’t budge. We pulled out a hair dryer to speed up the defrosting process but the bird held tight. Finally in desperation, we shut off the electricity and cut the lines to the fridge. That finally did it”

And be careful. If the Covid doesn’t kill you, food poisoning might! Two stories about that.

“It was my mother’s first Thanksgiving. The recipe for roast turkey instructed the cook to “wash and dry” the bird. My mother washed the turkey with SOS pads and dish soap, and evidently it didn’t rinse very well.”

“Thanksgiving 5 years ago everyone in my family got food poisoning from my cousin’s cake and they all were gushing gysers out of their butts, except me. I had a seizure and peed myself in the rental car.”

Finally, this caution:

“My Dad and uncle tried frying a turkey. They let the oil get much too hot. It went went up in flames and so did the side of my uncle’s house.”

Have a great one. A safe one. And let Oahu’s firefighters enjoy the holiday in peace.

—30—

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

2 replies on “It Ain’t Always Funny, McGee!”

  1. The last several holidays, my son and I have enjoyed Whole Foods Turkey Breast Dinner for four. I doctor up a bit for taste, but basically it meets our needs and we split the left overs. Much easier shopping! It’s impossible to know when, if ever, the whole family will be together. Have a peaceful day, one and all.

  2. After I read the first paragraph of your column today, I thought you were going to further criticize the critics of too much government intervention during this Covid pandemic. This was basically, I think, the topic of yesterday’s column. By the way, I absolutely agree with your remark about sometimes we have to accept being tread on for a brief period. I also like the thought as expressed by Billy V – ‘It’s not about me. It’s about we.’

    As I continued to read today’s column, I realized where you were going. As mentioned in the title, ‘It ain’t always funny…’, but thank you for sharing the Thanksgiving experiences, most of which were funny. Like you and Patty, I wish everyone a great, safe, peaceful Thanksgiving.

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