Monday, November 21, 2005

Turkey for me, Turkey for you.

It's obvous that we here at The Bookish Girl are worldly (or other worldly depending on who you ask.) I mean look at the Frappr! map - the words of this here blog do not reach many people but those that it does reach are sufficiently spread across the map. Polluting minds across the globe, that's my new motto.

I'll also have you know that I had no idea there were so many deviant librarians out there. You do the Bookish Girl proud ladies, yes you do. They through caution to the wind and rack up overdue fines. I'd say Bravo but the less diviant among you might hunt me down.

In the spirit of international peace and harmony my husband and I are having Thanksgiving at our house with a bunch of orphans that we are semi-aquainted. Adult orphans without family close by and, in most cases, without any prior Thanksgiving experience. Add that and a dash of very little English spoken and you have a recipe for a very unpredictable and borderline crazy Thanksgiving.

I should preface this with the explanation that Thanksgiving is by far my most favorite holiday of the year. I love to give thanks and I love to eat. What a great combination. I have spent Thanksgiving away from my family but never away from either Rob's or my family. I have NEVER been responsible for procuring a bird, roasting its skin or cooking its carcass into a soup (carcass is one funny word) for a full party of 9 adults and 2 children. Again, most of which either do not speak English or do not speak English well...good...whatever. Therefore, my expectation of this day far exceeds my skill set. The learning curve is steep.

So I call the local friendly organicish grocery store to order the bird.

I now ask each of you to offer up your most sage advice. Your cooking disasters or your greatest Thanksgiving vicory. The international members of the group need not be too celebrate holidays that are filled with a lot of eating and celebration.

How in the hell do you orchastrate such a disaster waiting to happen?

Can anyone tell me how to say, I'm sorry my dog is sniffing your crotch in Japanese?

And is there really a way to explain why American's (specifically Mr. Bookish) are absolutely insane about football?

Finally, we will have 6 countries represented (I count Hong Kong and China as two different countries) and many many laughs. I am so Thankful to have an opportunity to know these people and hear their perspective and share their stories. Even if it is over a boiled bird*.

And I have many Finished Objects for you. The light does not cooperate though. Pictures will have to wait until the post-Thanksgiving coma has worn off.

* So, I made a Turkey for Easter one year in college. Somehow it ended up in the pan upside down and with lots of "juice." The bird, it was boiled. But man, it was moist!
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Anonymous Beth said...

Here's a article on how to do the braiding on a card. It's fun and looks really nice.

11/21/2005 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Carole said...

At least the people you're inviting won't have high expectations for thanksgiving, right? It's a new experience for them so they'll think whatever you do is brilliant. My only advice is make sure you have canned gravy as a back up for your homemade gravy. I'm sure it will all be great!

11/21/2005 10:32 PM  
Anonymous wendy said...

my tips for the holiday: alton brown is your friend.,1977,FOOD_9936_8389,00.html,1977,FOOD_9936_6571,00.html

you can do it! just whatever you do, keep it simple. maybe ask your guests to bring the sides so all you have to do is the bird? that's how my family does it. everyone brings one dish, the host makes the bird.

11/21/2005 11:12 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

That's so great of you to open up your dinner. I know at school they have a program where you can take in a couple foreign students for Thanksgiving, but unfortunately we're too far from campus to be of much help. I think the boiled bird sounds great, I can't stand dry meat.

11/22/2005 12:23 AM  
Blogger Vicki Knitorious said...

Sounds like your bird won't be frozen -- that means you don't have to worry about thawing. A former coworker of mine didn't realize that the turkey needed to be defrosted, nor that the gizzards and whatnot needed to be removed and let's just say that four hours in the oven wasn't NEARLY enough and she had to take her parents out to dinner... Even if you do have a frozen, turkey, we now know that this won't happen to you. ; ) You'll have a fine dinner and a really great time!!

11/22/2005 12:24 AM  
Blogger CynCyn said...

my tip: make as much as you can ahead of time (like cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc) and focus on the damned bird the day of. it hogs the oven almost the entire day. there's also something called brining which supposedly makes it moist... u can find directions on the food forum at craigslist.
finally... GOOD LUCK.
and sorry in mandarin chinese is "dwai bu chee" which u can just keep muttering.

11/22/2005 3:30 AM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Thanksgiving...hmmm, for me, it will be spent, not with any of my family (a first for me)...not one relative will be present. I am going to Chinatown with the girls for Dim Sum. Never been & don't know a thing about Dim should be fun. ...DH is on his own for this one!

11/22/2005 5:02 AM  
Blogger maryse said...

your thanksgiving sounds great. and i'm sure you'll do fine. since i moved to the states i've pretty much been an adult orphan spending thanksgiving alone or with people who were kind enough to share their thanksgiving with me and it's always been fun. i've also gotten together with other adult orphans and we would do it up as best as we could -- the only traditional thanksgiving food being the turkey. turkey goes with moussaka ... it really does!

anyway -- your guests will love whatever you do!

11/22/2005 6:56 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Keep it simple. If your guests aren't bringing a side dish, try not to go crazy with too many offerings. You don't really need stuffing AND potatoes.
Brining does make for a fool-proof moist bird, if you're worried about overcooking.
You'll do great!

11/22/2005 7:06 AM  
Blogger wenders said...

Oh goodness. How long is too long for a comment? Cause I could go on and on about Thanksgiving adventures. Turkeys that still had feathers on them, living in another country with an oven the size of a breadbox. Actually, maybe I will, on my blog.

Anyway, the key to success is...

Wine. Beer.

For you, for them...Everyone stays warm and happy!

11/22/2005 7:08 AM  
Blogger Bonne Marie said...

Honey, in a word: POTLUCK! :)

Your guests will feel more like family if they can bring some of their own comfort food (and booze?!)

Hint#2: get thee a copy of "Joy of Cooking" By Marion Rombauer Becker, all a girl needs to know about any food - including Puff Pastry, which I've attempted and made with the lovely Marion's help...

Bonne *App├ętit* Marie

11/22/2005 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Cara-ISH said...

You bitch about lace and cables and such, but yet you're willing to put on a Thanksgiving dinner? for foreigners no less whose idea of Thanksgiving is shaped by Martha Stewart and her ilk?

Listen to me and listen close: LACE IS EASIER!!! ;-)

Just joshing you. Oh and I win deviant librarian of the year award. The other day I got a personal phone call from the local library director asking me about a long overdue library book. It came by interlibrary loan and apparently they owe the other library about a million dollars. The words "cut us a check" were in the voice mail.

Yes. There's a hot place in hell for librarians like me and I suspect it's a room filled to the brim with Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts. Fuck.

11/22/2005 7:55 AM  
Anonymous mary said...

well love her or hate her, the Martha Stewart morning show has been doing thanksgiving tips all week, so perhaps her website would be helpful? I'm not talented in the cooking arean either, but I actually understood what they were doing and felt like I could do it too! [except put my hands in the bird, eesh!] good luck to you, and I concur with the potluck and extra drinks ideas.

11/22/2005 9:11 AM  
Blogger cursingmama said...

So many good tips! I'm guessing that with your multi-national group potluck most likely isn't easily had. Alto Brown makes a FAB turkey, if oven space is limited I use crock pots to keep things warm (mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc....), and stay away from a lot of different side dishes - focus on a few simple ones that can be made ahead (or at prepped ahead)for your 1st time out. Good Luck!

11/22/2005 9:24 AM  
Blogger Jes said...

My only brilliant advice is to make as much as possible in the day before. This is my first Thanksgiving too, but I'm not having nearly as many people. I do plan to make everything I can on Wed. and try to take it nice and slow on Thursday to avoid any standard Jes klutz disasters. Also, anything messy you can use disposable containers/plates/cookware for is always helpful for avoiding the post-turkey cleanup disasters.

Here's the website I got a bunch of my recipes from:
They're listed with reviews and ratings. Some of them have hit their book, which is what I'm mostly using. They look really good. I hope they turn out that way [fingers and toes crossed].
Good luck!

11/22/2005 11:04 AM  
Blogger Martita said...

Two words: turkey fryer. If you have access to a grassy outdoor location, a delicious fried turkey only takes 1 hour to cook. The downside is if it's raining, you're pretty much screwed because boiling oil and water can become explosive, and it is not safe to do indoors.

Turkey soup is a snap--save all the bones from your eviscerated turkey and plunk them in a large pot. Break a few of the bones to let the marrow out. Cover the carcass with water and boil for about 3 hours (I think). That creates your stock. Then throw in some leftover veggies and turkey, and two critical ingredients: leftover mashed potatoes and cooking sherry. I know the mashed potatoes are a huh? ingredient, but they thicken it up and add a buttery creaminess to the soup.

I'm with cursingmama and Liz on the limited sides--every year I make way too many. There's only so much people can eat, you know? 2-3 sides is plenty.

I cooked the turkey Martha Stewart's "flip the bird" way one year, and I burned the hell out of my hands (you prop the bird up on its side with foil--easier said than done--and flip it periodically). And the turkey wasn't that great for all that labor. Frankly, I'm not that impressed with Martha's recipes and gave my cookbook away. She does have a brined turkey recipe that I've never tried because it sounded too labor-intensive.

Good luck! And remember, your guests are grateful that you are doing all this for them and they will be understanding and gracious no matter what happens--even if you undercook the turkey and have to microwave pieces like we did one year. I've done 7 Thanksgivings, and every one has been an adventure.

11/22/2005 11:59 AM  
Anonymous liz said...

Hi Bookish Girl! I'm a new reader and have been giggling through some of your past entries. I love your wacky cleverness!

Anyway, your Thanksgiving sounds like it's going to be memorable. I like the idea of a Potluck. Didn't I read that in the latest Real Simple??? Encourage your international counterparts to bring something they consider comfort food... it can be a learning experience and hey, if they don't like anything else, they'll at least eat what they brought, right!?

Happy Turkey Day! Gobble Gobble!

11/22/2005 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Jessie D. said...

I am probably not the best person to take advice from -- I have been in charge of one thanksgiving dinner in my life. And the experience of making that turkey confirmed my suspicion that I should be a vegetarian. And I have been, ever since that fateful dinner 12 years ago -- really!

But that said, I have helped put many subsequent thanksgivig dinners together and have two recommendations:
1) I second the Alton Brown recommendation.
2) If you want to get all analytical about it, check out

Good luck and have a marvelous thanksgiving!

11/22/2005 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Shelley said...

My best advice is two fold and contradicts some other advice above, but here goes:
first-cook the bird in a bag, one of those oven bags. It browns perfectly, cooks faster, doesn't mess up the oven.
second-skip the turkey fryer idea. The last time a friend did that out in the driveway, someone backed over the fryer and gallons of grease went flying. Of course, maybe your friends wouldn't do that.
Oh, and third, from experience, go check the oven after a while and make sure it's working. One year I popped the bird in the oven, we took off for the afternoon, came home to a raw turkey and ended up eating at a restaurant. Oh, and fourth, if you are going to put wild mushrooms in the stuffing, check ahead of time to make sure that no one gets violently ill from eating them. But fifth, just remember that we all live and learn from these kinds of experiences!

11/22/2005 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Samantha said...

you can do it, I have faith! My favorite hanksgivings as a chil were when we were overseas(dad's job) and would have orphans over. We usually had lonely american servicemen come over, and making their day happy was so cool.

Also, my hubby is the cook in our family and he swears by brining. And, Butterflying. And, "How to Cook Everything"...

11/22/2005 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

You've got some good tips there, so I won't confuse the matter. We also hold a turkey day for the orphans from work. Many different nationalities have been represented. "Thank you for this delicious food" - in Japanese is "go chiso sama deshita". They should be saying that to YOU. Have a wonderful feast!

Empire Kosher turkey: prebrined by the koshering process, and almost impossible to dry out.

11/22/2005 7:32 PM  
Anonymous stephanie said...

I (the vegetarian) have only cooked a turkey once, as a grossly inappropriate conscession to my carnivorous family. I have this experience driven advice.

Inside the turkey is a plastic bag. Inside the bag are several disgusting internal organs from the inside of the turkey, along with what I suspect may be the neck.


11/22/2005 7:42 PM  
Blogger Kellee said...


I've either hosted or attended a version of this for 15 years now, and every single best Thanksgiving memory I've ever had came from one of these. I personally love the potluck, and have had some of the best food imaginable this way - who cares if fresh Vietnamese spring rolls weren't on the pilgrim's table?

Of course, I've also insisted on spending three days cooking every single scrap of food for 25 (20 of them from other countries) by hand myself, and that's also far more fun than you can imagine. I don't recommend that very often though. It's a LOT of work. If you're comfortable with it, potluck it.

Oh, and I'll chime in on several of the above suggestions: Alton Brown is a God; brining is the best thing ever invented (except, maybe for PRE-BRINED bless you Laurie that's like a miracle); and the turkey fryer ROCKS. This year we're spreading the gospel of the turkey fryer all the way out to Acton. They're so excited to get in on this yummiest of our southern redneck traditions that they've specifically bought a second (10 lb) turkey on top of the 20 lb turkey they already had, even though there are only 10 of us, including the children. How's THAT for dedication to a cause?

Golly, you're going to have so much fun!!! Take pictures! Show us how it goes!

11/23/2005 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Edith said...

Just to riff on The Harlot's comment above ... I love cooking on Thanksgiving, and one year when I was a post-grad student in Germany I decided to make an American-style T-dinner for some German friends. I had a military ID at the time so the day before headed off to the local base commissary to do the shopping - not realizing that ALL the turkeys would be frozen! We ended up finishing the thawing process in the bathtub (not recommended) and Life Was Good until I went to carve the bird and realized I'd forgotten to remove the giblets :-) Fortuantely this happened in the kitchen so no one was the wiser and everything tasted just fine. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember it's the people who add the spice to life!

11/23/2005 1:09 PM  
Blogger Cathi said...

I know you've already gotten a babillion comments, but I second Cyn's advice of cooking ahead as much as possible, have a few extra appetizers (or ask others to bring them) so that people aren't asking 'Is it done yet?', lots of booze and one of the best kitchen tips I ever read- light a candle about five minutes before you start to chop onions, and the candle will help burn off some of that make-you-cry juice/mist. It doesn't always work 100%, but it definitely helps, and it helps your kitchen smell nice before the cooking gets started.

I'm so proud of you for doing Turkey Day on your own! Go you!

11/23/2005 1:36 PM  
Anonymous elisa said...

I don't know shit about shit when it comes to Turkey, but I do know that you are one generous Bookish Girl. I told my officemate about you having the orphans for Thanksgiving, and she's *STILL* commenting on how kind and generous of you it is to do that.

BTW - the only thing I know how to say in Japanese translates into "Penis Man" so I probably wont' be a lot of help.

Love you!

11/23/2005 2:04 PM  
Blogger Gypsymoth4 said...

I'm lame and have no tips. This Thanksgiving will be the first Kurt and I will be cooking a bird. So... I need help, too. But I thought I'd stop by, say "hi," and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! You are most generuous and kind to the orphans.

As Chris Farley said in a Japanese gameshow skit on SNL, "Qua kee sur pee nee coo." You might want to offer this as a blessing and see if your guests know what it means.

11/23/2005 5:08 PM  
Blogger Norma said...

OH.MY.GOD. So sorry I got here late to the party. I just came to say Happy Thanksgiving. But you'll do just fine. What a lovely gesture, completely in tune with the spirit of Thanksgiving.

BUT, Wendy, there is the MOST WONDERFUL MOVIE on exactly this topic. It's an indie film called "Pieces of April." It's too bad you didn't get to see it BEFORE, but now you must see it AFTER the dinner, if you haven't seen it already. You will laugh, you will cry. It is SO GOOD.

11/24/2005 10:36 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

I'm late too but hey. I have done several thanksgivings (including this year's) and my ultimate pieces of advice are these:

1. Keep it simple! Thanksgiving is not the time to try a bunch of new recipes you have no idea about. Especially where the bird is concerned.

2. Get the Joy of Cooking. Hands down the best most practical cookbook out there, and you should be able to find a used older edition for a reasonable price. Bonne Marie does not lie!

I hope it went really well for you and your amalgam of guests. Yay!

11/26/2005 11:37 AM  
Blogger Dani said...

SOunds like you had a really unique Thanksgiving. I am glad you had a great time and were able to share it with so many special people.. even if your families were far away :)

11/28/2005 7:48 PM  

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