Member Monday: Jackie Cundiff

This week’s Member Monday is from Jackie Cundiff. Jackie shared this story at last December’s Read Around.

Our next Read Around is coming up in June. We invite everybody to come out and share a five minute reading of their work. We will post more details next month.

Rotisseries: Ferris Wheels for Chickens

I’m not big on doing barbeque or any cooking outdoors. I’ll be frank. I’m not too big on any cooking, but it’s one of life’s fundamental requirements. If necessary I can put on a good meal, maybe even an elegant meal. I raised four kids, and they fondly think of me as a good cook, but then their memory of their childhood differs from mine. Since my discovery of the George Foreman grill, my barbeque has stood unused, unless one of my macho boys shows up and brings meat. Then they cook it, which is almost as good as take out.

Some years ago, when I was still feeding three boys that consumed mountains of food daily, we purchased a new barbeque. It was pretty fancy. It had a bit of chrome, a temperature regulator, and a fancy rotisserie. As I peeked through the owner’s manual, I came across a picture of a beautiful turkey, done to perfection, using the rotisserie. I read through the directions, and as it looked pretty simple I decided that is what we would have for Thanksgiving when turkey is required cuisine.

The recipe called for a bird of twelve pounds or under. That was okay, as I never liked leftovers, and since there were only going to be seven of us, it seemed adequate. However, just to be sure, I purchased a boned twelve-pounder. On Turkey Day I propped the included booklet next to the grill, just in case I needed more directions, fed the turkey roast through the spit, and carefully inserted the prongs. I sure didn’t want it to fall off the spit. I set the temperature to medium, plugged her in, and we were cookin’.

It had clouded up a bit and a few flakes of snow drifted down. I moved a table close to the grill and raised the umbrella. After all, it was November and snow wasn’t unusual, but I didn’t know what a sudden snow flurry would do to our new grill or to our dinner.

I watched the roast rotate for a bit, and I thought it looked a little dry. I could fix that. I went to the kitchen for a cube of butter. I peeled the wrapper back and inch or so and returned to the porch to rub the butter on the bird. When I touched the butter to the outside of the turkey, it was hot-hot-hot. I dropped the butter, and it fell into the burner. It flared up, and the net bag that enclosed the meat caught fire. I grabbed the spit handle and pulled the turkey away from the fire thinking that it would go out. It just flared bigger. I waved it, trying to extinguish the flame, hit the umbrella and had another fire going. I screamed and called for help.

The men in the house were gathered around the TV with some football game or other, and my voice wasn’t heard over the crowd’s fervor. However, my daughter heard. She came running with the fire extinguisher. She sprayed the turkey. She sprayed the barbeque. She sprayed the umbrella. She sprayed the deck. She sprayed the air around us. She sprayed me. We were having a white Thanksgiving.

We weren’t having a turkey dinner, though. The new grill didn’t recover. The umbrella was a goner. Amid the general household hilarity, I headed for the shower. Soap and shampoo helped me recoup. But what about dinner? While I showered, my sons fried up some bacon and boiled some eggs. My daughter sliced some fruit, cooked up some white sauce, and toasted some English muffins. Soon we sat down to the traditional family emergency dinner, the dinner that effortlessly materialized when I stayed too long at the bridge table or was generally delayed getting home: creamed eggs on English muffins, bacon, and sliced fruit. The conversation was mostly about fire control, evacuation routes, and of course, my past faux pas, of which I have had a few.

I don’t do Thanksgiving from scratch anymore. I try to hint that someone else do it. One year I even faked a broken oven. Raley’s does a good turkey dinner if the hint doesn’t take, and you can keep it a couple of days before reheating and serving. The things we learn when we get old.

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