Turkey cooked with a side of humble pie

From our December 2020 issue

By Lillian Rempel – Summerland, B.C.

As a lively teenager, I was raised on a picturesque farm in Northern Alberta. The joy of my life was the hours I spent riding bareback on my spirited little saddle pony. My blonde hair flew in the wind as we raced across the countryside and over ridges of pine and aspen.

These outings also provided a welcome escape from domestic responsibilities at home and the constant urgings of my otherwise mild-mannered mother that it was time for me to settle down and apply myself to learning how to cook.

With WWII still raging full force across the bounding main, many essential food items were available only by tickets from ration books. Therefore, to my mother’s harpings on the subject of cooking, my ready answers were firm but few. “Not right now, mom. I’ll just wait until I get my own home to learn to cook. Then, if it doesn’t turn out fit to eat, it will be my food wasted, not yours.”

By 1947, I was now a brand-new bride with a handsome young husband and a home of my own. My thrifty mother-in-law was a lady of exceptional expertise in all aspects of home management.

Completely whole, except for feathers

The Christmas season was only days away. It was her tradition to continue to host the Christmas festivities and dinner for her half-dozen married offspring and their families. I was speechless when she graciously requested I have the honour of roasting the additional turkey necessary for the Christmas feast this year.

On Christmas morning, little did I realize that “Ma’s” turkey had been ready for the oven long before I’d crept from the cozy warmth of my bed. There on the kitchen table stretched MY clammy turkey, completely whole, except for feathers and breath of life.

A glance at the clock convinced me I was definitely running out of time. Finally, with a thorough interior and exterior cleansing, I packed the cavity with stuffing. With a sigh of relief, popped the roaster into the oven.

I was only a few minutes late as I joined my hubby and the family clan. They were eagerly surrounding the towering Christmas tree at his parents’ home for the traditional ritual of gift-opening together.

Turkey looked marvelous

Finally, it was time to eat! The Christmas banquet was about to be served in all its glory. From my house, someone delivered my roaster and when I lifted the lid the turkey did look marvelous. With much pride, I launched into my carving.

As I sliced into the breast I suddenly noticed a grain of wheat, followed by a couple more kernels oozing to the surface. With a sinking heart I realized that turkeys have crops, which I had failed to remove as I hastily prepared mine for roasting.

Without a moment’s hesitation, I ruthlessly slashed off the whole upper half of the breast and discreetly slid it into a trash bucket beneath the table, surprisingly to no one’s observation. I carefully arranged the rest of the turkey on a platter and silently set it on the table.

Throughout the remainder of that Christmas Day, the wisdom of my mother’s words rang in my ears: “Lillian, don’t you think it’s time for you to learn to cook?”

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