From a bunch of post-college nincompoops to a parrot who refused to let his human companions eat a brother bird, this year’s “Big Turkey” contest yielded a cornucopia of funny, sad, touching and embarrassing Thanksgiving stories. Here are excerpts from our four winning entries:
The Know Nothings
By Warren Cohen
In 1989, my three best pals and I were baby birds out of the nest — just 22-years-old in our first post-college bachelor digs that had a contraption that none of us knew how to use: a kitchen.
When November came, we decided to attempt a Thanksgiving dinner as a way of impressing our female neighbors.
We preheated the oven and followed the directions to prep the bird. “Remove the giblets” was the first order of business. We tried to reach inside the bird’s cavity to grab them, but our hands could barely fit inside. We untied the turkey legs to get a better angle, but that still yielded nothing.
Anxiously, we called one of our mothers to walk us through it, but she was stumped. In a panic, we started speed-dialing everyone we knew in the over-50 set and received all sorts of advice, including one mother who advised us to really stretch open the turkey’s legs to enlarge the opening. We tried but the turkey was stiff, as if it had rigor mortis.
Did we, in our innocence, purchase a defective turkey? Our next call yielded the important, forgotten detail: defrosting.
Who knew you had to defrost a turkey?
With a necessary five hours of defrosting per pound, our turkey would be ready to eat in early December. We withdrew our invitation to the neighbors and shared a ramen Thanksgiving instead.
A Sticky Situation
By Marion Sisserman
My son has a parrot that he brings wherever he goes. My husband and I ask him not to bring the parrot to our house anymore because he takes the parrot out of his cage and is very annoying when he flies around.
My son thinks it is very funny, but my husband always tells him, “One day, I am going to put that bird in the oven.”
Last year on Thanksgiving, my husband and I decided to play a joke on my son. I bought a Cornish hen, and while I was cooking my turkey, I cooked the hen.
My son came over with his wife and the bird that we asked him not to bring. After everyone arrived, I told my son and his wife to pick up my mother — and when they left, I hid the bird on the terrace, and took out my food (and the Cornish hen).
When my son came back, he said, “Where is Sticky?” (that’s the bird’s name). My husband said, “Sticky is sleeping with the fishes. I warned you that one day I was going to cook that bird — well, here he is on the table.”
After my son and his wife finished hyperventilating, we told him that we were just joking and that the bird was on the terrace. But when he went to get the bird, Sticky was almost frozen (it’s a tropical bird and should not be put in the cold — but how should I know that?).
We all thought the bird was dead, but fortunately, he started to move his wings.
We then had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and we were both taught a lesson: My son does not bring the bird to my house anymore, and now I miss the bird.
Tuna in the Wild
By Sydelle Freed
In the summers, I get away from it all by going to central Maine, 450 miles north of here, but light years away in lifestyle.
I was visiting this same wooded farming community one Thanksgiving. Since I am only a summer visitor, I had many invitations extended to me to share in the Thanksgiving festivities. First, I went to my across-the-street neighbors. Someone (who shall remain unnamed) had run into a goose and it was still stuck to the front grill of a large Chevy. They cut open the goose and found it had fermented berries in its belly, meaning it was drunk when it strayed into the middle of the road waiting to get run into.
I passed on that exotic treat, only to have the husband tell me he just shot a rabbit and the stew would be ready shortly. I forgot what excuse I made, but I high-tailed it out of there and went to visit another friend about five miles away.
By now, I was quite hungry. This second friend informed me that the thing I was smelling was a frozen moose rump defrosting in the microwave. It had been recently shot by her father, and wasn’t I so lucky to be able to share it with them?
Again, I made another excuse and left to visit another friend, really just wanting a turkey.
My options were running low. This third friend had a cauldron outside and was boiling the skin off a deer, explaining that they (meaning we) were having venison for dinner.
While I applaud them for hunting down their own Thanksgiving dinner, it wasn’t any more palatable to me than whatever you could hunt in Brooklyn (squirrel, raccoon, rat). I didn’t want to be ungracious, but I wanted my turkey.
I ended up having a tuna fish sandwich for my Thanksgiving meal.
I think about this story every Thanksgiving. In fact, last year, I trudged a whole smoked turkey from Fairway up there for Christmas vacation, just to make sure that I didn’t have to go through any of that again!
Roxy Defends a Fellow Bird
By Susan Caputo
Last Thanksgiving, my son, as usual, brought his African Grey Parrot to my house and allowed him to sit on his shoulder. As we put the turkey on the table, Roxy — the parrot — calmly walked off my son’s shoulder, down his arm and onto the turkey.
And there he sat. We were astounded. Every time one of us would try to grab Roxy, she would just start running around on the turkey. There was no way we could start carving the turkey with her on it. It was as if she was telling us, “No way.”
We did eat all the trimmings, but we never ate the turkey. We actually felt guilty. Roxy remained on this turkey until she was caught off guard many hours later by my son and put back into her cage. Some of us ate the turkey the next day, but guests lost out.
They’re all winners
Each winner of our Big Turkey Contest will receive a Thanksgiving dinner courtesy of our contest sponsors. That means enough turkey and trimmings from Jive Turkey to feed 10 people (or six Brooklynites!), six bottles of wine from the Greene Grape (they say rose goes great with poultry, by the way) and a seasonal pie from Baked.
Now that you’ve read the winning stories, it’s time to meet our sponsors:
Jive Turkey [441 Myrtle Ave., between Waverly and Clinton avenues in Clinton Hill. (718) 797-1688 or www.thejiveturkey.com].
It’s one thing to make a turkey well, but it takes a real pro to make Cajun-style, Jamaican jerk, Buffalo-wing, Orange Zinfandel and Peking-duck-style turkeys. But that’s what owner Aricka Westbrooks has been doing since 2001 — attracting loyal customers that include the Borough President. Here we see Westbrooks with her pride and joy.
The Greene Grape [765 Fulton St., between South Portland Avenue and South Oxford Street in Fort Greene. (718) 797-9463 or www.greenegrape.com].
Valuing loyalty is what the Greene Grape is all about. Customers who spend $250 get a voucher for $20 to spend on their next purchase. Here, manager Elizabeth Decoursey presents a sampling of the kinds of wines our winners — and you — can expect at this well-stocked, knowledgeable shop.
Baked [359 Van Brunt St., between Dikeman and Wolcott streets, in Red Hook. (718) 222-0345 or www.bakednyc.com].
Since opening in January, 2005, co-owners Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis have been churning out delectable baked goods made with ingredients from the four main food groups (sugar, butter, eggs, chocolate). Here we see Poliafito showing off one of his apple pies (though we urge you to try the chocolate pecan pie, too!).