Hamptons Epicure: Please Pass the Entire Turkey

Are you having ham or turkey for Christmas dinner? My family has Irish roots, so the answer is “Yes.” Too much is just right. Ham is easy, turkey can be a little tricky.

Coincidence prevails here on the East End of Long Island. Give someone the finger when they cut you off at a light, it’ll turn out that that person was in a hurry for a meeting with you and your boss. Get into an argument with your kid’s teacher, her husband—the local fire inspector—will show up at your rental property the next day.

Last month our editorial staff was planning a big potluck dinner together, which gave our web editor Brendan J. O’Reilly an opportunity to tell the story of a particular Thanksgiving dinner hosted by a friend. This friend pulled out all the stops and cooked up a big bird and invited the whole famdamily. The guy had worked as a cook, so it wasn’t a stretch for him to prepare a big spread, with his wife assisting. Family members were invited to bring a dish of their choice.

So, what did his mother-in-law bring to the feast? A roasted turkey. She didn’t trust his handiwork—obviously. So the family was strictly divided that year—not over light or dark meat, but over whose turkey they consumed.

We all agreed that there is NEVER a time when it’s appropriate to take a turkey to a Thanksgiving dinner—until this past Thanksgiving.

Jeanelle Myers, Dan’s Papers’View from the Garden” columnist, once again invited my husband and me over for Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, our first with her crew, was lovely but turkey-free. She’s vegetarian, her husband Terry “The Performing Plumber” Sullivan isn’t. He bought a pair of roast chickens. It was tasty…but not turkey. So, testing the limits and dimensions of our friendship, I asked Jeanelle if I could bring a turkey this year. She agreed immediately. That part was easy.

I went out and bought a brined kosher bird and threw it into the vegetable drawer of our fridge. Then my ever-practical husband inquired in a rather alarmed tone, “But how will we get it there?!” Hmm. Five blocks is too far to carry a cooked turkey. We have a van, but since it’s perpetually full of my husband’s sound equipment, I’m not allowed to soil it in any way. I said, “We’ll wrap it in foil and throw it in a big pan.” But he scoffed, “What about the half-hour of resting time? If we show up with the turkey we’ll have to eat it immediately—that’s not normal. Usually people chat and snack and drink cocktails before they sit down to eat.”

Oh, I see, now our neighborhood gang of artists and hippies is standing on ceremony. I said, “Fine, you go and chat, I’ll show up at the appointed time with the beast. That’s normal, everybody knows I’m allergic to small talk.” He harrumphed.

I brought my turkey dilemma to the office, where assistant editor Lee Meyer chimed in with some solid advice: “You need a warm body to hold it in the backseat—gravy on the side, of course.” Apparently his family has made turkey transport a holiday tradition.

In the end we arrived as a family—mother, father and roast bird right on time. And when we got there, 10 people were standing around the dinner table, waiting for the guest of honor. He was hot, moist and much appreciated.

My husband added the following line to this week’s column: “The turkey was good, too.”

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