Things I Have Learned About Thanksgiving and Turkeys This Week on the Food Network
When my wife and I are busy around the house, we often leave the Food Network on as background noise. It’s the equivalent of Muzak, not demanding our attention in the least, but providing something to fill the gap every time our mind wanders from our projects.
If you watch Food Network at all, you know that in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving the channel shows Thanksgiving-themed programming around the clock. If it isn’t one of the name chefs showing you how to make a dish their grandma used to make, it’s the b-level folks telling you where you can get a delicious turkey meal or gourd-flavored shake.
Now, in my childhood memories of Thanksgiving, I remember a relative of mine, not my mom, getting up at 2 a.m. so she could cook the turkey 14-16 hours in a pan of root vegetables. This, as we all know, resulted in not really a turkey dinner exactly, but more of a turkey-flavored sponge that soaked up gravy quicker and better than any Shamwow.
The Food Network has shown me exactly how complicated, and in some cases erotic, Thanksgiving can be. For example, did you know that to correctly make a turkey, according to my expert friends on the TV, you need to make trips not just to the grocery store, but also to Home Depot and a pharmaceutical supply company? If you don’t have a hypodermic syringe, how are you going to inject duck fat and herbs into the flesh of your bird? Without a bucket, how will you brine Tom Turkey with salted water that takes more time to prepare than the Vatican takes to make holy water?
This is not easy stuff. It is important, they tell us. If you do not prepare, there is a chance that someone may get a bit of turkey that is dry which will ruin everything forever and you might as well die. This is the Food Network’s Super Bowl, and you are not just an observer, but a player. Don’t think you’re going to get away easy by just grilling or deep-frying your bird. You’d think it would relieve some of the pressure, but not if you do it the Food Network way.
In fact, if you watch Alton Brown, you’ll know that if you want to fry your turkey, you need a seven-foot-tall ladder, hemp rope, fire extinguisher, and a metal hook, as well as the mechanism for the actual frying. You’ll truss the turkey up like you were a dominatrix and the turkey was a middle-aged banker. Then you will suspend it over the bubbling oil, lowering it slowly from the ladder, watching it seer and waiting to see if it uses the safe word.
Of course, you could just be a masseuse and rub it with butter and oil before shoving handfuls of bread up inside it and putting it to sleep in a warm oven. There are long, lingering shots of Rachel Ray and Giada applying moistening substances to the rough skin of these giant birds with slow swirling strokes. They smile and look into the camera, while they describe what part of the bird they like best. Rachel likes the dark meat and Giada, if her wardrobe is any indication, likes the breasts.
But this is all foreplay. Thanksgiving is a food orgy and everyone is invited to overindulge in a Bacchic array of specially-crafted dishes until it ends with hand-whipped cream on a homemade-from-scratch slice of pumpkin pie. Then, you collapse onto the couch and nap until bedtime.
The Food Network wants you to remember how important Thanksgiving is. It’s about the food, people (and maybe some message of being thankful for what we have, but mostly the food). Be warned, if you dismiss it, Sandra Lee will shank you in a dark alley and force your mouth open so she can fill it with cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, a sweet potato margarita and the moistest turkey you’ve ever had in your life.