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Sorry, Kids: Mom's Never Making Turkey

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The other day I was thinking of Thanksgiving traditions that I hope to pass on to my girls, and I got a little teary-eyed, thinking of our annual "Setting Store-Bought Cookies Out on a Platter" that we never miss. Then there’s the lively "Clean Your Goddamn Room" that always takes place 30 minutes before guests arrive—it sets a festive mood and seems to bring us closer.

Ah, making memories!

One thing I will not be able to pass on to them and future generations? How to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.

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The truth is, I’ve never cooked a turkey. I’m pretty intimidated by an object so massive—plus I can think of other 16-pound things I’d rather cook, like 16 packages of bacon. Also, poultry is tricky because the risk of salmonella if it’s not prepared correctly and poisoning my entire family during Thanksgiving dinner would pretty much guarantee there’d be no Christmas presents for me.

If I stall long enough while we’re discussing the menu, someone else will always volunteer to bring the main course.

A funny thing happens when you tell someone you’ve never cooked a turkey. They always say, “Oh, but it’s so easy,” and proceed to give you detailed instructions on how you too, can master the bird. “Just rub it all over with truffle oil, stuff it with a chestnut-date-quinoa mixture that you missed three days of work to make, give it a generous sprinkling of salt, pepper, thyme and the sweat rolling off your face, tie the legs together with a Donna Karan scarf and pop it in the oven. EASY PEASY!”

Whether I’ve hosted Thanksgiving or someone else has taken it on, the job of turkey-cooking has always fallen on either my mom or one of my four siblings. My secret: I find that if I stall long enough while we’re discussing the menu, someone else will always volunteer to bring the main course. Then I feign disappointment and follow up with a comment like, “Oh darn, I see someone else has already decided to bring the turkey. All right then, I’ll just bring the napkins.”

I’m more of a side-dish person, and I’d rather cook up a batch of mashed potatoes or some sautéed Brussels sprouts. Last year, I contributed a carafe of cranberry-infused bourbon and served pre-dinner cocktails to everyone—they were delicious and widely consumed, and it’s safe to say there were a few people who wouldn’t have noticed if there was a turkey on the table or not. That is what I call the start to a meaningful tradition.

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I’ll have to think of other things I can pass on to my girls for when they’re hosting their own Thanksgiving dinners. They don’t really like to cook, so chances are they’ll never prepare a turkey, either, but I’ll make sure and teach them some memorable ways they can contribute to the day. After all, someone has to take the dinner rolls out of the package and put them in a bowl.

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