The Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

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I put the turkey in the oven at 10:30 in the morning, just like I had planned. The schedule of cooking various dishes was all timed out on a sheet stuck to the fridge. Corn casserole: 2:50. Green bean casserole: 3:00. Buns: 3:00.

The turkey had been soaking in a lovely brine all night. I stuffed the cavity with apples and onions for flavor, covered the breast with a piece of tin foil to slow down the cooking since brown meat cooks faster.

At 1:10, my oven made a bad noise and all the numbers and symbols on the control panel went blank. I knew what had happened. It has happened once before. The oven was finished. Kaput. Dead as a doorknob.

Steve went across the street to ask Cindy, my neighbor if she had a free oven. On Thanksgiving Day. I was too dismal to go myself. She later told me how strangely he approached the problem and we both laughed.

Steve: Cindy, I have a cooking question.
Cindy: Sure?
Steve: Are you cooking today?
Cindy, puzzled: Nope, we are having Thanksgiving tomorrow.
Steve: Well, could we put our turkey in your oven? That is my cooking question.

Steve carefully carried our large turkey, complete with scrumptious smell, across the street. I downgraded the corn casserole to creamed corn, and worked through each additional item to adjust the plan.
AHA! I thought – our gas BBQ!
We got it going and I put the sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole onto the BBQ. Later, I put the buns (frozen) onto the top of the green bean casserole. They seemed to all be cooking okay.

I walked across and checked on the turkey and it looked done. Steve hauled it home and I set it to rest on the counter. Meanwhile I took the casseroles off the BBQ and their containers were a mess. The bottoms were all black (even with tin foil protection) and the insides were well cooked but burned on the bottom.

I started to carve the turkey and it didn’t seem quite usual so I rechecked the temp in the breasts and it was only l40. Sheesh. Fire up the BBQ again. I put the turkey, tin foil covered, into the BBQ with the unfinished bread on top of it. I was losing my victory now, having burned my hands twice, and would just as soon have tossed the turkey into the stream beside the house and all gone to McDonald’s.

Rachel cut the turkey when it finally was finished. I could hardly eat it. But everything made it onto the table and the dinner was actually quite delicious. The lingering problem was that every cooking pot was black with sooty rub on the outside and burned on the inside.

When we went around the table to share what we were thankful for, I was not lacking in thankfulness, I was just flatlined in my emotions. I had worked so hard for this crazy meal, and been frustrated so many times I just didn’t want to give anything more. But my turn came around, and I looked around the table at my beloved people who were all cheering me on, and I simply said, “I am thankful for life. LIFE!”

Sometimes life happens just as we hoped it would. And sometimes it is a big fat mess and we have to work hard just to break even, if that. But this is LIFE. And life is a miracle.

The next day, we experimented to see how a lasagna bakes on the BBQ.

Marilyn Elliott is a member of our Soul Care Collective Steering Committee.
Image attribution: yuvalhadar / Thinkstock

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Vice President for Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been a church leader in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination since 1979. She has wide pastoral experience in partnership with her husband Steve. Together, they have lead three churches over 31 years, provided missionary member-care and pastoral retreats in Chile, Argentina and Venezuela since l985, and formation teaching during Field Conferences in Eastern Europe and Indonesia.

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