Back By Request: A Cat In The Turkey And Other Thanksgiving horror stories

November 21, 2012

From The Birmingham News:

“We asked readers if their Turkey Day celebrations would put Martha Stewart to shame.

And we’re oh so thankful they said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Seems their Thanksgiving turkeys are sometimes perfectly brown, but disgustingly raw, and from time to time their beautifully-cooked dishes make big-time messes (Can you say exploding turkey?).

One reader responded with a turkey tale involving a cat’s tail, and others told of dogs who helped themselves to turkeys. Another reader told of a flaming appliance, one told of unexpected guests and still another relayed a horror story involving a turkey’s claw.

So check out these holiday mishaps, and you’re sure to feel better about your own straight-out-of-a-sitcom feasts:

Thanksgiving tail

Dottie King of Southside was surprised to find a moving part inside her turkey one year.

“We were clearing the table after a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner,” says King, who lives in Highland Park. “As I entered the kitchen, I saw a tail sticking out of the turkey carcass. A closer look revealed Katy the cat crouched inside the bird eating bits of turkey and dressing. She emerged very pleased with herself and shimmering with turkey grease and with dressing clinging to her whiskers.”

Canine catastrophes

Debbie Patterson of McCalla tells about the year her parents rescued their turkey from a four-legged thief.

“The bird was thawing on the back porch when the neighbor’s bird dog rustled it,” she says. “My parents liberated the turkey from the dog, and it was served. Everyone was told that it was the `other turkey’ that was cooked… They concocted the `other turkey’ idea to prevent a boycott of the meal.”

Mary Estock of Birmingham remembers a similar experience. Her sister, Gena Shimon of Petersburg, Tenn., and her late brother-in-law, Dale, were bringing the star entree. When they arrived, her sister showed her the “mangled smoked turkey, missing a drumstick and a wing.” Seems they’d left the boxed turkey in their open-bed truck while she dashed to the store. Upon return, she discovered a “bouquet of waving tails” in the back of the truck. The couple wrestled the turkey from the dogs, then headed to Estock’s house.
Shimon and her hosts agreed there was no time to replace the bird, so they rinsed it, cut away the gnawed parts and sliced the remains. After dinner, they ‘fessed up, and everyone laughed about the “best doggoned turkey they’d ever eaten.”

Hot stuff

Jennifer Brunner of Hoover enlisted a friend’s help with her first turkey.
“She told me she used a whole stick of butter to coat the turkey so it would be nice and brown,” Brunner says. “This sounded logical to me, so I put the turkey in a pan and used a stick-and-a-half, because it was a big turkey.” When her guests arrived, Brunner opened the oven door.

“The butter from the turkey had dripped down onto the heating element and flames were shooting out,” she says. “The entire oven is on fire.”

The guests converged in the kitchen, where someone grabbed a fire extinguisher and took aim at the turkey. “Fortunately, my husband kept his head and yelled, `Not on the turkey!’ He grabbed a box of baking soda and threw it on the fire… Believe it or not, the turkey wasn’t burned at all.”

You can’t say she didn’t try

During the first years of her marriage, Phyllis Barrett of Cropwell managed to avoid preparing the Thanksgiving Day feast by dining with relatives. Her luck ran out, though, when her family was transferred across the country.

“The first encounter with the big bird was traumatic,” she says. “I put it in the bathtub to thaw, and my 2-year-old son climbed in with it and lathered it with Camay.”

Her troubles didn’t end there.

“I got up at dawn and wrestled with it for three hours before I managed to get it stuffed, trussed and in the oven. Hours later, I pulled it out, roasted to perfection – or so I thought, until my husband said the blessing and carved a bleeding bird! I will always remember how my sympathetic 4-year-old daughter patted me softly and said, ‘Don’t cry, Mama.’”

Surprise inside

Ginger Talbert of north Shelby County didn’t know until after the fact, that turkeys include plastic-wrapped extras inside.

“I noticed when I took it out of the oven and there was a strange-looking piece of `stuff’ coming from the turkey’s bottom,” she says.

Teresa Evans of Smoke Rise also relayed an incident involving an extra ingredient.

“Several years ago, when companies started putting pop-up indicators in turkeys to show they were done, I walked into the kitchen to find my mother and daddy tightly huddled around the sink,” Evans says. “As I got closer I realized they were frantically trying to dig the temperature indicator out of the turkey. My parents thought the turkey had been shot with ‘that thing’ to kill it.”

And you are …

A couple of years ago, Lauren and Joel Brooks, a director of a college ministry, extended a potluck Thanksgiving dinner invitation to students with no place to celebrate. A couple of hours after the meal, two girls showed up on their doorstep, “a gallon of tea in hand.”

“Joel welcomed them and assured them there were plenty of leftovers,” she says. “They sat and talked with Joel for a few minutes and then it became quite obvious they were not part of the ministry… They kept asking, `Now, who else is here?’

Turns out they’d been invited to “a friend of a friend’s” house, also in Crestwood, also yellow and also on top of a hill.

“They ran out quickly and told Joel to keep the tea,” she says.

Not-so-happy meal

“In 1992, we were an abbreviated family living in Texas – my husband, his brother, Stan, our sister-in-law, Darleen and their children, Kelly and Kyle,” says Deborah Limerick of Hoover. She was determined to mimic the large family gatherings they used to enjoy in Mississippi, so she set a beautifully-decorated table and included all the quintessential recipes, including “cornbread dressing per Ma Nell’s directions.”

“After everyone was inside the door that I sensed something wasn’t quite right,” Limerick says. “Then I saw the box… It was a McDonald’s Happy Meal.”

The next Thanksgiving, the “Aunt Deb Thanksgiving Rules” went into effect, including “No Happy Meals at Thanksgiving,” she says.

Slippery situations

Lexi Ambrose of Bessemer offers a messy tale that ends with a hairy situation.

“One Thanksgiving my mom and dad came to celebrate the holiday with us and to meet their granddaughter’s fiance,” she says. Her mother, who headed the cafeteria-style line, was scooping green bean casserole onto her plate when her father tried to slip into place behind her.

“He accidentally pushed her off-balance, and the green-bean casserole went flying across the room along with her,” Ambrose says. “As she fell, her wig came off and landed in the green beans. My daughter’s fiance picked up the green-bean laced hair, and with a suppressed grin handed it back to my mom and said, `Madam, I think you dropped something.’”

About 10 years ago, Mike McDavid of Mountain Brook broke out his new charcoal smoker for the Thanksgiving turkey.

“It was the most beautiful turkey I’ve ever cooked,” he says. Trouble is, it was cooked outside in 10-degree weather. “I sliced into it, and it was raw.”

He didn’t give up, though.

“I got my wife to turn the microwave on its back, and I crammed this 25-pound turkey into the microwave and set it for 45 minutes,” McDavid says. “When I opened the door, about two gallons of turkey juice blew out of that microwave, all over the kitchen floor. We had to literally skate on turkey gravy to finish getting everything ready.”

Case of the missing plate

As a child, Mary Lou Davis of Vestavia Hills spent Thanksgivings with her cousins at her grandparents’ house at Conecuh National Forest. The year she was 13, she filled her plate and joined the older teens.

“I perched daintily on a chair, then realized I had forgotten utensils,” she says. “I set my plate down and went to retrieve a fork. When I returned and sat in my chair, I found my loaded plate had disappeared.

“OK, y’all,” I said, “What did you do with it?”

After a few rounds of “We didn’t take it,” and “Yes, you did,” Davis felt something warm and wet seeping into the seat of her pants. Then one of her cousins pointed out what was now obvious – “You’re sitting on your plate!”

Hold on

Judy White’s then-boyfriend, now-husband, Gary, wanted to try out his new smoker on one of his freshly-slain birds. She squeamishly retrieved a turkey from the refrigerator, rinsed it, and delivered it to him on a plate.

“Soon afterward, he indicated that he thought the bird was done, and I delivered a platter so we could remove it from the grill,” the Birmingham woman says. “As he lifted the bird from the grill, I stared, frozen in horror. As the bird cooked, its claw contracted around one of the bars on the grill. Along with the bird, the whole grill surface was being lifted. `It’s… holding… on!’ I choked out, when I could speak. `Yes,’ he said, as he took a knife an chopped off its leg. I turned and fled into the kitchen, feeling quite ill, and when he asked me later why I wouldn’t try it, I confessed as I munched on my salad that I felt too emotionally involved with the bird.”

Still hungry?

This post has been previously published.

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