Ah Thanksgiving: the holiday of cleverly disguised kitchen mishaps when Mom fumbles her way through cooking for what feels like an entire day.

Every year it’s the same. I wake up early, (4 – 5 a.m.), unpack my turkey that I thawed in a water bath over night and all the previous day because, of course, I forgot to take it out of the freezer in time for it to be completely thawed by Thanksgiving morning.

One would think, after the year we sliced into a nowhere-near-finished-cooking bird at dinner time, as all our friends waited and watched, I would remember to take the turkey out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the prescribed 2-3 days prior. But no, I have resigned myself to the fact that I may never learn that lesson.

Next I wrestle the mostly-thawed, slimy thing for the next 40 minutes; a match I most always loose, before I finally get it in the oven to roast for the next five hours.

Left over from my days as a military wife, when I made food, not only for my then family of two, but also as many of the single Soldiers living in the barracks as would come, I automatically buy the largest turkey I can find in the particular grocery store I happen to be shopping in when the thought strikes that I had better buy my turkey before they run out. It’s a habit I can’t break. The one year I made a tiny turkey appropriate for my family of four, the devastated looks on their faces were too much to bear, not to mention the cries of: “What are we having for dinner tonight?” five hours later when there were no turkey leftovers and the I-never-want-to-look-at-another-pot-or-pan-again feeling hadn’t worn off yet.

So back to turkey wrestling. This morning, the 19th morning that I have cooked a Thanksgiving dinner, a momentous thing happened! I finally figured out how to properly win my yearly turkey-wrestling match, I was so proud of myself, I immediately went to my office to find my laptop so that I could write about it! (after washing up, of course).

If you’re anything like me, and I know I can’t be the only one, you’ve experimented with your turkey some years, then held your breath as everyone took their first bite. Will it be dry? How about flavor? And if your family loves you, which I’m sure they do, they tell you that it’s delicious whether it feels like a desert in their mouths and they choke on each bite it as it goes down, or it’s juicy and perfect (which has only happened for me a handful of times in my 19 years of Thanksgivings – this is a hint, family).

I’ve tried basting, oven bags, aluminum roasting pans that get thrown out after dinner to save having to clean up that awful mess, a real roasting pan with a rack . . . you name it, other than frying (which is just sacrilege and you know it), I’ve tried it. Oven bags and my real roasting pan have turned out to be my favorite methods separately, but it’s not good enough that I have found two good methods. Oh no. Must. have. ultimate. perfect. turkey!

This year I married my favorite two methods to really perfect the process. So the turkey is on the roasting rack inside an oven bag, roasting in my roasting pan, self-basting away right now! I’m really very excited about this experiment, but that’s beside the real point here. It’s how I get it in there . . . that’s the Thanksgiving morning nightmare I wake up to every year.

If you could be a fly on the wall in my kitchen while I perform my yearly turkey preparation rituals, or have a video recorder of some sort set up secretly – well that video would most likely go viral.

Oh the awkwardness of cutting a giant turkey out of its plastic packaging and then hauling it out of the sink! It’s heavy, first off, so gripping the one ton, wet, weirdly-shaped thing is quite a trick. I’ve dropped it in the sink, on the counter, on the counter and then it rolled into the sink . . . never on the floor, thank goodness. I might have had to throw in the towel had that ever happened.

Well some turkey roasting methods make prep fairly easy and the awkwardness stops at the unpacking phase, but others . . . namely the roasting bag, force me to reassess my life goals and question my need for turkey perfection. I mean, I’ve just spent 15 minutes oiling the turkey, seasoning with salt, pepper and herbs. I’ve opened the bag and blown air into it to hopefully keep it open as I masterfully slip the giant bird in . . . right? That’s how it’s supposed to go.

But what really happens is that I pick it up, gripping the oiled bird as tightly as I possibly can, look at the bag opening, back to the bird and think: That’s never going to fit in there . . . How am I going to get this thing in that bag? Both my hands are needed to hold the turkey. I could use like three extra hands for the bag and to help hold the turkey . . . My family is all asleep and I like it that way so they’re not underfoot first thing in the morning during Mom time . . . Oh man, my arms are really getting tired . . . and how am I going to get it in the bag? It’s never going to fit in there . . . and this cycles through a few times until I get really brave and go for it!

Last year I woke my husband up for help. Be warned: it’s always a mistake to wake up a non-morning person on a holiday to do something as un-fun as get a turkey ready for the oven. I’ll never do it again and I don’t advise it.

So this year began as any other, but I recalled my friend’s words to me from yesterday upon asking her if it was ok to pop by after dinner. “Sure!” she said. “Come on over. I’ll just be watching football.”

Football . . . football!

This has rambled enough, so I’ll get right to the point. I balanced the rack with the bird on it on my left arm like a football, and hoisted the bag up and over with my right . . . and by golly . . . TOUCHDOWN!

Feeling right pleased with myself, moments later I popped the turkey in the oven, made my coffee and sat down to write. When I looked out my window and saw fat snowflakes slowly falling . . . that thankful feeling washed over me and I remembered that I’m so thankful for way too many things to list.

Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving surrounded by love, laughter and friends, dear readers.

— K

Kristin Schaeffer