My First Thanksgiving as Head Cook


When Hubby and I got married, we had had VERY little experience cooking.  I can vividly remember us, newly married, sitting at the kitchen table in our first apartment, looking at a pound of hamburger and pondering how we ought to cook it.  So, we got out one of the cookbooks we had received as a wedding gift, and looked for a recipe.  It not only had to be realllly simple for us to understand it, but it had to include ingredients that we had on hand.  We had definitely not reached the point where we understood the concept of picking out a recipe and THEN shopping for the required ingredients. 

So, we found a recipe that fit the requirements — easy and do-able without a trip to the store.  In it, you shaped the hamburger around sticks of cheese (we didn’t have sticks, so we tore slices of American cheese into strips and laid them on top of each other to simulate a stick), then you baked them in the oven.  Once we started the hamburger “hot dogs” (that’s what they looked like) baking, we tried to decide what else we should eat with them — again, from “what’s on hand.”  We ended up eating them with a heated can of unadorned pork and beans.  Is that not the most pathetic-sounding meal you have ever heard?  I remember that meal as the beginning of our realization that at least one of us (that would be me) had better learn to cook, or this would be the first of many really BAD meals.  In the area of cooking (not to mention cleaning and laundry) we started marriage at square one.

The first time I had Hubby’s parents over to our apartment for dinner a few months after our wedding, I cooked a roast for wayyy too short a time so that it was reallly tough, and after they left, we realized we had never offered them something to drink — not even with the meal.  What wonderful parents that they never even mentioned it –but, I imagine they could tell we were sweating blood over the new experience of hosting and cooking and they didn’t want to push us over the edge emotionally by asking for something to drink!  I would have loved to have heard their conversation in the car on the way home.

So, for many years, as I gradually learned to cook, our mothers were still the default in cooking any group meals.  Of course, the rest of us “cooks” in the family would contribute a dish, but the mom’s were usually the “head cook.”  But then Hubby’s older sister (the traitor) started hosting family meals sometimes.  I was in awe — but it also made me think, “Well, MAYBE I could do that too.” 

So, one Thanksgiving after we had been married about 10 years and finally lived in a house large enough to host a big meal, I offered to have Thanksgiving at our house for my parents, as well as Hubby’s whole family.  Once I had made the offer, and the initial excitement of this next step to being a real adult wore off, I was in a cold sweat about whether I could pull this off.  But then, I happened to see an article in the newspaper that said, “Here is everything you need to buy and everything you need to know about cooking Thanksgiving dinner.”  Perfect.  I used the grocery list included in the article to make sure I had everything on hand for the big day (Turkey in the freezer, check.  Potatoes in the bin, check. Cans of green beans and cranberry sauce in the cupboard, check . . . etc.) and then I put the article in a safe place, ready to make this a smooth-running, successful meal.   I WAS READY FOR THE BIG DAY!!

I got up early on Thanksgiving morning, to start the preparations — most importantly, getting the turkey in the oven.

I went to where I had stashed my helpful article — ahh, there it was.  This was going to be so easy and well done that both our mothers were just going to be amazed that I did this all by myself!

I sat down at the kitchen table ready to follow the step-by-step instructions in the article.  Okay.  Here goes.  This is going to be great!  I began to read,

“1.  Three days before Thanksgiving day, take the turkey out of the freezer and put it into the refrigerator so that it can thaw.”

Yikes!  Couldn’t the reporter see that this was a major flaw in how she had written the article!  She should have said in BOLD LETTERS at the TOP of the article — THAW THE STUPID TURKEY 3 DAYS BEFORE THANKSGIVING SO THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY EAT THE STUPID TURKEY ON THANKSGIVING DAY!!!! 

I was appalled — freaked out — scared — near tears — and had no idea what to do.  So, I did the only thing I could do — I called Mama!  Of course, I got her out of bed, because SHE could sleep in, because SHE didn’t have to worry about preparing a big meal today.  But, I reasoned, it was her own fault that I had to get her out of bed because SHE had raised a daughter who SHE hadn’t taught to cook and SHE hadn’t taught to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AHEAD OF TIME!!!! 

Of course, when I actually talked to her I displayed none of the aforementioned attitude because I needed her help!  I was teary, humble and “needy.”  I NEEDED her wisdom — “What do I do now?”

Mama was great.  She talked me down from my hysteria.  She calmly told me that I needed to put the frozen turkey in a sink full of cold water and it would be thawed in about an hour.  Oh.  Was that all.  Okay.  Well, then I guess the meal MIGHT be able to take place today.  (I had been picturing having to call everyone and tell them the meal had been postponed until Sunday — to give the turkey it’s required three days to thaw!)  This WAS going to mean that I would be cutting it close on having dinner ready at the appointed hour, but Mama, again, saved the day.  She offered to bring some appetizers so that there would be something for everyone to snack on until the meal was ready.  

Bottom line is — we DID get to eat Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving Day that year (thanks to Mama).  And, over the years, I’ve become a pretty good cook — AND I’ve learned my lesson — I make sure to know a little more about what my meal will require BEFORE the actual day of the event.

Most of life’s lessons come from bad experiences that either we ourselves have experienced or that we have heard about from others.

So, I hope I may have saved you from one bad experience, by sharing the telling of one of mine.  Lesson learned — thaw the turkey!

5 Responses to My First Thanksgiving as Head Cook

  1. Gunny says:

    I am certainly grateful that you learned to cook early enough that I can have fond memories of your extravagant meals. Like my all time favorite “Hamburger Gravy.”

  2. Chrissy says:

    Too funny! Because my mom was in the same position as you were when she first got married (spaghetti pasta with tomato paste=spaghetti, right, wrong) I learned to cook very young, and my children are learning to cook early also from my mom!!!

  3. DIXIECHICK says:

    Too funny…once again, a great story. My first Thanksgiving turkey, I didn’t take out the giblets, etc..that were stuck in the cavity of the turkey…but I did remember to thaw it out!

  4. Jen says:

    Reasons like this are why I am NO WHERE prepared to do a big holiday on my own yet. I still go to mama’s house and bring lots of side dishes.

  5. […] It’s three days before Thanksgiving.  You’ll understand why that holds significance for me if you read my post about the first Thanksgiving I was the head cook here. […]

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