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Gertie Talks About Thanksgiving ...

Got questions about Thanksgiving? Don't know exactly what that bag o'guts is for? Need another idea for a centerpiece besides road kill? Forget how to cook turnips? How to get rid of uninvited guests? Read on!

Hidy and happy holidays, Gert!
What is the big deal with having turkey for Thanksgiving? I think it is a tough and dry bird. Could I fix chicken or will the Thanksgiving police come and fine me? How do you fix it to make it not so dry?
Thanks, Traci in North Georgia

Dear Traci, for the first Thanksgiving, back in 1621, those folks ate (not drank) wild turkey, fish, venison, and miscellaneous waterfowl. In 1941, our Congress declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. Now, I theorize the fascination with turkey on Thanksgiving is due to two reasons.

  1. Since our Grandmomma's Grandmomma's Grandmomma made turkey on Thanksgiving, then we should.
  2. Since turkeys gave this great American holiday to us, the American public pays homage to that early Congress by eating turkey on this national holiday.

I'm sure you have a deep reverence for your Grandmomma and for Congress, but I doubt the Turkey Police will be after you if you bake a chicken instead.

How to prepare a turkey so that it isn't dry? Don't overcook it! Try either

  1. Soaking your bird in a brine overnight. For every gallon of water use a 1/2 cup of salt plus your favorite spices (garlic, peppercorns, cold beer, etc.), or
  2. You could try mixing together spices (salt, pepper, and minced garlic) with some margarine and rubbing it between the skin and the meat before putting the turkey on to cook. Basting wastes time, in my opinion and it lowers the temperature of your oven every time you open the oven door.

Dear Gertie,

What exactly are those things that are rolled up inside the turkey? I usually cook them inside the turkey, but those parts are really tough and the paper sticks to our teeth.

Sherri in Trussville

Dear Sherri, those things are the guts of the turkey. The longish hard yellow-looking thing is the neck, and the other things are giblets. Giblets are the organ meats including liver, gizzard and heart. The heart is a deep burgundy to reddish brown with varying amounts of light colored fat. The gizzard is reddish brown with varying amounts of light colored fat. The liver is a smooth, reddish brown, and there are sometimes several pieces or lobes.

I suggest removing the pack-o-guts from the bird before cooking. In a sauce pot, simmer the guts (and neck too) with about a quart of water, salt, and pepper for an hour. Strain liquid, putting cooked guts in a separate container. Mix together six tablespoons of flour with a small amount of cold water, enough to make a slurry. Reheat liquid until boiling and add flour mixture. Chop up the guts - not the neck and a couple of boiled eggs if ya like (I don't - yuck) and stir them in the liquid. If you don't want to make giblet gravy, cut up the cooked giblets and mix them in with your dressing/stuffing.

Hi Gertie,

What kind of centerpiece could I use for my table? I'm tired of using Uncle Oscar's stuffed possum, one of the glass eyes popped out and the fur has rubbed off on its hind side.

Dee in Dalton

Dear Dee, you definitely need to try something new this year. Take that avocado seed that you've been trying to sprout and put it in the center of your table. Next, gild those leftover strings and nubs from stringing beans with gold spray paint and scatter them around the avocado seed. Pine cones and clippings from the boxwood bush will give your centerpiece a woodsy look.

Dear Gertie,

My mother-in-law makes dressing that has too many onions in it and it gives me gas. For the past fifteen years, I've endured the heartburn and flatulence as silently as I could. How can I turn down her dressing without hurting her feelings or angering my wife?

Paul in Alabaster

Dear Paul, fifteen years, you say? Since you've been faking it this long, you might as well pack the antacids and Gas-X and enjoy your meal. If you just can't take it any longer, put a very small amount on your plate, mash it up to make it look like you've eaten more, and leave it be. If she asks you about it, fart loudly. I promise she'll question you no more.

Dear Gravel Gertie,
Is it appropriate to ask the guests to bring something to my house for Thanksgiving dinner? I cook every year, (well, except last year) and I always end up cooking, cleaning, packing *to go* plates for family and friends, yadda, yadda, yadda. My mom usually brings a pie, but no one else brings anything. Is it OK to suggest/ask them to bring something, ya know, like paper plates or a can of cranberry sauce?
Flubbered in Florida

Dear Flubbered, inform your guests that this year it's gonna be BYOSD - bring yer own side dish. You supply the turkey and the dressing, and everyone else should bring a veggie or a dessert. If you really feel funny about asking, then try this: visit your local Krystal the day before Thanksgiving and order 25 to 50 gut bombs (amount depending on your guests' appetites), and 25 to 50 gut bombs with cheese. Refrigerate. On Thanksgiving day, reheat the Krystal burgers in the oven for 15 minutes or so until warm. If you don't have a Krystal nearby, make cold cheese sammages for everyone. Tell 'em, "Momma's tard, if y'all wanna eat, then y'all can cook."

Dear Gertie,

How exactly do you cook stuffing in the bird?

Teresa in Tarrant

Dear Teresa, the safest way to cook the stuffing is outside of the bird. However, if you want to cook it in the bird, the stuffing should be moist since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a wet environment. Stuff the bird loosely (about three-fourths of a cup of stuffing per pound of turkey) just before putting it in an oven preheated to at least 325. Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness. The center of the stuffing must reach at least 165 and the innermost part of the thigh should be at least 180. Don't be cheap - buy a meat thermometer! Well, unless you have some guests that you don't want to come back next year.

Dear Gravel Gertie,

My mother-in-law is coming from out-of-town and she wants to take us out to lunch or dinner on Thanksgiving. I've never eaten out on this holiday and it sounds so depressing! The local hotel is $40 per person and is way too expensive. The place must appeal to my 5-year-old. Any suggestions? Or, any suggestions for a take-out turkey meal, in case she'd go for that. Thanks.

Sarah in California

Dear Sarah, obviously, you are a newlywed and mama-in-law is afraid of your cooking. If you are afraid of your cooking also, call ahead to your local grocery store's deli department and order a turkey and some dressing, and while you're there, get a frozen apple pie. Before mom-in-law arrives, transfer the turkey and dressing into your dishes and dispose of the grocery store evidence. Pop the already-cooked bird and dressing in the oven. Simmer some carrots (use frozen if you don't know how to peel a carrot) in one pot, and canned green beans in another pot. Open a can of the jiggly cranberry stuff, warm some rolls and you're done! If she still complains, that's OK. That's her job.

Dear Gertie,

Should I make homemade napkin rings for my Thanksgiving table?

Eva from Palm Beach

Eva honey, since you've been so busy trying to figure out that ballot down there, I don't think you'll have time to make napkin rings. If you're determined to make them, then try collecting toilet paper roll holders. Cut them into rings, hot glue on some purty colored buttons and VOILA! Napkin rings!

Hi Gert,

My kids drive me nuts while I cook Thanksgiving dinner. What can I do?

Kathleen in Sevierville

Hi Kathleen!

Try these games:
  • Bird, Beast, or Fish. Everyone sits facing the leader. The leader points to one of the players and says either "BIRD," "BEAST," or "FISH." The chosen player must come up with the name of an animal that fits the category before the leader counts to ten. No repeating! If the player does not respond in time, she is out. The game continues until only one player remains. As you can guess, after a few rounds it can be hard to think of an animal that has not already been mentioned! Imitating relatives is OK too.
  • Corn Pitching. You will need a big bowl and 6 kernels of corn (the kind used in bird feeders works better than popcorn). Each player takes turns pitching the corn kernels, one at a time, into the bowl from a set distance. Keep score of how many kernels end up in the bowl. The winner is the one with the highest score after three rounds, and pelting other players with the kernels is NOT allowed.
  • Turkey Hunt. On a dozen or so index cards, draw or paste a picture of a turkey. To play, everyone leaves the room except the leader. The leader hides the cards around the room. The hunters come back in to begin the hunt. As each turkey is found, it is brought back to the leader who corrals them in a separate pile for each hunter. When all the turkeys have been found, the hunter with the most turkeys is the winner and becomes the leader for the next round. Using old photos of family members or presidential candidates is OK too.

Dear Gravel Gertie,

I have a ton of turnips in my garden, how do you cook turnips?

Shannon in Sandestin

Dear Shannon, turnips are so versatile! You can peel them and eat them raw, you can cut them up, cook them and use them as filler for pancakes, casseroles, mashed potatoes, dressing, and even with apple dishes. You can carve the larger turnips into whimsical reproductions of family members or throw them at unwanted relatives that always show up around suppertime.

Dear Gertie,

Thanksgiving is upon us again and I'm still a little shell shocked from last year's family get together. We went to my cousin's house in Arkansas and were promised a big turkey dinner with all the fixings. My cousin's husband Leroy lost his job a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving so I was a little hesitant to accept the invitation. We didn't want to put too much on them, but after they insisted, we packed up Granny, the kids, the family dog and headed out. We arrived on the eve of Thanksgiving ... that night, Barky (our dog) disappeared and after riding around in the car at night, we finally gave up and hoped for the best. Our hopes were dashed when we saw Leroy setting a platter on the table with a real funny shaped turkey. He insisted he bought it at a "special gourmet store" but I'm still not convinced to this day. We're invited out there for Thanksgiving this year too. After a few months of workin' at Big Lots, Leroy got fired when they caught him relieving hisself in one of the bushes in the garden section. Now that Leroy is unemployed again, should we tell Granny that she can't go with us - just in case?

Signed, Wincing in Wyoming

Dear Wincing, I understand where you're coming from. Some folks go all out for Thanksgiving, trying to make the best impression they can. Since Leroy's out of work again, why don't you insist that they visit you for Thanksgiving? And to be on the safe side, make up t-shirts for your guests that say, "I survived Thanksgiving 2000!" or "Turkey 2000" and especially for granny: "I'm a tough old bird."

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Revised - 11/14/05-11/20/17
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