Meat: It’s what’s for dinner

"The Order of Good Cheer" by Charles William Jefferys, 1606/Wikimedia Commons

By Laura Grimes

My mom’s coming for Thanksgiving. I’m pretty excited. I’ve already talked her into making pie (it didn’t take much).

We have to get a turkey breast just for her, though. None of the four Scatterers eats turkey. We had a long conversation at dinner one night just to solve what to do about meat for Thanksgiving. The one carnivore in the house, the Large Large Smelly Boy, said he didn’t like white meat, and he wasn’t interested in turkey legs or thighs. He requested chicken. We dreamed up cooking a whole chicken, which is not a small thing in the Scatter house. We were relieved to have a plan, and even kind of excited. We could make stock, just like we used to. We could freeze it. We could make all kinds of things for the Large LSB. Boy, that chicken decided it. We were going to get the whole house cooking! Bring on Thanksgiving! Could it come sooner?

When I told Mom on the phone we were getting a chicken for Thanksgiving, saying it in a cheery we-have-a-plan voice, there was a long uncomfortable silence — until I jumped in and added, “And we’ll get a turkey breast and cook that, too!”

On the spot I sold it as if that had been the plan all along, my finely honed instincts suddenly sensing after decades of daughterdom that this was no small deal to Mom. How could we even imagine not cooking turkey for Thanksgiving? What a crazy notion.

“Oh that sounds like a good idea!” she said, obviously relieved. I was, too. I had dodged a bullet. We both breathed. “That’s a good idea,” she said some more. “That sounds like a plan.” And I heartily kept agreeing with her (yes, I feel like an advice column failure). Turkey is a tradition, after all, even if no one in our family eats it.

Later, when Mr. Scatter asked buoyantly if I had told my mom we were cooking a whole chicken for Thanksgiving — as if this was big news worthy of broadcasting — I told him I’d chickened out (no pun intended) and we were also getting a turkey breast. I said this very matter-of-factly, trying to pass it off as just another menu item. His face instantly went from cheery to shock. “But … but … ” he sputtered. “We had a plan.” I quickly explained the long silence and my spontaneous choice to buy a turkey breast.

“But the chicken …” Mr. Scatter got out.

“We’ll cook both!” I said, as if I meant, Won’t it be FUN?

I assured Mr. Scatter we could freeze the turkey, send it home with Mom or give it away. “We’ll use it,” I said so convincingly that I even believed it myself.

My brain kicked into overdrive. “Mom will be here for a few days. She’ll want leftovers. She’ll eat it. She can have sandwiches.” See? I’m making so much sense.

I turned to the Large LSB. “You could have leftover turkey sandwiches!” I was obnoxiously upbeat, thinking this wasn’t a hard sword to fall on. Certainly he could soldier up.

“No way!” he said.

Then I had a memory flash about last Thanksgiving when we celebrated at Mom’s. When I told her we were coming, she said she had a turkey breast in the freezer but would get something more. I told her that wasn’t necessary because we wouldn’t eat it anyway, but she said the boys (plural) would need turkey legs.

You know how sometimes it’s just better not to say more? That was one of those times. The Small Large Smelly Boy, who’s 14, hasn’t eaten meat for half his life, and didn’t really eat much of it before that. I stopped trying to explain this to my mom long ago. (Again, an advice column failure.)

In subsequent phone calls I heard all about the specially picked out extra turkey legs and the thawing breast. Thanksgiving was getting closer and it meant meat. There was no escaping it.

I warned the Large LSB that Mom got turkey legs just for “us” and he would have to represent the family and eat them. I was concerned about putting that pressure on him, but he said he got it even before I said anything — he had already read the situation. He was quite serious.

He gnawed those turkey legs like a champ. I needn’t have worried. It was a proud parent moment.

Now, however, the pushback begins. The Large LSB is not that fond of turkey and he doesn’t want to eat it this year. He can eat chicken, pork and beef for every meal every day, but now he’s putting his foot down about turkey. Somewhere in the back of his head he probably figures he’s done his duty.

That’s fine. I can’t blame him.

In the meantime, my positive, won’t-it-be-fun chatter about cooking two birds this year warmed up Mr. Scatter. He was starting to thaw and get sort of agreeable: “Um, OK. I guess.”

So now for Thanksgiving this family that doesn’t eat much meat will cook both a whole chicken and a turkey breast (how small do they get?). And we’ll likely store a bunch of the leftovers in the freezer, where there’s already elk meat and antelope sausage that were exchanged for pickles. Meet the meatiest vegetarian family ever to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Our motto: We please everyone.

(Though once my mom reads this, I’ll likely be dead meat.)


ILLUSTRATION: “The Order of Good Cheer” by Charles William Jefferys, 1606/Wikimedia Commons