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Oven fires and cats in turkeys: Your Thanksgiving cooking disasters

(Tara Jacoby for The Washington Post)


We requested readers to share their horrific and hilarious tales of Thanksgiving meals gone awry — and the outcomes had been as scrumptious as a golden-brown turkey (not like the charred birds that featured in some readers’ tales). From exploding oven doorways to critter encounters (raccoons, squirrels and one notably ravenous Labrador pet), your misadventures made for pleasant cautionary tales and mysteries. (How did that dish towel wind up inside the primary course?)

Some themes emerged: For one, it’s nearly all the time the blasted turkey that journeys folks up. Maybe as a result of they’re typically massive (each unwieldy and tough to cook dinner throughout) and never one thing folks put together frequently, turkeys are the once-a-year encounter that proves notably perilous.

Another commonality was much more common. So a lot of you ended your tales with some variation of this: “That was 43 years ago, we love that memory and still laugh about it” or “To this day, when either one of us sees a turkey in the oven, we say ‘Remember when …’” These are tales informed and retold over the many years — generally, I assume, selecting up dramatic particulars alongside the way in which, a minimum of if your loved ones is something like mine — forming shared lore that creates bonds and a collective id. Which is, greater than any completely ready meal, one thing we should always all be glad about.

From turkey to pie, all your thanksgiving questions, answered

Here are a few of our favorites, which have been edited for readability and brevity.

Dinner was all prepared, and the unfold — Cornish hens and all the edges — was warming within the oven, mentioned Lauren Krouse, a 30-year-old author from Harrisonburg, Va. She and her husband had been having a quiet vacation, simply the 2 of them, when “for some reason, and we don’t know why, my husband flipped on the self-cleaning function.” The oven door locked, with their Thanksgiving feast inside. Frantic Googling ensued. They unplugged the oven, however nonetheless couldn’t get the cussed beast’s door to open.

Though she was drained from all of the baking and cooking, Krouse quickly switched features herself and whipped up an alternate menu of steak with mushrooms and broccoli. Coda: That oven door by no means did open. Even repairmen tried and failed. Eventually, they moved the range, which had began to stink, onto the porch whereas they waited for a substitute. “I like to think that somewhere, in some landfill, our Thanksgiving dinner is still encased in that darn oven: a beautiful fossilized feast,” she mentioned.

“I was in the living room watching football and we heard a loud BANG! in the kitchen. We all ran in expecting the worst, only to see our father standing there with a confused and slightly terrified look on his face,” wrote Andrew Billhardt of Chicago. “Apparently, he decided that he wanted to flavor the turkey drippings with bourbon; a little while later the bourbon ignited and blew the oven door off the hinges and sent it flying into the cabinets on the opposite side of the kitchen. He reattached the oven door and the turkey turned out fine, but we have never let him live it down.”

“My fiancees’ extended family said their turkey smoker would make the ‘best ever’ turkey. The bird was a 24-pound fresh turkey, and they designated midnight as the start time,” recalled Paul Moe of Jacksonville, Fla. “Around 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, one of the brothers checked the progress. Someone forgot to plug in the smoker. Since the overnight temperature was in the low 60s, we decided it wasn’t a good idea to cook this bird. All they could find was a frozen turkey. It was almost 11 p.m. when everything was finally ready. Worst Thanksgiving ever.”

About 30 years in the past on Thanksgiving, a neighbor knocked on Kevin Thomas’s door with a query: Was he lacking his turkey? Thomas, 70, now retired and residing in Wilmington, N.C., replied that no, theirs was safely defrosting within the storage atop the chest freezer. “He asked, ‘Are you sure?’” They checked, and certainly, the hen was lacking and the storage door had been unintentionally left ajar. “His Labrador retriever puppy had been chewing on a turkey that wasn’t theirs,” Thomas mentioned. The neighbor insisted on changing it, however all he may discover was an enormous 25-pounder.

Dinner was late and the household had weeks of leftovers, he mentioned, however he and his now-grown children nonetheless giggle on the reminiscence. “There’ll be three dogs at dinner this year,” Thomas mentioned. “We’ll keep an eye on them.”

Diane Harlan of Portland, Ore., was serving to her mom carve second helpings for his or her household dinner. “We went into the kitchen and to our absolute horror, there was a black tail coming out of the turkey cavity,” she wrote. “We literally had to pull the cat out of the turkey by the tail and he was clawing like mad to stay right where he was. We got him out, but he was covered in turkey juice and the remnants of stuffing.”

“My late husband and I had our parents join us,” wrote Diane Ashworth of Clayton, N.C. “It was the first time that everyone had met each other. Everything was made from scratch, and I had worked for two days preparing it. The guest of honor was a 23-pound turkey which looked like it could have been the picture in a cookbook. Just as I was carrying it from the kitchen to the dining room, my toy poodle ran in front of me. Down I went! My platter was broken, my beautiful turkey splattered on the carpet, and me with my less-than-gracious entrance in the horizontal position on the floor. End of story: We ate everything else, and a couple of years later, it became funny (to everyone but me). The carpet still has a faint stain at the scene of the crime — a memento of the best Thanksgiving there never was.”

What’s inside that hen?

“I kept putting the stuffing in the turkey. More and more. It was called stuffing,” wrote Lupe Morales of El Paso, describing her very first try at making ready turkey. “As we finished setting the table and making sure there was enough ice, I heard it. Pouff! Pouff! Then the smell. A small stream of smoke started to come out of the top of the stove. My beautiful turkey, slathered in five pounds of butter, was a little on fire! My turkey was exploding! The stuffing was shooting out and slamming into the sides of the oven! Stuffing everywhere. I had never witnessed such a display of culinary chaos in my life! I managed to clean the stove and salvage what was left of the exploding stuffing into a casserole dish. The dinner was tasty, and no one got salmonella.”

“Years ago, I spent Thanksgiving with my college roommate and her family,” wrote Lynda Webster of Washington, Va. “Her dad did the cooking, and as he was preparing the big meal, asked us if we had seen his dish cloth. None of us could find it. Odd. A few hours later, we heard a huge thud coming from the kitchen. We raced to the kitchen to find dad on the floor, doubled up and laughing. Upon removing the turkey from the oven and taking the dressing out of the big bird’s cavity, he found his missing dish cloth.”

“I was a nurse, working another holiday, when my late husband decided we should host Thanksgiving dinner after I finished my shift,” wrote Beverly Hine of Sun City Center, Fla. “I prepped as much as possible, put things in containers in the fridge and left written instructions. I came home to the turkey in the oven, with the cavity showing the cheesecloth lining, just as I had instructed. But where was my lime jello/cabbage salad? Not in the fridge, but stuffed in the turkey! His comment: ‘Well, the stuffing you always make has lots of green things in it, and that was green.’ I managed to remove his ‘stuffing’ with the assistance of the cheesecloth, and get the real stuffing baked. The memory of this is such a strong family story that it was told during his memorial service with even my daughter and I chuckling through our tears.”

What your visitors don’t know can’t damage them, proper? That’s clearly the angle of many readers, whose Thanksgiving meals included a aspect of subterfuge.

It didn’t take lengthy for Kevin Rochlin, a now-retired engineer from Seattle, to decide on his recreation plan. As he had accomplished in earlier years, he had positioned his turkey in a big inventory pot to brine, and because the temperature was chilly sufficient and his fridge not large enough, he secured the lid with twine and left it outdoors in a single day to work its magic. One yr, although, some marauding raccoons gnawed by means of the rope and helped themselves to the turkey that had bobbed to the floor. “It was surgically precise,” Rochlin mentioned, confined to at least one drumstick. He shortly thought by means of his choices, and selected the best path. “I lopped off the leg, and no one was the wiser,” he mentioned.

He stored the key by carving the turkey first relatively than presenting it complete, and his youthful daughter solely found it later within the night when she overheard him discussing it together with his spouse. “She was horrified — she was like, ‘Dad, you could have killed us!’” he mentioned. “The tale has been told for years after, as the two of us try to get family members to take our side on what should have been done,” he mentioned. An epilogue? Both his daughters, he mentioned, are actually vegetarians.

“The turkey slipped away from its trays and landed in the parking lot,” wrote Peter Rodnite of Solomons, Md. “The five-second rule was in effect, and I quickly brushed off the bird. I decided not to tell my friends. On my first bite of turkey, I came close to breaking a tooth as I bit into the smallest piece of gravel. I quickly looked around and was relieved that my friends were not sharing my gravelly experience. My friends did later tell me they found the turkey ‘a little crunchy,’ but were kind enough to not mention it. I eventually spilled the beans, and we still laugh about it.”

“It was time to make the gravy,” wrote Melinda Bates of Woodstock, Va. But when she dumped some flour into the pan of turkey juices, “To my horror, I saw a bunch of little black bugs. It would be impossible to remove them individually. I took a quick look over to the living room, and no one was paying any attention to the kitchen. I picked up the pan and dumped the contents into my blender, added the water and turned it on. I figured the bugs were tiny enough to not impact the flavor and hopefully not poison the guests, so what they did not know would not hurt them. The mixture came out nice and smooth, and when poured back into the pan it cooked up into a delicious gravy that everyone enjoyed. My little secret. Until now.”

“At Thanksgiving dinner sometime in the 1940s,” wrote Lucy Davidson of Dawsonville, Ga., the turkey slipped off the platter and skidded throughout the ground. “My grandfather, as host, was unperturbed and instructed, ‘Bring in the other turkey.’ The wayward bird was retrieved and back inside the kitchen, discretely replated. Then, this ‘other’ turkey made an equally ceremonious but undramatic presentation to the table. For the remainder of his life, my father greeted any culinary or serving mishap with, ‘Bring in the other turkey.’”

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