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Holiday Cooking calls for more than a hot oven

December 02, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

Before the days of television remotes and mute buttons, my grandparents had a lengthy black cord that ran from the back of their television set to a plastic, oval toggle switch that was snapped to turn off the sound of commercials.

Possession of this switch was a sacred trust, so at age 7 - long before "responsibility" became a bad word in my vocabulary - I always wanted to be the Very Important Person charged with handling the chore.

But I had a tendency to daydream and wasn't always up to the job. If so much as one millisecond of commercialistic audio reached our ears, a howl would go up in the living room, mostly in the form of "What are you doing? The switch!"

That trauma at a young age has ingrained me even today with an instinctive muting reflex whenever a company tries to sell me something over the airwaves.

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But sometimes I still get lazy, and that always gets me into trouble beyond the spirit of my grandmother whispering "The Switch!" into my ear.

So I was watching ESPN on Thanksgiving when an unmuted ad for Hecht's came on, pumping the fact that it would be open at 6 a.m. on Friday.

Immediately that got my attention. Six in the morning? On a weekday? The day after a holiday? "Man, how great is that?" I thought. "Hecht's must be crazy. NOBODY'S gonna be there at such a bizarre hour on such a bizarre day. On my way to work, at about 6:30, I can swoop right in, avoid all those holiday crowds and be done with the whole Christmas mess a month early. In and out in a minute forty-six, then sit smugly back for the next 27 days and watch everyone else squirm."

There is so much about Life in These United States that I still do not know. Naturally, I took one look at the lot and, shaken, just kept on going.

Pre-family, I'd never been much plugged into the shopping paradigm. I always thought the day after Thanksgiving was the busiest DRIVING day of the year. Who knew?

And this wasn't the only shock of the holiday. Maybe you have heard of something called "giblets," and then again, maybe you haven't.

I had vaguely heard of them, but not in any sense that applied to my lifestyle. I thought maybe these "giblets" were little people who lived in the woods, in hollow trees.

Turns out, giblets are the coagulated mass of deformed goo that resides inside the cavity of the turkey and, I assume, are the reason the Playtex corporation invented rubber kitchen gloves. Before, I'd simply hurl this mess as far from the house as my Curt Schilling-like arm would allow me.

But in a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner, these giblets are simmered all day in a pot for reasons that I don't know, nor do I want to. Whether they ended up in the food or not, I can't say. It had never occurred to me that you could eat anything associated with the word "cavity."

Further, and I hope all you males are sitting down for this one, it turns out there is more than one way to cook a turkey. Here was my recipe for turkey: 1.) Put in oven. 2.) Sleep for three hours, turning infrequently. 3.) Pull turkey from oven. 4.) Put turkey back in oven, remembering to turn oven on this time. 5.) Watch football. 6.) Consume mass quantities.

Unfortunately, the Pierre Franey in High Heels had other plans which, through marvelous efficiencies and "hints" from Martha Stewart, takes what should be a three-hour process and transforms it into two-and-a-half days.

Problem is, Andrea works in the Lifestyle section, and by virtue of that job, she always comes home filled with ideas. The latest was something appetizingly called a "brine soaked turkey."

Along with "cavity," two more words I don't associate too heavily with culinary nirvana is "brine" and "soaked." Yet it was, and it did. For 36 hours, not one second more. "Why 'brine'?" I complained. "Why can't they just call it 'happy sauce' or something? And whatever happened to roast turkey? 'Roast,' good; 'brine' bad."

Of course, whenever I make what I believe to be a valid point to a woman, she just hears it as "Love your nails," or something equally unneeding of thoughtful debate.

As usual, it worked out though. So my family-style holiday lesson to guys is this: If the end product is good, the less you know about the details, the better.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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