Turkey by the Numbers: A Thanksgiving Thought: By SUSAN PARKER

Tuesday November 23, 2004

Several nights ago I cooked a pot roast for the very first time. It turned out well, and was so appreciated by the people who live with me, that I decided to cook another. Preparing two pot roasts two nights in a row got me wondering why I waited 52 years in order to tackle a roast. This led me to question just what I’d been doing in the kitchen for the past 40 years, since making my first peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the age of five. If I’d cooked only two roasts, then how many turkeys have I prepared in my lifetime, and of those, how many were for Thanksgiving dinner?  

How many yams have I baked and how many have I eaten with melted marshmallows? Not a lot. How many salads have I made that were labeled ambrosia and contained marshmallows? Zero. But how much of that stuff have I consumed at potlucks (showers, fundraisers, church dinners) throughout the years? I regret to say, at least 12 large helpings. 

When did I first eat a s’more, (in kindergarten) and when was the last time I had one? 1993. For that matter, when was the last time I munched a graham cracker, or made one of those delicious no-cook cream cheese pies with the buttery graham crust and the canned cherry topping? I think it might have been 1972 when I lived in a teepee in Santa Cruz.  

How many times have I had Cherries Jubilee, (zero), or Baked Alaska? Once. And just how many pieces of pumpkin pie have I consumed, and in addition to pumpkin, what about sweet potato, pecan, key lime, and lemon chess? Why haven’t I tried the pumpkin ice cream that appears in grocery stores only during the holidays and why did my grandmother insist on making mincemeat pie on Thanksgiving day? Nobody liked it but Grandpop.  

What is mincemeat anyway, and whose idea was it to bake it in a pie shell and call it a dessert, and while we’re at it, what about fruit cake and mint jelly? Why do we put mint jelly on lamb but not on beef and why do I cover French fries in ketchup and not mayonnaise? Why do some people make potato salad with mayonnaise and others prepare it with sour cream, and still others drizzle it with oil and vinegar, and add bacon and hardboiled eggs? 

My mother taught me to put a raw egg in Caesar Salad dressing, and one in poultry stuffing to keep it moist and stuff-able. I once made dressing with Italian bread and sausage and another time with cornbread and oysters but it didn’t work as an aphrodisiac. How many times have I reluctantly swallowed raw oysters with the hope that something fun would result? Three. How many times did big fun come my way? Zero. Why would anyone think something so ugly and slimy would work as a turn on? I don’t know. How many times have I swigged champagne with oysters? Twice. How many times was it Dom Perignon? Zero. How often have I been in the company of someone who ate a “bad” oyster? I don’t even want to go there.  

Returning to the original question, how many turkeys have I cooked? I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile and I’ve concluded that although I’ve probably baked at least 2,223 chocolate chip cookies over the past 10 years, (burning a mere 998), I’ve prepared only 17 turkeys. Fifteen of those I roasted and two I threw into a pot with Kosher salt and brined. Five of these turkeys were consumed at Christmas, the rest for Thanksgiving. 

How many wishbones did I keep, dry, and snap after those dinners were over, the guests went home, the dishes were washed, and put away, the leftovers devoured, and the cranberry sauce thrown out six months later? Maybe eight. And of those, how many times did I win the snap? Three. How many of my wishes came true? None. Refer back to paragraph with the part about the oysters.›