Aspen Princess: Wrestling with a turkey leg and other Thanksgiving stories
The Aspen Princess
“Oh, just pick it up and eat it already,” Mom says, rolling her eyes.
Dad is trying to cut his turkey leg with a fork and a knife but it’s a slippery sucker and he’s been wrestling with it, unsuccessfully, for the last several minutes as Mom looks on, exasperated.
“OK, OK,” he says, and he grabs the freakishly large animal bone with both hands.
Meanwhile, he’s telling us stories about growing up in Queens with a single mom. These are the best stories. Even now, at my age, there is always a new story I haven’t heard. Like the time his mom signed him up for boxing lessons so he could stand up to the bully on his street. Or the time his mother bought a 1966 Corvette for them to share and they had to sell it because they got so many speeding tickets between them that they almost had their drivers’ licenses revoked.
“Did I ever tell you about that time I almost got hit by a truck?” he asks casually, like he’s talking about anything other than a near-death experience.
He launches into this whole story about how he was on a street corner in Queens with his new bicycle and a truck came up onto the sidewalk and he was able to jump out of the way just in time so the truck hit his bike and sent it flying, leaving him relatively unscathed.
“The old lady across the street thought I was dead for sure,” he said.
This is crazy when you consider that he was hit by a truck just a few years ago, and once again the truck destroyed his bike and somehow, he was spared.
It’s the night after Thanksgiving and we’re eating our first round of leftovers. I need to pause at this point in the story and pat myself on the back for another Thanksgiving meal well done.
I made my turkey in adobo sauce, which is a labor-intensive and somewhat hazardous recipe, but man is it worth it for the rich, complex flavor of chilies and spices. You take dry ancho and guajillo chilies and slice them, de-seed them, soak them and toast them in a cast-iron pan. Not only could I feel the skin on my fingers burn for two days, the vapor released by the peppers had us all coughing and sneezing throughout the night. My mom is like the Queen of Sneezing. She always sneezes in threes, and makes a huge production out of it, like it is some huge, dramatic event and not just a normal reflex. Whenever she feels the sneeze coming on, she stops, squeezes her eyes shut, and holds her index finger up as if we should all stop whatever it is we are doing, salute, and stand at attention. There are always a few false starts, those gulps of air that result in nothing but only exacerbate the drama. When it finally comes out, it’s a fit of explosive noisemaking that creates quite the scene, especially coming out of this tiny woman who barely weighs a buck 10.
After you basically mace your whole family, you toast whole spices of cinnamon, clove, all spice and cumin and throw it into the blender with the chilies, oil and some apple cider vinegar. I add orange juice to create a bigger yield and to balance out the spice.
Every year I worry that the adobo is going to be too spicy, and every year Ryan has to talk me off the ledge. I think part of this anxiety is created from the fact that I practically kill everyone just trying to make the stuff. The good news is, the turkey comes out of the oven with a beautiful red glaze and the leftover sauce (which is not too spicy, natch) is mixed with the gravy. It’s pretty much to die for and totally worth almost poisoning the air and then freaking out that you are cooking one of the most important meals of the year with what seems like a deadly ingredient, only to have it turn out to be one of the most delicious things you’ve ever eaten in your life.
We’re sitting there listening to Dad, who has begun to tell another story, this time about how he was 9 years old and riding his bike down a big hill when, guess what, he got hit head-on by a truck.
“Yeah, so I flipped up onto the hood and was facing the windshield and I’ll never forget it, this old man who was driving had this look of total shock on his face, his eyes like saucers and mouth dropped wide open.”
Out of nowhere, Ryan busts out laughing. He laughs so hard tears spring from his eyes and he is holding his stomach and his face is turning red. This doesn’t seem like a particularly funny part of the story so I give him a look that says, “What the hell are you laughing at?” and he gestures to my dad, who is now full-on wrestling with the turkey leg.
He’s holding the thing up in the air and trying to twist the leg this way and that, trying to pry it apart only he’s failing miserably, his fingers covered in turkey grease. The now mangled leg is poised precariously over his head, moments away from being hurtled across the room like a boomerang.
We all start laughing, and just like the sneezing fit from the day before, we can’t control ourselves. We laugh so hard our bellies cramp and our sides ache and we have tears streaming down our faces.
I know some people feel like they have to keep up with the Joneses, but in our house, especially over the holidays, it’s sometimes hard to catch your breath just sitting around the dinner table.
The Princess needs to know how to get her kid to sleep past 6:30 a.m. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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