Opinion

Editor's Column: Reminiscing as we start our diets

Now that we’re all on our diets, we can reflect back fondly on our holiday cooking successes.

My personal victory came in the art of creating turkey gravy. I’m not the primary turkey cook in our clan, but when the big family festival is over I like to go home and cook my own, smaller turkey. I like turkey. I like the name turkey. The turkey is the only bird with a country that goes by the same name. They won’t let it in the European Union. Is there any wonder? Would they let Pigeon in, or Lark? Turkey will always be left outside until it changes its name to that of a more impressive animal. They’ll probably try Wolf next and still wonder why nobody will let them through the door.

International politics aside, turkey tastes good and makes some of the best gravy imaginable, if it’s done right. I know, because I last did it right back in 1982. I got lucky. Since then, the gravy has been too light, too lumpy, too greasy, too burnt-tasting, too curdled, or too tasteless. I choke up when making gravy, like a batter in the World Series when there’s two outs, the bases are loaded and there’s a three-run deficit. Just like Alex Rodriguez, I fold when the pressure’s on. I retain too much grease, stir too long, scrape up the wrong particles or conjure up some other folly that makes the gravy flop. And then what? There’s nothing to put on the potatoes or the dressing or, unnatural as it sounds, on the turkey itself. I’ve suffered through too many dry turkey dinners with just a smattering of bad gravy to show I tried, or no gravy at all because it’s too unsightly to even smatter in public. After a quarter century of failure, I decided last year, 2007, was the time to go for broke. Good turkey gravy or bust!

I perused the Internet in search of secrets but discovered there is no one way to make turkey gravy. Howtodothings.com recommends using a “browning sauce,” specifically Kitchen Bouquet, which of course is sacrilegious. ’Tis better to fail with real ingredients than stoop to manufactured products. Ehow.com listed eight things to use in the 11-step gravy making process. I didn’t have the things or the time. Cooks.com recommended canned chicken broth. Again, sacrilegious and biblically immoral, mixing chicken and turkey. The same site recommended chopping up the giblets and tossing them in the mix. Fine, if you don’t have a dog. Toss the giblets in the gravy in our house and you’ve got one angry dog on your hands and tooth marks on your bloody ankles.

I scratched all those ideas and just did it. I pulled the turkey from the oven, plopped the carcass on a plate, threw the pan across two preheated burners, tossed a handful of flour into the bubbling grease, swished it around, dumped in the giblet juice, and suddenly the mixture turned dark, aromatic and succulent. Don’t ask me how, but I succeeded: Even better than that memorable turkey gravy vintage of ’82.

The gravy went on top of everything on Christmas Day, 2007, even the carrots when nobody was watching. Then on top of the leftovers the next day, and on top of the rest of the leftovers the day after that. Now it’s nothing but a memory, but a fond one as I start day two of my 2008 diet. So how come I’m already thinking about gravy?

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