Thanksgiving turkey, mashed potatoes and…what?

Tree in autumn.
Autumn colours in the Don Valley. Staff photo.

As I write this, we’ve just arrived home from our traditional Thanksgiving weekend at the cottage – an annual affair we’ve enjoyed for more than… well… I’m just not up to the math right now, but since 1964. So, yes, a long time. And over so many decades, rituals and traditions are observed year in and year out.

Friday night traffic is probably the first tradition we encounter every Thanksgiving weekend. I’d be quite happy to forego the annual stop and go, bumper-to-bumper tailgate party on the 400, but I appear to be alone in advocating for this, as there were still thousands of drivers on the highway, some of them even honouring the rules of the road. So, the trip to the cottage took somewhat longer than usual.

Then, right on schedule, and not for the first time, our next task was to evacuate the chipmunk who had taken up residence in the south bedroom. Now, I know by calling it the south bedroom, it makes our cottage sound palatial, with multiple wings. Nope. There are two bedrooms in the cottage, creatively and geographically known as the north and south bedrooms. We don’t know how the chipmunk got in, but
s/he had stored enough peanuts under both pillows to support an entire chipmunk family at least until the summer of 2023. It only took a few hours, but we did manage to “relocate” the squatter safely and gently to more appropriate lodgings outside.

I was up early Saturday morning to fulfill my annual responsibility of making the stuffing for the modest 25-lb. turkey that was straining the top shelf in our refrigerator.
I like to think I’ve become an expert on stuffing over the many years I’ve been making it. I have been called the sage of stuffing seasoning. While I was up to my elbows in onions and bread, my wife was making her legendary pumpkin muffins to help tide us over until Thanksgiving dinner.

We barely squeezed the bird into our gigantic roasting pan and then into the oven just as the rest of our clan arrived to bring our numbers up to a respectable 14 for turkey dinner that night. Then in the afternoon, we had our annual walk along our cottage road, taking in the colours, throwing the frisbee, and picking wildflowers and greenery for the table’s centrepiece. The real reason for the walk is to allow the cottage to fill up with the singular and welcome aroma of a cooking turkey to greet us on our return.

By this time, I’d led a small team in peeling an entire 10-lb. bag of potatoes to be mashed with butter and sour cream. Turnip had been prepared and was waiting in the microwave to be warmed up – there was no room in the oven for turnip or anything other than the 25-lb. turkey. Then the table was set, including the artistic positioning of the centrepiece that, as usual, was too big for the table.

By then, peas, corn and carrots were nearly ready on the stove, leaving but one more crucial task – in fact, it’s mission critical – before we sat down to dig in. My twin brother Tim has always been in charge of making the gravy. Well, there was a time when I too had that privilege, but that all ended very badly the year I mistook icing sugar for flour! (Well, you have to admit, they do look similar!)

Anyway, this Thanksgiving dinner was another memorable meal. There was much groaning from those who ate too much – okay, I was one of them. In fact, I was forced to retire to the couch to catalyze my digestion.

The next day, I was the first one up and, as one does the morning after Thanksgiving dinner, I obviously avoided typical breakfast foods and made myself a plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, and lots of gravy. You may think I’m making this part up, but I’m not. I microwaved my breakfast plate and sat down to relive the previous night’s repast. It took me about four or five big mouthfuls to determine that something was amiss. It just didn’t taste quite as good as it had 12 hours earlier. I finally figured it out. A little piece of crystallized ginger was the tipoff. Instead of gravy, I’d smothered my plate with leftover pumpkin muffin batter that looked exactly like – you know – gravy. You can’t make this stuff up. A new Thanksgiving memory to haunt me for years to come.

A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of eight national bestsellers. His most recent, Operation Angus, is in bookstores. You can also subscribe to his newsletter:

About Terry Fallis 87 Articles
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of nine national bestsellers, all published by McClelland & Stewart. His most recent, A New Season, is now in bookstores.