Did you know there’s an information call centre available at this time of year known as the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line? Over Thanksgiving and Christmas, 50 professionally trained home economists offer North American callers tips on cooking turkeys. Apparently, not every family chef has the talent or the recipe to deliver a turkey from freezer to oven to Christmas table in mouthwatering, crispy-skinned perfection. Some map out a different route for the holiday bird like from freezer to sauna, to car’s overheated manifold to garbage disposal to: “Hello Ming, could I have the ‘Dinner for 24 Special’ with extra fortune cookies?”
Many questions asked of the hotline staff are … how can I say this … okay, insane.
Like the woman in Kentucky who phoned the hotline to ask how to get her pet Chihuahua out of the turkey. She tried shaking the turkey and pulling the dog’s legs but nothing worked. The hotline person walked her through the process of carefully cutting the cavity into a larger opening in order to let the dog out.
Or the young mother who failed to notice her kids parking their toy cars in the cavity of the oven-ready turkey until the bird had been roasted. Her question was: “Do you think a plastic stuffing could be harmful if we don’t actually eat the plastic itself?”
My answer would have been: “No, any toxins from plastic can be neutralized by adding wood chips.”
One caller said: “I’m really in trouble. I made a mess of this thing!”
Hotline staffer: “Tell me, what state is your turkey in?”
One angry request from a caller: “No, I said ‘boat’ not ‘float.’ Put me through to the gravy department.”
The following are actually questions to the turkey hotline; the answers I made up.
Question: “If I carve the turkey up with a chainsaw, would there be a problem with the motor oil?” (Not just an ‘actual’ question from a man but the ‘most often asked’ question from men.)
Answer: “No problem. And if it’s the four-cycle engine oil and you add mashed cranberries, it makes for a real nice reduction.”
Question: “I heard if you put popping corn in the turkey’s cavity you can tell it’s done when you hear the popping.”
Answer: “If you do not have a meat thermometer, this is the method we recommend. Four handfuls of popping corn in the hole and when the popcorn blows the ass-end off the bird, she’s good to go!”
Question: “I’m carving the turkey and it doesn’t have any breast meat.”
Answer: “Your turkey is upside down.”
Question: “My turkey wouldn’t fit in the freezer so I buried it in the snow bank and it’s still snowing and I can’t find it.”
Answer: “If you don’t own a pitch fork or one of those flesh magnets, tell your neighbours you want to take their dog for a walk. He’ll find it. And he’ll like it. Bring a stick.”
Question: “Can I brine my turkey in the washing machine?”
Answer: “No, but you can tenderize it in the dryer.”
Question: “I know it’s 4 hours at 325° for a 15 lb. turkey but I’m in a hurry. Can I cook the turkey in half the time if I put the oven on a cleaning cycle?
Answer: “Yes, and the turkey will self-clean along with the oven.”
Question: “The directions say to roast the turkey, but my oven only has ‘bake’ or ‘broil.’ Which one do I use?”
Answer: “Both. You need to cook the turkey with what we call the ‘switch roast method.’ Stand at the oven and switch the dial from bake to broil to bake every two minutes.”
Question: “I’m having a lot of people over for Christmas dinner. Where can I get a 36-pound turkey?”
Answer: “A 36-pound bird is not a turkey. It’s an ostrich. Plucking a bird this size can be a real problem unless you kill it first.”
Question: “Where can I find my turkey’s serial number?”
Answer: “It’s under the turkey’s back bumper next to the blinker.”
Best question ever: “Martha here, how big a turkey should I get for 1,500 hungry, female cons?”
Answer: “Have you thought about a pride of ostriches?”
Needless to say, many of the 1,800 calls are referred to 911.
For comments, ideas and copies of “The True Story of Wainfleet,” go to www.williamthomas.ca.