I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
November 29, 2014
Wednesday night, after everyone else had gone to sleep, I was still awake. I had some anxiety about our turkey and needed to talk it out. So I took my dilemma to Facebook and wrote the following update:
This year, we had the bright idea of ordering a deep fried Thanksgiving turkey from the barbecue restaurant around the corner. The restaurant is actually inside a gas station, so in retrospect maybe that should have been a tip-off, but whatever. Dennis called ahead of time and they said we could pick it up today at 2:00.
I got there at 2:30 and asked for my turkey at the counter. Neither of the men spoke much English and they seemed confused about why I was there. They called the convenience store owner over, who also didn’t speak much English. “It’s under Dennis Ferrier,” I said. “He ordered the turkey on Monday. It was supposed to be ready at 2.” The men consulted some scraps of paper hung up by the drive-thru window. “Oh,” the owner said finally, holding up a scrap triumphantly. “You, yes?” I looked at the writing on the paper. ‘BETH STEVENSON,’ it read. ‘4:00.’
“No,” I said. “Dennis. Ferrier. 2:00.” They conferred again.
“Give me 5 minutes,” the owner said. “We get your turkey.” A few minutes later, one of them came out with a small take-out carton. “Total is $22.50,” he said.
“Uh. No. We ordered a whole turkey,” I said.
He gestured at the carton impatiently. “Yes. Turkey,” he said.
“No,” I said. “A big turkey. A whole turkey.” The man shook his head and called the owner back over.
“We ordered a whole turkey,” I told the owner.
“A whole? Turkey?” he asked.
“A BIG turkey,” I said. He just stared at me. I paused. Was there a universal sign for whole turkey? I couldn’t think of one, so instead I pantomimed carrying a turkey on a tray and putting it down. “A Thanksgiving turkey!” I said. Blank stare. “You put it on the table,” I said. “In front of your family.” Nothing. In desperation, I pretended to slice my air turkey with a knife. “And then you CARVE it,” I said. “And you GIVE THANKS.”
The owner looked around in consternation. After a moment, he went over to the deep fryer and lifted it to reveal a whole turkey bubbling inside. “THIS YOUR TURKEY!” he said triumphantly. He began talking quickly to one of the other men in their native language. By his gestures, I could tell he was instructing him to take out the turkey and wrap it up for me. They argued back and forth for a moment.
“Um, are you sure that’s my turkey?” I asked the owner. “Is it even done?”
“Done? YES, it’s done,” he said grandly. “OF COURSE!” The other man looked dubious, but after some hesitation he took out the turkey, put it in a tray, and covered it in plastic wrap and I paid for the thing and brought it home…
And now I can’t sleep… because I’m scared of my gas station turkey.
Instantly, my Facebook feed lit up with comments. Some had advice, others wanted to know why I’d thought it was a good idea to order a turkey from a gas station. One woman called me a lazy mare. Most people, though, just laughed at me. Which is okay. I’m used to it.
And with that, a hashtag was born: #GasStationTurkey
For those of you wondering how this whole thing came about, the fact is that we’ve bought our turkey pre-cooked every year simply because I enjoy cooking and like to spend the day working on the sides — and I only have one oven. We’ve bought our turkeys deep fried, smoked, and roasted, and we’ve always tried to order from the best places in town, which is generally stressful because EVERYONE’S ordering from those places and it’s always packed and we have to pick up our turkey the day before Thanksgiving- as if there isn’t enough to do that day already.
Our favorite turkey place went out of business this year, so when I got a flyer that the barbecue restaurant right down the street was doing deep fried turkeys this Thanksgiving, I was all over it. I mean, how hard could a deep fried turkey be? People do them in trash cans in their backyards, for heaven’s sake! And this way, it would be easy for me to drive down the street, pick up my turkey, and drive right back home.
Yeah. We all know now how THAT turned out.
Thanksgiving morning came and I gingerly took my Gas Station Turkey out of the refrigerator, removed the twenty layers of plastic wrap, and sliced into it. It looked mostly done. Since it takes 45 minutes to an hour to reheat a deep fried turkey in the oven, I figured that would be enough time to finish off the turkey and get its interior to the mandatory 165 degrees. As I was putting together my cooking schedule, I even allowed an extra 15 minutes for my turkey to heat up, just to be on the safe side. We planned to have our dinner at 6pm and at 4:45, I put the turkey in the oven and said a little prayer.
And then, I continued working on all of my sides, which included pineapple casserole, a salad of organic power greens, cream corn, yeast rolls, Martha Stewart’s macaroni and cheese, sausage and wild mushroom stuffing, cornbread stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, and Grasshopper and Pumpkin Pies. (Did I mention I like to cook?)
In order to keep everything on schedule, I had created a rigid timeline detailing when each dish needed to be assembled and what time it needed to go in the oven or on the stove- My husband and stepdaughter would be arrive starving at 5:45 and we would be eating at 6pm sharp, according to my careful calculations.
And as long as the turkey heated up the way it was supposed to, it looked like I would stay right on schedule. The stuffing browned. The pineapple casserole bubbled. The yeast rolls rose. The cranberry sauce cooled. And then, at 5:45, I checked the meat thermometer.
The turkey was only at 100 degrees. I tried not to panic.
My husband and stepdaughter arrived. At six, everyone took their seats around the dining room table. The sides were all laid out in the kitchen, steaming hot and ready to eat. The turkey was now at 110 degrees. I went into the dining room.
“The turkey’s not ready,” I said. “It’s not anywhere near ready.”
“What do you mean?” my husband asked.
“Come look,” I said. Dennis followed me into the kitchen and I showed him the meat thermometer.
“But you said it looked like it was mostly done when you cut into it this morning,” he said. “Forget the thermometer– I think it’s ready. Let me cut into it now and look.”
I took the turkey out of the oven and Dennis carved a large slice out of the breast.
“See?” he said exultantly. “It’s basically ready! I mean, there’s a little part that’s pink and translucent, but for the most part…”
“We can’t eat it like that,” I said sadly. “It has to get to 165. And the problem is that the sides are all ready NOW, and the turkey will take at least another 30 minutes.”
Dennis looked crestfallen. “But I don’t care about the sides,” he said. “All I care about is the turkey.”
And then… I cried a little. BECA– USE YOU DO NOT EVER TELL LINDSAY FERRIER THAT YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT THE SIDES. Dennis took a deep breath and walked a slow lap around the house. When he re-entered the kitchen, he was a changed man.
“I changed my mind,” he said. “I DO care about the sides. I do. We’ll just eat everything when the turkey’s ready.” We hugged. Crisis averted.
And after that, the entire family watched. And waited.
I had turned the oven up to 400 degrees to try and speed up the process, but it wasn’t until 6:50 that the turkey FINALLY reached the right temperature. I took it out of the oven, removed the foil, and marveled at its wizened appearance. I felt a little like I had unwrapped a turkey mummy.
Upon seeing this picture, some on Facebook speculated that our finished turkey may have actually been a plucked vulture. To those jerks I say…
You may have been right.
At 7pm, we finally sat down to eat. I had tried to keep the sides as warm as possible, but I wasn’t entirely successful. At that point, though, we were all so hungry that we didn’t much care.
Our Thanksgiving bird was dry and tough and tasted like turkey jerky smothered in gravy and cranberry sauce.
But at least we could be thankful that we wouldn’t have to worry about salmonella!
The moral of this story? The next time you see your local Shell station offering a tantalizing display of pre-cooked Thanksgiving turkeys amid the $4.99 DVDs and roses in glass tubes? Just say no, friends.
Just say no.