For 30 years America’s Butterball Turkey Talk-Line has been answering desperate pleas from thousands of not-so-good cooks about preparing and cooking North America’s favourite holiday bird. Many of these questions to the Butterball call centre are characterized as “bewildering.” I’ve seen the questions. I would add “insanely bewildering”. So popular is the talk-line, Butterball employs no less than 50 turkey experts at this time of year to man the phones. Why they would do this when they could have me do it for free, I have no idea. Here then are actual questions to the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line and answers that are exclusively mine.
Question: One expert could actually hear the sloshing of water in the background as the guy on the line said he was thawing the turkey in the bathtub while bathing his two toddlers. “How long will it take the bird to thaw?”
Answer: “Pure freakin’ genius, Sir! Killing two birds, no, killing one bird and two kids, no … A masterpeice of multitasking. And why stop there. All three can be nicely dried off in an oven pre-heated to 375º. Set the timer in order to remove the children well before roasting. Also, should you decide to smoke next year’s turkey, a gallon of that bathwater would make a very nice brine.
Question: From his father’s long-neglected freezer that also contained his dad’s wedding cake and a snowball saved from every snowstorm to ever hit Alabama … “what’s the best way to cook a 30-year-old frozen turkey.”
Answer: “One hour in the oven for every year in the freezer. Eat it in a hospital parking lot.”
Question: A woman called to relate two disastrous turkey stories to the hotline expert. With her first husband she served up a frozen turkey, with her second husband she dropped the bird on the floor. “How can I make sure this Thanksgiving dinner with my new husband goes well?”
Answer: “With your track record I would take no chances. Divorce this guy and marry a chef.”
Question: One guy called to say he was about to carve up his cooked turkey with a chainsaw and “Do you think the chain oil will leave a bad taste on the meat?”
Answer: “Not if you fill the crank case with olive oil and use a rosemary fusion stabilizer in the fuel tank. Also, to clean the blade of your chainsaw just go next door where the turkey and the kids should be out of the tub by now.”
Question: One woman called to ask if it was okay to slow roast the turkey over three or four days because it made the house smell so good?
Answer: “Absolutely. As a matter of fact if you put the turkey in an oven set at 100º in late November, it should be perfect by Christmas day. If the skin is still white, apply a can of spray-on-tan to the exterior of the bird.
Question: One guy bragged that in order to fit a large turkey in a small roasting pan, he wrapped a towel around and stomped on it until he broke the bones and it fit. “Whaddayathink?”
Answer: “Next time use a sledgehammer on it and you’ll be able to cook it in a wok!”
Question: A woman from Colorado called to say she was keeping her frozen turkey in a snowbank by the road but it snowed overnight and today was Thanksgiving and she couldn’t find the turkey.
Answer: “Wait by the road until the plow comes by and when you hear a thud, jump in front of the blade!”
Question: “The wrapper on my turkey says it’s a self-basting turkey. Do I have to baste it?”
Answer: “Only on the inside. The outside bastes itself. That’s what the wings are for.”
Question: “I think my turkey just coughed! What do I do?”
Answer: “Wait until he coughs again and quickly grab hold of his testicles to make sure he doesn’t have a hernia. Even if he’s medically fit to be cooked, garnish the bird with a cold tablet gravy just to be sure.”
Question: “Can I brine my turkey in the washing machine?”
Answer: “No but you can tenderize it in the dryer.”
Question: “I have a small oven and a large turkey to cook. Will it expand like baked goods do?”
Answer: “Yes. A mature turkey will expand up to three or four times its original size while in the oven. But it’s mostly air. Just jab in the ass with an ice pick every ten minutes or so.”
Question: “I put my 16 lb. turkey in the hot tub just to thaw it out but now I think it’s actually cooking. How long before it’s done?”
Answer: “About five hours. Use the skimmer to turn it over once in a while and if the bird’s liquids start to cloud the water, add more spa shock clarifier.”
Believe it or not just last week the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line got a call from … a turkey! “Hi, this is Peas calling. Me and Carrots, we’re this season’s White House turkeys and as is tradition, we have just been pardoned by President Donald Trump. Neither of us want anything to do with this White House. How do turkeys commit suicide?”
Okay, that one I made up, but the rest are absolutely true. Happy Holidays.
For comments, ideas and copies of
The Legend of Zippy Chippy,
go to www.williamthomas.ca