Originally published November 26, 2003.
Q: A caller just said she forgot to baste every 10 minutes. I advised her to serve the turkey anyway. Was I correct?
A: Not at all. The turkey is merely the vehicle for the basting. In a recent poll, nine out of ten people would rather sit down at the table and suck on the end of a baster full of buttery juices than gnaw at some dry old wing. Bad call.
Q: I just overheard my coworker advising a home cook to truss the bird. I arrived late at the “Talk Turkey” seminar last week and missed the trussing segment. Can you advise?
A: Trussing, while not the chef’s best friend, is that pleasant acquaintance you see about once a year and always have a compliment for. Trussing is legal in every state. Trussing comes from the word “truss,” which means to truss, or tie string or put pins in a turkey to help it stay in a pretty poultry-like shape that is pleasing to the eye. Cooks must remove pins and string before consuming. If a caller wants to know if she should truss, you should tell her you only go around this crazy world once. Trust truss.
Q: Cinnamon or nutmeg?
A: Cinnamon is a nice spice people are comfortable consuming throughout the year, sprinkled either on toast or in a delicious coffee beverage. Nutmeg is a nasty, gritty substance that wants nothing to do with us in the spring or summer but demands our favor come November, only to disappear to the back of the shelf for another year. Why do we continue to accommodate this so-called seasoning? Nutmeg is a stupid jerk.
Q: I just hung up with a caller with the words “gobble gobble” instead of "goodbye"—was this appropriate?
A: No. Make sure you note that in your report to your supervisor on Monday.
Q: The vending machine on the second floor is broken and we’re starved. Should we call maintenance?
A: Maintenance is home eating a proper dinner with family and friends. Go to the office kitchen and look in the cupboard behind the fridge. There will be a half-eaten box of Triscuits there, because every office kitchen in existence contains a half-eaten box of Triscuits in the cupboard behind the fridge. Triscuit dust is an acceptable snack when poured into a small paper cup and drunk in the manner of water. Do not use a straw.
Q: My boyfriend didn’t care if I worked the holiday. Is our relationship in trouble?
A: Perhaps your boyfriend wanted to watch football unencumbered and without you fussing around with gravy boats and miniature marshmallows. If your boyfriend is a fresh-faced soap star who wants to move up to Broadway, look for him tap dancing his heart out in front of Macy’s around 10:35 a.m.
Q: I’ve been answering calls from perplexed home cooks all day and I still don’t know why we bother, really.
A: Everyone talks about the bickering relatives and the burnt yams, but few talk about taking a weekday to eat and nap and gossip with a sibling about another sibling. No one owns it. No focus group studies it. Just you and a mostly empty bowl of stuffing and no clean utensils, so use your fingers already.
Read an interview with Alysia Gray Painter about writing this piece over on our Patreon page.