I’m a pretty good cook. No, I’m not bragging, just being honest. Thanksgiving at our house is an annual satisfying affair. The pies look and taste like Betty Crocker made a house call, the meat both tender and savory, and the sides colorful as well as delicious.
Except that once.
Homegrown chicken replaces the traditional turkey at our house. That year’s bird was eight pounds of symmetrical perfection. I stuffed Mr. Chicken and nestled him in the roasting pan. I popped him into the oven and I turned my attention to the potatoes. The last chunk of potato hit the pot when the lights flickered for the first time. Then they flickered again. Then they died.
My husband brought out the Trivial Pursuit game and our family passed the next hour frustrating ourselves with questions about foreign makes of cars and Polish borders after WWII. I kept peeking at the clock and thinking about my uncooked chicken in the cooling oven. Then I had a lightbulb moment. The kind you can only have when all the lights are out.
Confident in my culinary prowess – dare I say cocky? – I hauled Mr. Chicken from the dark depths of the stove and paraded him through the house. My husband and son followed me, in awe of my superwoman abilities. I whipped Mr. Chicken out of the roasting pan and onto the grate with a flourish before lighting the gas grill, setting it to low, and shutting the lid with a sigh. I had saved Thanksgiving dinner.
We returned to the kitchen and our game secure in the knowledge that I had snatched victory from the hands of defeat. After fifteen minutes I checked the grill. . .only to find our own miniature towering inferno. Bread stuffing is highly flammable. Who knew? Flames licked around the entire bird, blackening the skin to the sizzle and pop of the fat underneath.
With the gas turned off, the flames smothered, and dire threats issued to any man who dared a laugh, I managed to scrape the pathetic foul back into the roasting pan. Thirty minutes later, two and half hours after it disappeared, the power winked back on. Mr. Chicken, looking much the worse for wear, was smuggled back into the oven.
Mr. Chicken did not grace the center of the table on the family heirloom platter that year. Instead, I peeled off his charcoal wrapping at the counter, out of sight of the table. I cut up the tender and surprisingly tasty meat underneath. Dinner was salvaged, my pride beaten into submission, and we have a holiday memory to retell for many years to come. Because my guys will never let me forget that one!