The Year Without Turkey

Nancy O'Neill of Temecula, California writes that her worst Thanksgiving memory comes from the year she thought I got botulism from the turkey.

I was about 12 or so. My mom had cooked a huge turkey as she always did. After taking it out of the oven, she set the roaster on top of the stove with the cover tilted to vent the steam. Somehow, the cover slipped down and shut tight over the roaster. It stayed like that unnoticed for quite awhile. During the time it was cooling on top of the stove, I sneaked a chunk of turkey, put the cover back on as I had found it, and was tickled that I had gotten away with something.

About 10 minutes before we were ready to eat, my mom noticed the cover on tight and decided it was too risky for any of us to eat it for dinner due to possible botulism. We all begged her to let us eat it, but she insisted that missing one turkey for Thanksgiving was not worth making anyone ill, no matter how remote the possibility. She wouldn't even feed it to the dogs because she didn't want them to get sick.

I asked her what the symptoms of botulism poisoning were. As she listed a few of them including blurred vision, dry mouth, muscle weakness and possibly paralysis, I got more worried but still didn't confess. We ate dinner, full of side dishes but without the turkey.

As the night went on, I was convinced I was experiencing a multitude of symptoms. By the time I went to bed, my legs were getting stiff and after lying awake for what seemed like hours, I couldn't stand it anymore. My only thought was that if I didn't tell Mom and I died in my sleep, they would never know what killed me. Little did I know that people generally don't die from botulism. I finally dragged myself out of bed and told Mom.

Even though she hadn't let any of us, including the dogs, eat the turkey, she was pretty sure it was safe. Once she convinced me that I wasn't going to die, I went back to sleep.

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