Washing the Bird

Kim Michele Richardson of theunbreakablechild.com in Louisville, Kentucky started out the way we all did: cowed by a turkey. She learned the hard way how to prepare the "big bird."

It was Thanksgiving 1980, I was 20 years old and I decided to impress my boyfriend and cook Thanksgiving dinner for him and a few friends. There was only one problem. I hadn't quite developed my cooking skills and my only no-fail dishes at the time were a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and grilled cheese.

I called my mother the week before Thanksgiving, the woman who always had the perfect Thanksgiving meal and to-kill-for oyster-sage stuffing. She quickly agreed to lend me her recipes and talk me through all the steps of cooking a delicious meal via the telephone on Thanksgiving morning.

I awoke at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving and placed the phone call to her.

My mother talked me through preparing her famous stuffing. When I’d finished, she congratulated me, then told me to chill the stuffing in the fridge and get "big bird" out.

Felling very confident, smug even, I took the turkey out of the fridge and yes, yes I did remove all the packaging inside. Yippee, I was on a roll! Man-oh-man was my boyfriend going to be impressed!!

"What’s that, you say Mom? Of course, YES, of course, I took out all the inner packages, liver, gizzard etc. Now what?"

"Wash the big bird inside and out," she’d said. "Wash it good!" Then she patiently hung on the phone line and waited.

After a few minutes she asked what was taking me so long.

And I asked her: "How long is it going to take to rinse the turkey clean? It still has bubbles flowing out the cavity!"

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I did exactly what you said: I’m cleaning it good! I poured Dawn dishwashing detergent in the cavity and on the body. Do you think I used too much Dawn?”

I can promise you I’m a much better cook today. And no, it doesn’t make me crazy to think about it — it just makes me crazy my family won’t forget about it.

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