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Turkey killer, BYOB

You can take the son off Whidbey ... but you can always take Whidbey to the son. Even in New York.

As much as I enjoyed our son living on the East Coast for the past decade, it’s nice having him back out West — especially during the holidays. Sure, I loved spending Christmas in New York City last year, but flying over the rivers and through the woods is not one of my favorite winter pastimes.

About five Novembers ago, soon after our son’s move to Manhattan, I thought it would be fun to bring Thanksgiving to him. We’d rent an apartment and prepare a Thanksgiving meal for our son and his friends, even bringing one of the grandmas along for the ride. It may sound like a normal thing for parents to do, but this particular dinner would be BYOB: Bring Your Own Bird. You see, my husband is a turkey killer.

For the past 25 years, Farmer Bob has raised between two and 20 turkeys nearly every year on our three-acre island spread. I’m not sure how this turkey bonding got started, but once you’ve feasted on a nearly 50-pound homegrown bird, it’s hard to switch to the Butterball brand.

The year of our cross-country adventure, Farmer Bob’s turkey weighed in at 27 pounds. To prepare Big Bird for her 2,400-mile journey, he swaddled her in a blue foam camping pad secured with mass amounts of duct tape and placed her into an unmarked black duffel bag. She was still frozen, and should pretty much remain in that condition during the six-hour flight.

Surprisingly, we sailed through security at Sea-Tac Airport without ruffling any eyebrows or alarms. It probably helped that my hubby gave me the international zip-it-up signal, meaning “No wisecracks, Sue.” When our homegrown bird emerged intact from the screening machine with the rest of our carry-ons, I felt a small surge of victory. Our Little White Hen was on her way to the Big White Way!

As we hauled Big Bird up the three flights of narrow steps to the Chelsea apartment we’d rented, a wave of apprehension washed over me. Sure, I’d seen several photographs of our city digs on the website, but who knew what was really behind that battered brown door?

My fears were quickly realized, as not only had the apartment not been cleaned since the departure of the last occupants, it was small. Big Apple small. In fact, the kitchen was not much larger than a potholder.

The tiny living/dining room wasn’t much bigger than the kitchen, but we squeezed two makeshift tables into the cozy space. A dresser from the lone bedroom was recruited as the turkey-carving table, and I decorated the brick-walled room with fresh tulips and tea lights. Chef Bob was able to fit our now thawed turkey filled with Silver Palate Grand Marnier Apricot Stuffing into the small oven with barely an inch of clearance, and soon he was whipping up mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, and cranberries in port. Our son and his friends would bring the requisite pumpkin and pecan pies.

Throw in plenty of television football and copious amounts of red wine and we had the fixins for a truly memorable Thanksgiving feast: a little bit of Whidbey on the isle of Manhattan.

Sue Frause is a Whidbey Island freelance writer and photographer. You can reach her at sue@suefrause.com.


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