I have hosted a "Orphan Thanksgiving" or versions of it for nearly 10+ years. I discovered in my days post-my-divorce that there were many people in my circle[s] like me: single, not able to travel home for the holidays, and not knowing what to do with themselves. The first of these gatherings, I was reminded last week, happened at my friend Paula's house.
I'm not sure how I forgot about this particular holiday, it is hilarious and has made me laugh for days after she reminded me. I probably selectively forgot because it was such a comedy of errors at the time. There were 5 of us that year displaced. 3 women, 2 men. I was the only person who had ever cooked a turkey and knew what to do so I volunteered to be the Bird Girl that year and nearly every year since, when I have hosted.
I should describe Paula's apartment so that you can get a good image. She had a beautiful one bedroom with a great front room, and a tiny-ish kitchen complete with a swell vintage oven that at first glance looked large but you soon discover that the actual oven-portion on a vintage oven is quite small. Essentially, the space that is the normal contemporary oven is cut in half, one half for storage the other for cooking. I'm sure it made sense in the 40's or 50's, today, not so much.
We devised a plan, us three girls. We divied up the cooking, we schemed fab recipes, we shopped and we gathered that day in her front room and little kitchen [sometimes all five of us at once] and soon discovered the one thing none of us had thought about till then, that Paula only had about 3 pans. That's all a single girl needs when you don't cook much. When you're cooking Thanksgiving it's another story. We felt like we could work around it though and began our cutting, mashing and prepping. The turkey was in and taking up all but 5 square inches of the oven space. Somehow we did manage to rotate a casserole dish or two in there I think below it, on the floor of the oven. All the burners were going at once, all three of us playing twister for 4+ hours and waiting patiently for each other to finish with one pot so we could start the next part of whatever we were doing. We washed and rewashed those pots about 10 time each it seems. Meanwhile we used, and I'm not lying, every. single. cooking. instrument. and dish. she. owned. They were stacked a foot high in her also lovely but smallish sink.
The boys would come in to check on us once in a while, some what suspiciously, as they didn't think we knew what we were doing! and go back out to the front room to watch football. At some point in the afternoon it all magically came together. The turkey was Martha Stewart perfect, The stuffing amazing, The salad was 4 stars, the mashed potatoes? Brilliant, The cranberry freshly prepared [no cans!] All of it was working out PERFECTLY.
We asked one of the boys to come in and handle the turkey. Since we were perpetuating the stereotype girls in the kitchen /boys watching sports we might as well do it right. Joel joined us in the kitchen and we managed to get the bird out onto her cafe size table. And then like a slow motion Brady Bunch Episode, somewhere in the time it sat on the table, to the time when Joel started to carve, things went wrong, very wrong. The turkey ended up squirting, out from the disposable roaster onto the floor and DID A FULL BASEBALL SLIDE ACROSS THE FLOOR, COMPLETE WITH A HALF SPIN TO A STOP.
I think all of us stood there in silence for a second not knowing what to do, watching our browned little lump-of-love go down in a blaze of glory. I think all of us screamed in unison "FIVE SECOND RULE!!!!" "PICK IT UP!!!!" I'm sure I was one of the loudest since it was one of my main contributions to the day's events.
We did a little wipe-a-roonie- just to make sure and served it up anyway. We all sat around the coffee table with our plates of goodness and were silent as we ate up our days work. Finally one of us spoke, the second of the men and he said "I never thought I would ever say this, but this is better than my mom's Thanksgiving dinner" All of us agreed it was one of the tastiest meals we had ever had and we laughed about the pots and pans stacked to the ceiling and the turkey slide.
Ever since, the funniest thanksgivings have been with people that are friends and acquaintances here in Southern California. Not that there isn't fun things that happen with real family, because there are, but the wackiest, weirdest things happen when people, sometimes that you know well, or someone has brought along to share the "orphan" gathering for this one day, come together to make a psuedo-family. It just goes to show you that you can create your family wherever you happen to be, with or without your biological "peoples". Happy Turkey Day.
paper turkey via this person
Turkey leg Plushy via this person
Sock Turkey via This Person