Don't Mess With The Turkey!
Volume 5, Number 21
The Thanksgiving tofu turkey episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” goes down as one of my favorite TV comedy experiences of all time. Even in syndication, it’s both hilarious and uncomfortable to watch again and again. Seems that Marie (Doris Roberts) and Frank (Peter Boyle) are trying desperately to be healthy, and their recent medical tests prove that some changes in their diet are in order. Marie scours through the kitchen, throwing out all the unhealthy food, and demands that Frank do the holistic regimen with her. Marie then decides that a tofu turkey (tofurkey!) will take the place of a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner. The visual display of the gelatin looking “jiggly” tofu turkey was enough to send any viewer over the edge—me included! Raymond (Ray Romano) decides he just can’t take it, and orders a complete normal turkey dinner with all the fixins’ from a local restaurant. Many funny and uncanny moments during this episode are eerily similar to my family.
My mother-in-law, Mom Mom, who is in heaven now, was a direct descendant and picture perfect depiction of the character of Marie Barone. At times I laugh hysterically at all the scary commonalities, and other times I almost cry at just how “real” this sitcom is to my life. Truly, we could take the characters and change the names and rename the show, “Everybody Loves Jeffrey”! My mother-in-law would make every Thanksgiving a cornucopia of her whimsical creations, insisting on trying at least one new dish every year. Her love of cookbooks, gourmet cooking shows and unique recipes found in her beloved magazines seemed to always find their way to the sacred holiday table. Most of her creations I could handle, but the men in our family weren’t too excited about the raisins and cranberries in the stuffing/dressing, nor the turkey sausage (yes, a turkey stuffed in a turkey) or whatever else that chewy stuff was in there. I don’t quite blame them.
Mom Mom had a knack for changing things up, making the traditional male eaters of our clan express their outward discontent. A coconut clove pumpkin pie quiche one year was not a hit. Nor were her fat-free coffee brownies made with applesauce. And the earth shook the day she decided to change her own famous candy cane cookie recipe! But I had to laugh out loud the year she tried so hard to make something new and different with mashed potatoes and turnips, plus a sweet potato something with peppers, apples, garlic and God knows what else. Once again, that dish got passed around the table like a hot potato going thru an EZ-pass express lane. The cranberry pepper hash—or whatever she called it—was splendid, but she had to fool around with the ingredients in that, too. My dad (her son’s father-in-law) was always a willing guinea pig and would eat almost anything, because his wife (my mother) didn’t cook!
Finally Mom Mom gave in and passed the torch on to me, and I inherited the matriarchal privilege of creating the Thanksgiving feast. We decided to go back to what worked for us in the very beginning: plain mashed potatoes with lots of butter, sweet potato casserole with an arsenal of marshmallows, regular creamed corn in a can, stuffing or dressing without all the “stuff” in it, and of course, a turkey—a normal American frozen, thawed-in-the-sink gobbler, injected with all the unhealthy butter-fakers to make it moist and juicy.
All was right with the world and all were happy again. I miss her, however, and I assume that most of the men around our table now would be willing to try her turkey table delectable delights, just to have her here with us again.
Table Tips for a great Thanksgiving:
1. Never try a new dish for a holiday, unless you’ve tested and tried it prior.
2. Trying some new recipe isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but remember, you may get some flack and opposition if you do!
3. The fresher the ingredients, the better, for just about any kind of meal, especially Thanksgiving dinner.
4. Invite a new friend or family to your table, just to change things up a bit! Making new traditions is so very healing.
5. Holidays can be stressful, especially if your loved ones no longer grace your table. However, be thankful. Share the stories, the fun, the hilarity, and the joy of the days when their presence filled the room.
Ironically, at the end of the “Everybody Loves Raymond” turkey episode, Marie is caught eating and picking at Ray’s restaurant turkey in the kitchen! As much as we try so very hard to do something new and experience a change in our ways, sometimes we just have to go back to what works. Thankfully, even though we stray at times, God never pushes us away. Happy Thanksgiving!
“What are you waiting for? Return to your God! Commit yourself in love, in justice! Wait for your God, and don't give up on Him—ever!” (Hosea 12:6, The Message).
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Photo above: June Duffield (Mom Mom) and Annie Duffield, 1988