How do turkey work?

“My great aunt was unmarried and had a group of friends who rotated hosting holidays as an alternative to feeling like a fifth wheel at the homes of married relatives. They always had a nice get-together and enjoyed each other’s company, but she had one story about the early days of their gatherings.

“Several years into the tradition, one of the women who hadn’t hosted before insisted it was her turn and she would handle the whole meal — nobody needed to bring anything. They were a bit worried because nobody had ever seen her cook anything, but everyone agreed, and come Thanksgiving Day they all showed up at her house for dinner. Everyone gathered and chatted in the living room as they showed up. My aunt said that something seemed off, but she couldn’t place what it was… until the host stood and said, ‘Goodness, everyone is here, I expect I’d better start cooking the turkey!’ and wandered toward the kitchen.

“Over dinner at a thankfully open Chinese place, the group explained to the erstwhile host that 25lb turkeys don’t cook in an hour.” — Jack Roloson

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

“When we bought our house, it had an old, cool ’40s-vintage gas range. The stovetop pilot lights were the kind that always had little flames burning, and they were prone to being blown out. But the real hazard was the oven, which didn’t have a pilot: Every time you used it, you had to light the burner with a long kitchen match.

“This is the kind of oven you could stick your head in when you wanted to commit suicide. One day, we had a bunch of family visiting from out of town and a relative was helping me in the kitchen. She did what any modern-day American would do: She turned on the oven to preheat. At some point I noticed that she had done this; naturally she didn’t know to light the burner. So it was just pumping gas into the oven compartment. How long had it been on? One minute? Five minutes? Who knows? The smart thing to do would be to open the oven and all the windows and let it air out. But I was trying to impress or something, so I’m like, ‘Let me just light the burner right away. What’s the worst that can happen?’

“One second, I’m leaning down to light the burner, and the next I’m about 10ft away, because let me tell you, you can really move (apparently by leaping backwards) when you see a bright-orange fireball aimed at your head. In the end, I singed my eyebrows and a little hair, and the oven was fine. Not my best moment.” — Rachel Bielema

The Grinch’s turkey

“My wife and I were having my family over for Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, she got stuck having to work, so she left me to cook the turkey. Her instructions were simple enough: Get a cloth napkin from the cupboard, soak it in the melted butter, cover the turkey with the napkin, put the turkey in the oven, and check it in 90 minutes.

“What she failed to specify was that I should use a plain, un-dyed napkin rather than the pine-green napkin that was on top of the stack. When I took out the turkey and lifted off the napkin, the turkey was brilliant green and and the bottom of the roasting pan looked like it had a quart of NyQuil added to the drippings. I rinsed the turkey in the sink and most of the green dye washed off. I cleaned the pan, put the turkey back in covered with a plain napkin, and finished cooking the bird.

“Everyone thought the turkey was delicious. When my wife got home later, I told her of the green turkey and she nearly peed herself laughing. Then she worried that my entire family would end up sick. Unfortunately, they didn’t.” — Kyle Peterson

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