After about six years of eating a vegetarian diet, Zoë came home from running errands to tell me she had a cheeseburger. Well, it was not quite that simple. All the vegetarian protein options I could come up with tasted like nothing, not even cardboard. Being on chemo, she needed lots of protein. A cheeseburger tasted good, not great, but at least it had some taste. So now, I am blowing the dust off my recipes and my meat cooking skills.
She made this decision just in time for Thanksgiving. So once again, I made our annual turkey along with a vegetarian option to contribute to our open house potluck dinner where we always have far more food then one needs. Once again, I decided to brine the turkey. I have decided after watching too many episodes of Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives that next year, I am going to buy a huge plastic tub to put the turkey and the brine in, rather then pouring 10 quarts of brine into a trash bag and wrestling with that. Don’t even try to imagine it, because it was not funny. I didn’t even have a pot big enough stir the honey into the 10 quarts of water, so I stirred into as much as I could and then poured that in the bag, added the rest of the ingredients for the brine and then added the turkey. The fun part came as I tried to get my force flex wrapped brining bird into the roasting pan and in the refrigerator. It took two of us to get it in the pan while I prayed brine did not leak out all over the kitchen like a waterbed with a leak.
Getting the bird out of the bag the next morning was so much easier then getting it in. Brine down the drain, I found myself quickly returning to culinary knowledge that had been stored in my meat cooking archives. I have always liked brining my bird with honey, thyme, sage, garlic, and salt. However, I have usually stuffed it before cooking it. This year one of my guests wanted to bring the stuffing, so I was left wondering what to stuff the cavity with; my solution was more sage, thyme, and lemon. Lemon always went well with honey. Therefore, I stuffed the cavity with freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemons and fresh sage and thyme.
Then I had this momentary cringe of panic when I realized that the turkey I had bought did not have one of those popup timers that says it is done and I no longer had a meat thermometer. While there are ways to substitute for a number of things, there is not a substitute for a meat thermometer. So, I turned to the one cooking instrument that has never failed me yet, my faith and intuition.
After giving my turkey a garlic butter massage with some freshly ground salt and pepper, I slid it into the oven and prayed. According to the bag, it should take about 4-5 hours, so I was going to count on that. At 4 hours, it still looked like it needed to be on a tanning bed. When it started to look as if it might be done, I took it out and prayed that it would be the perfect temperature and moist throughout. For me, there is nothing like a dry turkey. My prayers were answered; those gathered told me this was the moistest turkey they had ever had, even the white meat was melt in your mouth tender.
Since then, I have been renewing my meat cooking skills, especially chicken, which at this moment in time seems to be her favorite. Well, that and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. What I have come to realize is that it is like riding a bike. They say once you know how to ride a bike, you never forget. Mind you, I have not been on a bike longer then I have not cooked meat, so I am not sure. However, it is all coming back to me quickly.
As I have been readjusting to cooking and eating chicken and other meat products again, I have come to realize what a gift my body is. Whether I am taking care of my body or not, it is there for me and keeps functioning to the best of its ability. However, we have to listen to what our body is saying. Every cell in our body was created by the Divine and so speaks to us about what we should do as loudly and clearly as messages about other aspects of our life.
For now, the message is to keep her body filled with protein and hydration, which I am. If the message changes again, which it might, so will the supplies in my pantry and frig. As long as the Creator is speaking to me about what to do, I am fine. I know that no matter how long God takes me off a culinary bike, I will always remember how to ride.