Friday, December 8, 2023
December 8, 2023

Nobody Asked Me But: Turkey leftovers cause mayhem

It’s finally over. Thank goodness Thanksgiving is over.

You’ve carved up the big bird and asked the eternal existential question: dark meat or white? Now it’s time to put it all away until the next big family holiday feast comes rolling around the corner. Just in time, too. I don’t think I’m capable of letting go even one more turkey burp this season.

Of course, we should all be willing to give thanks and pay gratitude for all the bounty that comes our way during this holiday which celebrates the cornucopia of plenty. The big problem that arises every year at this time is what to do with the leftovers.

Trying to pack all the uneaten food into the refrigerator amounts to a Herculean task that even outdoes that guy who is able to solve three Rubik’s cubes simultaneously while juggling them in the air. You practically need an engineering degree with a major in calculus to manoeuvre all the containers around so you are still able to close the door.

After your first attempt, you realize you will need a new strategy when you become aware that although you’ve jammed as much as you thought was possible onto the fridge shelves, half your leftovers are still sitting on the counter.

With your second attempt, you employ the same tactics you would use if you were playing a game of Jenga, where one careless move will make your brilliant master plan come tumbling down. The first thing you realize is that rectangular containers stack more efficiently on the shelves than circular ones. Plastic bags are not a good idea because, even though they can be squished into far corners of your fridge, the leftovers contained within them will inevitably be rendered unrecognizable once you finally get around to seeing what it was you had in there. Avoid loading your fridge with the pots and pans you cooked with because this is probably the most inefficient use of your limited fridge space, although it does allow you to put off much of your heavier dishwashing for a later date (which you may not have to deal with if, say, a comet were to collide with the Earth and destroy civilization).

Another consideration when organizing your leftovers is to try to keep the different foods separate from each other. This is similar to the “each to its own” philosophy used by Noah when he loaded up his ark. The last thing you want is for the turkey gravy to somehow tip over and run into the whipped cream. So, put the Brussels sprouts in one container, and the mashed potatoes in another. Likewise with the coleslaw and the pickled beets. Even the mild cranberry sauce should be kept separate from the spicy one.

Now, it’s time to deal with the turkey. Of course, the dark meat will be held separate from the white while the rest of the carcass, including the bones, will be kept cold until you find the time to reduce it down to turkey stock for future soups. When it comes to the giblets, well, nobody wants to share a container with giblets so you know you’ll have to keep them by themselves. They will probably be sitting there untouched in your fridge this time next year when someone will ask you “what’s that?” and you won’t remember.

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Once again, even though you’re getting much better at it, you can’t seem to squeeze all the leftovers into the space available. You pull all the containers back out and start reshuffling them into different locations. It feels like you are trapped in an endless game of musical shelves. It’s time to get ruthlessly desperate. You empty the crispers so you can cram more leftovers into this new territory. Don’t worry about the newly liberated lettuce and celery that are now wilting before your very eyes; you’ll deal with them later. What’s crucial now is to get everything pushed down in the crispers so they will slide shut to allow the fridge door to close. It’s at this point that you finally realize that “stuffing the turkey” does not refer to what you do to the bird, but rather to what you inflict on your fridge.

There. You’ve done it. You’ve managed to fit all the leftovers into the refrigerator. It won’t be until much later that you will wonder why any of the leftovers you may wish to eat first will always necessarily be in a container that is as far back and difficult to extract as possible. You turn to look smugly at the now empty countertop. Wait. What’s that? It’s three quarters of a pumpkin pie sitting there in its Pyrex dish. You don’t even bother to look in the fridge’s direction. In a split second, a fork leaps out of the cutlery drawer, forces itself into your hand, and helps you demolish the rebellious dessert that refuses to be herded into its designated place.

Nobody asked me, but far be it from me to direct disparaging remarks towards turkeys right after Thanksgiving. I’m not exactly about to stick my neck out for them, but if they have somehow managed to escape the chopping block, then all credit to them at least until the Christmas lights go up. It’s just that I must cry “fowl” at the ones that are less fortunate and who wind up on the dining room table. It’s because of these unfortunate birds that we find ourselves in the position of having to completely renovate the insides of our refrigerators in order to accommodate Thanksgiving leftovers. Thanks a lot, turkeys. And you can keep your giblets.


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