NEW JERSEY — Thanksgiving holiday traditions are a warm way to kick off the season for families across the nation, and I personally cannot wait for this week’s festivities. From watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to watching some football between helpings, families everywhere have their own little traditions that bring them together and help remind all of us what the season is truly about. Whatever traditions your family may have, I’m sure you’re looking forward to them as much as I’m looking forward to my favorite! Every year, around 8 am, my mother wakes me up and tells me it’s time to start helping her prepare the food for our family’s dinner. I spend hours peeling potatoes, sautéing green beans, and cutting carrots, all while eagerly anticipating the highlight of my day: filling the hole at the back of the raw turkey with as much food as I can fit in there.
I remember my first time seeing the stuffing of a bird. I was 11 and my uncle had decided that it would be funny to get our family a turducken instead of a turkey that year. I watched with awe as he removed a chicken from the fridge, spread its legs before tying them together, and then filled it with stuffing. I was astonished when he then brought out a duck, rubbed some butter around its hole, and then jammed the whole chicken into its duckussy. Just when I thought the roller coaster of fowl behavior had come to end, he blew my mind. Slamming a turkey on its back, my uncle shoved the ducken right into the turkey, holding a wing down and not breaking eye contact. It was at that moment, I realized I wanted to be a bird stuffer.
Cramming that tight little turkussy full of stuffing is always the highlight of my Thanksgiving, especially when it seems like it can’t take another spoonful. That’s when I add the cranberry sauce, letting it seep into the walls of the turkey and get all mixed in there with the stuffing. I keep going until the cranberry sauce slowly oozes out, which let’s me know to tell my mom it’s time for the turkey to go into the oven. As the bird cooks, I can’t help but keep thinking about just how deeply I was able to stuff that lean, dry fowl with all of the fixings and how the marinated turkey will be nice and moist when it’s ready for us.
It isn’t until that golden brown turkey is sitting out, completely unattended while everyone else is setting the table, that I truly get to have my fun though. I creep up behind my little snack and admire my handiwork. After I finish my superficial admiration, I begin my physical appreciation once again. I take a spoon and thrust it in and out of the turkussy, mashing around the stuffing like a caveman discovering pudding. Some of it gets on my hand, but I’m not fancy, so I don’t look away from the turkey as I bring the spoon to my lips and get a mouthful of that hot stuffing. I lick the drippings off my hand and take one last look at the bird, smiling because I know it’s our little secret.