Time to start thinking about Thanksgiving

Time to start thinking about Thanksgiving

I know there are many well-organized planners out there who will laugh when I say it may be time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. Such folks will already have a written menu in place, have already gathered hard to find ingredients and are figuring out table decorations.

I’ve always felt super pleased with myself if I remember to order a fresh turkey before the cutoff date, and I’ve found myself shut out of some favorite dishes by waiting until the day before to hit the grocery store in earnest. I try to do much better these days.

Two Thanksgivings ago, we’d just lost the center of our family and the person around whom all holidays were planned, so it was a modest, quickie affair of roasted game hens. No one had the heart to do a big meal, and it was just the two of us anyway.

Last year was bigger, as we had the space and inclination to cook the whole shootin’ match. I even picked up a huge dining room table for chump change and found enough chairs to seat a crowd.

Since then we’ve moved yet again, and that dining table went to the curb to be picked up by some passing college kids for free. Our current digs are nice but too small for even a two-seater table. So we are thinking creatively again about how to do the turkey and trimmings for likely two people and a toddler. The answer is a roulade.

Instead of a whole bird, we’re planning to get a whole turkey breast. I’ve had a fair amount of practice with deboning poultry and can actually bone out a whole chicken without disturbing its overall shape. It then gets stuffed and tied. After cooking, it comes out as a stuffed, rounded bird with legs as expected but which can be easily sliced and served rather than laboriously carved.

Each serving brings an outer wheel of poultry wrapped around a center of stuffing. Add gravy and we’re ready for football. With just the breast to deal with, it should be even easier. I can just remove the bones, lay the thing out skin side down, do some creative surgery to even things out and fill it with stuffing. Rolling and tying it up equals roulade.

The likely wrench in the gears here, and it’s a bright-red plumber’s pipe wrench for sure, is supply.

Beginning in 2019 and a crash in turkey prices, the supply of turkeys in the U.S. has been on a wonky ride ever since. At the time farmers cut production as a means of fighting back, only to be met by the pandemic.

Avian flu has cost more than 7 million turkeys this year alone. Rising inflation has made matters worse, and this year prices are expected to be 73% higher than in 2021, if you can find turkey at all.

My advice, which is in keeping with the advice of producers, is to get your bird as soon as you see them available, whatever the price. It’s not worth gambling that you’ll find a fatter bird at a better price later.

It’s time to put on our “Europe in 1936” pants and get what we can while the getting is good. There’s really no one to point a blaming finger here; it’s just the weird times we continue to pass through. A century ago we had The Roaring '20s. Perhaps historians will one day write about this decade as The One Stupid Thing After Another '20s.

I fear whole breasts may be even harder to find than the full bird, in which case we’ll have to shift plans and just go for the smallest turkey we can find. We can do leftovers for a while if we have to. I’m willing to make that kind of sacrifice for God and country.