Cold Turkey Thanksgiving

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I prepared my first one in a cold oven overnight. I wasn’t in the range personally, you understand, but the turkey was. My adult daughters now roll their eyes when I speak of such things, but we lived in a country where individually purchased store-bought eggs came from mounds of unrefrigerated straw. Evidently, salmonella didn’t exist back then. 

Turkeys weren’t easy to find, as no Taiwanese I ever knew cooked one in their homes. For starters, most people didn’t have ovens, and those that did were the size of a postage stamp. Most whole fowl didn’t fit into an Asian stove.

The bird was frozen when I got it. An older ex-pat lady bought it for me, as she knew just where to go and how to say the words “fire chicken” in Mandarin. Who knows what kind of gosh-awful creature I would have brought home. 

I thawed it in the refrigerator for days, as the recipe said, but that ended up monopolizing most of my cold storage space. In the meantime, our family survived on peanut butter and jelly to keep from having left-overs. A 12-pound bird takes up a lot of room when you only have 24-cubic feet of an appliance with which to work. 

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I plucked the bird’s remaining pin-feathers and tried my best to rub its skin with butter. Raw turkey is hard to dry, no matter how much patting is involved, but if you wrestle with it long enough, you can get equal amounts of lubricant upon you and the bird. Once both of us were well-greased, I slid him into the largest roasting pan I could borrow, added a cup of water, and sealed the whole thing with foil.

Per my mother’s instructions, everything went into a cold oven before preheating. I should have started a little earlier in the evening because I discovered it takes a while for an oven full of previously frozen poultry to reach 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the range reached the desired temp, I followed mother’s notes to let it cook for an hour at this heat, then turned off the oven and went to bed. By this time, I was sleepy, so it was easy to follow her strict directive not to open the oven.

The next morning, we awoke to the delicious aroma of roasted meat, a welcome contrast from the PBJ’s we’d lived on for the last several days. I had a turkey sampling for breakfast and then directed my attention to side dishes of sweet potatoes, green beans, and cranberry sauce.

A handful of Chinese university students joined us, not only for the meal but also for a lively discussion about America’s first Thanksgiving. My husband and I fumbled with limited Mandarin to describe the pilgrim’s religious persecution, physical hardships, and harsh weather conditions. Our simple vocabulary served us well enough initially, but with the mention of the settler’s homesickness, that reality aligned too closely to our own. The night ended early in awkward silence, not because of a language barrier, but because of hearts were far away, longing for home.

As I recalled our homesickness during that first non-American Thanksgiving, I realize that gratitude always begins with a cold oven. Despite the grief of any situation, attitude is invariably the flint that sparks the slow warmth of joy. Forcing your heart into thankfulness can feel a lot like leaving a raw turkey in a lifeless range. Sometimes, it’s only the testimony of the cooks before you that keep you faithing for the morning. 

Believing in the testimony of my mother, I let my Thanksgiving turkey cook for one hour and then left it in a “turned-off” oven all night. Believing in the promises of God, I present my heart to His Word whether I feel like it or not, allowing the heat of His truth to permeate and fortify me for the hours ahead. Recalling the goodness of God, I force my heart and mind to choose thankfulness moment by moment. Regardless of the bleakness of my circumstances, God is always God and for that I can give thanks.

God is always God and for that I can give thanks Click To Tweet

To quote Joni Eareckson Tada, “God isn’t asking you to be thankful. He’s asking you to give thanks…One response involves emotions, the other your choices.” This year, let’s do our part to recall gratitude to mind. Take the cold, bundle-some events of each day, go to bed each night, and be thankful for His presence. Let’s wake each morning, knowing that God’s love and compassion will always remain the same. “They are new every morning; Great is (His) faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).