Holiday memories in my family often revolve around turmoil. And then, if we are lucky, disaster ensues and America's Funniest Home Videos ends up with evidence of my families' insanity. The dinnertime preparation events of one Christmas holiday in particular will be etched forever on my list of all-time favorite kitchen debacles.
It began as a simple implement of creativity that eventually evolved into a delicious prank. As I helped my mother prepare the traditional Christmas turkey, she suggested adding a new "ingredient." She left the kitchen and quickly returned with a Cornish game hen that she had been thawing in the garage.
"Here, let’s stuff this first," said my mother, shoving the miniature fowl into my hands.
I did as I was told.
Then it was time to prep the turkey. My mother took the stuffed hen from my hands and carefully tucked it inside the cavity of the turkey, and then proceeded to pack stuffing around it.
Interesting, I thought, something new. I remember thinking that she must have gotten this idea from the Food Network, or something of that caliber.
"Don't you say a word about this to your father," she threatened, knowing that my dad would be the very person to eventually carve the bird. "Let's just see what he says."
Several hours later, with a house full of friends and relatives and a beautifully done holiday turkey, my father produced the ceremonial carving knife. But before its blade was able to pierce the perfectly crisp golden skin of the bird, my aunt stepped up, balancing something like her seventh tankard of merlot between two bedazzled fingers, and announced rather loudly that she had seen on Rachael Ray an inventive new way to carve a bird.
My aunt began to explain this new revelation.
"Now wait just a minute," interrupted my father, who surely would've rather been fixing himself another brandy, "You're the one who saw how to do it…." Without further explanation he handed off the carving utensils to my aunt, who first tipped the remainder of her merlot down her throat before taking the instruments with a sort of sloppy grace that reminded me for some reason, just a little, of Paula Abdul.
I caught my mother's eye and grinned, and she flashed me a look that said that this little surprise might turn out better than she hoped.
So with a merry audience, my aunt dove into the bird. But when it came time to remove the stuffing from within -- the very simplest part of dismantling a turkey -- disaster ensued.
After pulling several bedazzled handfuls of stuffing from the turkey cavity, out came what looked like a tiny chicken leg bone. My aunt stared at it with a puzzled look, but disregarded it as something that should have been cleared out with the rest of the entrails. Another handful of stuffing, and then another tiny leg bone.
"Oh my God, what is this?" said my perplexed aunt, who was now regretting that last spot of wine. She now had the full attention of her audience.
"Oh my God!" she repeated excitedly as she guardedly stuck her entire hand into the bird. This time she pulled out the entire carcass of the Cornish game hen.
"OH MY GOD," my aunt gasped, "It was PREGNANT!"
As she screamed this, she let the miniature fowl fall from her hands, after which it hit the edge of a nearby punch bowl and sent a tidal wave of red over the butter rolls, mashed potatoes and half of the turkey.
Shock echoed throughout the room.
My mother was the exception, who was literally on the floor, gasping for air. I had never seen my mother laugh with such force and momentum before or since she witnessed her sister carve a pregnant turkey.
It was a joke that turned out both absolutely perfect and slightly disastrous. The butter rolls really couldn't be saved, but the turkey, with a flavor hint of rum and lemonade, really could have been worse.