Shortly before Thanksgiving 2004, a friend told me how every year his family cooks its turkey in a galvanized garbage can.
First, my friend explained that this method creates a smoked flavor that is to die for. He also explained that it takes half the time to cook. I'm sold. Then, he gave me step-by-step instructions.
On Thanksgiving Day, it was 40 degrees, calm winds. Everything was in place. Galvanized garbage can on a flat section of earth in my back yard, charcoal, lighter fluid, aluminum foil covered the earth, aluminum poultry spike and a 22-pound Butterball.
I spent a better part of that day preparing for this moment. I placed the bird on the spike. I lit the coals around the bottom of the upside-down garbage can that covered the bird. I also lit the coals that were neatly piled on top of the upside-down garbage can. I set my watch. The process had begun.
I was trying to be being patient, but I had no idea what was going on under that can. Was the bird cooking? Were the coals too hot? I couldn't move the can because that would disturb the perfectly placed coals.
I was in a semi-panic because I had no idea how the turkey was doing. Then, I heard my wife from the kitchen: "How's it going, Hon? . . . Everyone is here and very hungry."
Now, I was sweating like it was 90 degrees outside. I had to see what was going on under that can. What was the worst that could happen? Thanksgiving dinner is ruined, and it will cost me about $500 to take 20 people out for Chinese food.
My watch alarm went off. The coals were peaking. I went to the shed and used my garden shovel to remove the coals from the top of the upside-down garbage can. I used my oven mittens to slowly remove the partially melted galvanized can from the aluminum foil-covered earth to reveal the Thanksgiving turkey. If I had a choice of how to be treated after I die, I would choose cremation over being eaten. Lucky for this poor turkey, being eaten was not in its destiny.
I could not believe that there was not one part of this fowl that resembled a turkey. Dejected, disappointed and scared, I used my garden shovel to fill a smaller galvanized garbage can with the cremated remains of our Thanksgiving Day dinner. I entered the dining room with the can. There were all my hungry guests sitting around the dining room table. In the middle of the table was a perfectly cooked, 22-pound Butterball.
Luckily for my family, my beautiful bride of 23 years is smarter than me. Nine years later, most members of my family are still laughing. Since that fateful day, that patch of lawn still hasn't come back, but the thing that comforts me most is knowing I contributed mightily to family memory building.
--George Rini, West Babylon