“Just let me do it this year,” Chelsi had responded to Hannah and Sami’s email about preparing for Thanksgiving 2016. “I just need you to make sure that the turkey arrives on Monday, alive and well. DO NOT let them put it under the bus!” What Chelsi had realized was that she just needed to make her instructions simple and clear. She was taking it upon herself to organize the meat course for this year, and rightly so, she thought, remembering last year’s ‘meat leader’ Paul, who had taken on the position out of some poorly placed sense of manly duty.
“The entire time we were cutting up the pig last year he kept complaining that he was about to vomit.” Chelsi tried to explain to anyone who would listen.
“So then what else do you need?” Hannah and Sami had responded after accepting her bid for the position.
“Charcoal… Just charcoal. I’ll talk to Neal about what else he needs for the pig.” Slightly against her better judgement, Chelsi had delegated the task of cooking the pig to her nearest neighbor Neal. She had been swayed by his genuine passion for the project and her confidence in her ability manage and rectify his inevitable failure.
“He wants to put the pig in a pit, doesn’t he?”
“Do you think that’s a good idea? Do you think it’ll work?”
“He’s very confident it’ll work, I think there’s about a fifty-fifty chance. But this year I can guarantee that the turkey will be good and next year Neal will likely be the one leading the meat, so it’s better that he gets all of his wackiest ideas out of him now.”
When the day before Thanksgiving came, all preparations commenced. A proverbial grave was dug, a funeral pyre lit inside and when the sun began to sink low on the horizon the pig, wrapped lovingly in banana leaves and chicken wire was buried in the pit. At that time, Chelsi could have sworn that she had seen a matching graving spring up just beside, all of your hopes and dreams, the headstone had read. But Chelsi had walked away with confidence in her own project; dressing the turkey, Thanksgiving’s real star, she thought to herself.
With some patience and agility the bird, who had been free to roam the expansive yard of the provincial office it’s last few days of life, was caught. Though a larger crowd than Chelsi had expected showed up to watch the bird bleed out, it died well with little commotion. “Which is what you want,” she had instructed her friend and assistant Oliver. “Next we’ll dip it in the water I’ve been heating on the brazier and we’ll feather it.”
The cleaning and cutting went smoothly, and nine plump piece of meat where dropped into brine and stored in the fridge till the next morning.
“What time to you think we should unbury the pig?” Neal asked Chelsi Thanksgiving morning around the breakfast table.
Chelsi shrugged, “What’s your confidence level like that it’s finished?”
Neal paused for a moment in quiet reflection, “97%. I am 97% sure that in like an hour it will be perfectly done.”
“Alright then, I’ll meat you out there with a shovel.” Chelsi laughed, “get it? I’ll MEAT you out there?”
Chelsi passed the next hour rinsing, drying and rubbing her bird with barbeque spices and setting the fire on the brazier. And when the time came she meandered out to the front yard.
Neal and Oliver where on their hands and knees brushing aside the dirt over the pig. “It doesn’t really feel warm…” Neal said with a strong strain of concern in his voice. When the pig was finally uncovered and hoisted out the outlook was not promising.
“This, this little spot here is the only part that cooked.” Neal said, deflated but with rising inflections of worrying and haste in his voice.
“So what do you want to do now?” Chelsi ask, feeling genuinely sorry that the scheme hadn’t been successful.
“I don’t know… I don’t know, do you think it’s still safe to eat?”
Chelsi looked it over; it smells, but not unlike any piece of meat, the color’s fine, the flesh still has integrity. “I think its fine. I got the grill going. Why don’t we just put it up there, cover it and see what happens.”
When Chelsi looked up, she could see Neal’s face covered in full blown panic. A thousand reasons of doubt exploded from his mouth.
“Since there is not much more we can do,” Chelsi tried to retain all of her cool, calm and collectedness, “let’s put on the grill and see what happens.”
With the effort Chelsi, Neal and Oliver managed to situate the pig on the grill and Chelsi was able to return her focus to the turkey.
For the last time, she removed the piece from the refrigerator, rinsed them then patted them dry. She placed a grate over her fire and laid out the pieces as far from the fire as she could. She checked her watch, about 4 hours till dinner, perfect.
With the remaining time Chelsi bathed and dressed, and periodically turned her pieces on the fire. She enjoyed the parade of fanciful dishes passing by; green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, freshly baked diner rolls, pies, cakes, cookies. Everything one would expect for a Thanksgiving feast.
“And how’s the pig coming?” Chelsi asked Neal as the dinner hour approached.
“I think it’s going to be okay. It looks good, it smells fine.” And Chelsi couldn’t help but notice that the color in Neal’s face was looking better as well. “Oliver and I are going to take it off the grill and remove all of the edible pieces.”
“Great, I think the turkey is done too. I’m going to grab someone to help me pull it apart and plate it.”
After removing it from the brazier and setting it to rest, the meat pulled away perfectly from the bones of the bird.
“Oh my goodness,” Chelsi’s friend Allison cried, “this has to be one of the best turkey’s I’ve ever tasted.”
“Thank you!” Chelsi said blushing.
When the dinner table was complete, all the volunteers gathered around and shared what they were thankful for. For Chelsi, it was finding family so far away from home.