Watch Out, Lil' Ladies

turkey.jpgAh, so it begins. 

From my cousin:
“Well, so far, there will be about thirty of us.  We should talk about the menu and see what we want everyone to bring. We’ll need two turkeys. Kevin says he wants to deep fry one.”

This, from my cousin Leland in Kansas where we will meet for Thanksgiving.  I will happily fly to Tulsa from Los Angeles, then drive on cruise control 120 miles to the small town of Parsons for Thanksgiving dinner at his big blue Victorian home with a host of cousins, grandchildren, stray local teen-agers and two uncles well into their 80s. (One will bring a cream pie and the other, green jello.) 

Once we settle where the out-of-towners sleep we will find ourselves smack in this small town of 13,000 in the middle of the country, the grocery shopping dependent on a Wal Mart just outside the city limits where there is never a shortage of iceberg lettuce, year round.  (A side note: I felt slapped down, yet hopeful to discover a small plastic container of basil buried among the radishes when last there.) 

I write back: “Leland, hold onto your senses. Don’t try to control your brother. It will only bring out the worst in him.  I’m counting on you. Trust me on this. As far as his ‘I-want-to-deep-fry-a-turkey’ back off and let him act out what I have experienced as nothing more than a thinly disguised version of male tribal behavior. Think about it.

30-40 quart stainless steel container
Propane tank
Thermometer for the oil
Thermometer for the hapless bird carcass
Fire extinguisher (that’s the one that should catch your attention re: the Victorian wood frame home)
3-5 gallons of cooking oil….gallons!”

I went on, “I’ve had some experience even here in Los Angeles.  All the men will gather outside on the driveway exhibiting a great show of opinion in the assembly of the  container plus any of the support equipment, ‘Nah, that don’t go there. You don’t want that slipping down into the grease,’ offered with great authority. This, while the women are inside sticking the regular turkey into a regular oven and drinking maybe bourbon which oddly seems to lend itself to the fall even if you don’t normally drink it. Maybe we have a CD of Sly and the Family Stone on and are kind of moving around to it.

“But then someone hollers out ‘Okay it’s ready’ and we will, with practiced compliance, step out on the wood deck to watch the guys. (You, Leland, will be with us because you’ve got an uncluttered, well screwed on sense of how the world works owing to your years of running a hardware store.)

fryturk3.jpg“Basically, what they are doing has less to do with cooking a turkey and much more to do with drama. The oil is hot. ‘Step back now. Watch it.’ It’s the same way they offer parking directions whether you have asked for them or not. They have suspended the hapless bird above the roiling oil, preparing to slip it into the inferno.  ‘You kids clear away. This could be dangerous!’  Then, with palpable sense of completion they step away and blow on their hands while they watch. 

‘She seems to be doing okay.’

‘You timing this baby?’

“When all is said and done, if you held a gun to the head of anyone trying both, I doubt you would end up with a clear decision about which came from where.  It’s harmless enough so just let it play out.  Also, I have found out that once they do it, they don’t have to do it again. Just don’t let Kevin stick you with disposing of the old oil. 

“Meanwhile, those of us from LA and Chicago will haul serious supplies of tid-bits and extras from our more urban settings, never fear.  We know better than to leave anything to chance.”

Love, me

“P.S. Oh yes, if you send me a FEDEX label I will send a case of wine. It won’t be Two-Buck Chuck for the bloom is off that rose, but it will be a darned sight better than those half gallons of Inglenook down at Wes’ Package Store.” 


A writing coach, Claudette teaches ongoing creative writing classes in Los Angeles as well as workshops in New York and Seattle. Her web site is