Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Brine Turkey for Best Results. Serve with Emotional Intelligence.

Pam Anderson says in her book The Perfect Recipe (for how to brine turkey) that it's so good you don't need gravy. "This is The Way," she says.

In an article contributed by one of America's Top Pitmasters, Wyndell "Fergy" Fergson, we learn that Anderson roasted 40 turkeys doing the research to find "the perfect recipe."

Are you still reading? You've been cooking turkey for 40 years, that's 40 turkeys, and you know what makes a great turkey!

You know what brine is - you know, salt water?

Or all you stuck on "no gravy." Have you stopped processing information after reading that. I mean gravy is sacred. It's the reason many of us tolerate the turkey. "I cannot imagine a Thanksgiving dinner without gravy," you're saying?

Did you get to the part where another hot Pitmaster, Dan Gill, states that "Many of us have publicly declared we will not cook another turkey without brining it first"?

And you're going to someone's house for Thanksgiving dinner, thinking you may be served brined turkey without gravy . And that (horrors) the same thing may occur at Christmas. And you're also wondering what goes WITH brined turkey. If no gravy, then no mashed potatoes? No cranberry sauce? No stuffing?

Your emotions are stirred, your emotional intelligence challenged. A couple of years ago it was deep fried turkey. You managed to avoid that one at your son-in-law's, but you're afraid you can't be that lucky twice. You've already used the "flu" excuse, and the "other plans" excuse. Their feelings will be hurt.

YOU JUST WANT THE TRADITIONAL TURKEY DINNER: turkey, GRAVY, mashed potatos, stuffing, and your Mom's sweet potato casserole ... well, OK, whatever as long as its not that nasty lime gelatin thing with marshmallows in it.

You call your daughter to check on what you might expect at this year's feast. You can't bear to get into the brined turkey (no gravy) thing right off, so start in asking if you can bring the sweet potato casserole (one way to get something you consider part of a reasonable Thanksgiving dinner), and she starts in ... "You aren't going to put MARSHMALLOWS on it, are you?"

Your temperature is rising, like the brine does for the turkey, conducting heat better, so they say.

So you google brined turkey and it only gets worse. "The meat of a brined bird tastes pleasantly seasoned," it says, "[eliminating] the need to season before and after roasting." WHAT? A brined turkey may be "pleasantly seasoned," but not the way YOU are used to. And who ever minded seasoning it before and after roasting? Is that now a crime?? Or huge imposition??

You gloss down the page ... alarm goes up: you can always use one of those cooking bags, it says, (what the heck is that?) and the pan juices are usually too salty to make a gravy.

Aha, so THERE'S the rationalization. The reason why you "don't need gravy." Because you cannot make gravy from this brined turkey. Because it's so "pleasantly seasoned." Remember? (SALT??)

If you can relate to any of this you are into the emotions of the holiday season ...

You have certain expectations about traditions. They are actually carved in stone, and so emotional, you can hardly deal with them. Food is where we live, after all! It's even more intimate that sex!

The fight is on You know your husband is not going to sublimate this at all. He is going to refuse to go to a Thanksgiving dinner with brined turkey. And you wouldn't have taken it THAT far.

Your sister on the other hand says you're over-reacting and to calm down, so you're mad at her, too. You expected HER to know what a Real Thanksgiving Dinner is like, and to support your outrage.

Next you move into humor and tell a friend about this. You say you looked for the top 10 terms googled on yahoo and found "brined turkey" and had never heard of that. He tells you you're a dinosaur in the age of mammals ... not trendy ... Since when is a TRADITIONAL thing supposed to be TRENDY? you query. The anger rises.

You decide to forget the whole thing for now. You know, from emotinal intelligence, that anger can stress your immune system, and you really don't want flu or strep throat along with your gravy-less turkey-brined Thanksgiving dinner.

Yuo wonder quietly if you are supposed to know the names of people like Fergy Ferguson. Is he one of those cooking channel "chefs" you always see on the TV at your son-in-law's house?

And underneath it, you are so disappointed. You longed for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, meaning the one your Mom had, and that you then copied for your family. Now your kids are ingrates! You get that wordless feeling... you know where you're middle-aged and you're missing your old family, the one you grew up in, and the way things used to be. And when you gave the dinner and had it your way. You dread the confrontation with your husband and son-in-law, but you're not exactly in the mood to be the go-between and talk to your daughter.

Well, this is the holidays, my friends, and this is when we need emotional intelligence the most.

You "know" because you're a grown up that you aren't supposed to "let" things like that upset you, so you're ashamed of yourself too. It's just food, you tell yourself. And the point is to get together, isn't it?

You call your OTHER sister, the one you get along with, tell her about the brined turkey and tell her she and you are going on a cruise next Thanksgiving, and she agrees. And she thinks you're impending brined turkey sounds better than the roast pork she'll be having at her daughter's ... pork??

You think back to your first Thanksgiving away from home. Your mom was a southerner, and you and your husband were off in N. C. getting him educated to be a physician, and you'd accepted an invitation from the couple who were from New England. And silly you, you went into it totally naive. After all, there was only ONE Thanksgiving dinner. Uh oh. On the table was dressing made from bread (not cormnread, not stuffed inside the turkey), and TURNIPS. You were young then, and cried on the way home, and your husband didn't know what to do since he didn't really care what he ate. He made fun of you and then you got mad at him and got into a fight. Didn't anyone understand how you FELT?

CONCLUSION: Just a little emotional intelligence story about the holidays. We are PRIMED for emotional turmoil. If it isn't that uncle you're abivalent about, or actually hate; it's the food - the wrong food; and the travel; and the expense; and your pushy sister/mother/aunt taking charge when you would like to be.

And this year's will include our communal anxiety about the state of the economy and affairs in general.

So you decide next year you are going go on a cruise and avoid the whole thing. "But what about our traditions??" your daugnter cries.

Can you win?

Yes, you can win, with emotional intelligence. It starts with knowledge and preparation. Take THE EQ COURSE - on the Internet, but we dialogue about it. Throw in my HANDLING DIFFICULT PEOPLE COURSE (like your mother-in-law, or crotchety granpa). Get a coaching session ... continual support provided. Get some foundation for all this emotional turmoil. INFORMATION IS POWER.

Of course it might mean changing some things ... kind of what this is all about. The brined turkey, you know. "Tweaking," Thomas would have called it. (I'm a founding member of Coachville.) I served on Thomas Leonard's R&D team.

But trust me, after the emotional intelligence course, you'll have the tools you need to make it all a lot more pleasant for yourself. It's an informative course, but also fun. You'll love it!

Email me at sdunn@susandunn.cc . Ask for my tips on other hot seasonal topics like How to Handle the Office Christmas Party, Whether to give the Boss a Gift ... What to get your new boyriend ... dating at Christmas. I also have ebooks on some of these subjects.

You've read a little and calmed dowm and you say to yourself, "What's the big deal? My mother-in-law used to soak the quail in buttermilk. This isn't a NEW idea." and you get a little arrogant about the whole thing.

Know what I mean?

Want to learn more. Shoot me an email.

P.S. If there's no gravy, it isn't Thanksgiving dinner!!!

Oops there's the phone. It's your son telling you what you'll be having for Thanksgiving dinner. Didn't you train him to ASK people what they might like to have? Where's the Thanksgiving etiquette? WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE??

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