A Chefs Rant About America’s Culinary High Holy Day

By Trisha Kostis 

They won’t ask me to cook because they’re scared and that’s good. I’ve trained them right. My family and friends are as nervous as my incompetent, anxiety riddled staff. They know my job is Thanksgiving every damned day. They know I’d just as soon nibble away at a 7-Eleven chalupa in my unmade bed next to the dirty cat litter box than dick around with a giant slimy fowl and all the sentimental ‘Murica accouterments that go along with it.   

Deliberately, they make no plans. And because I really do love to eat turkey and yearn for the sausage stuffing my mother used to make, I acquiesce.   

I ignore my actual bank account balance and treat it like my ample work budget designed for erudite guests and sophisticated palates. For my perky salad, I purchase organic greens from a first harvest that was picked by Franciscan monks sworn to silence. I source a free range non-binary bird whose papers verify that they roamed the pristine fields of the Columbia River Valley with like-minded game. The table is set with sterling silver pecan shaped napkin rings and Williams Sonoma Harvest Pumpkin serving platters, among other one-use-only-featured-on-the-Today show tchotchkes. 

I take precious vacation time a week prior to the gourmet grand prix, so that I may clean like Marie Kondo is coming to dinner. I need a day to shop, a day to plan the menu, 2 days to prep and Black Friday to wallow in self-recrimination for agreeing to cook when theoretically I don’t have to.  

Should I make a soup or salad? Traditional turkey or something more conceptual? Mom’s stuffing is a non-negotiable and so is the pumpkin pie. But I make the filling from sugar pie pumpkins and painstakingly cut out pastry leaves for the rim of the crust. Boom. 

I lop off the turkey wings, roast them to a rich caramel color, and simmer them with the giblets for 2 days until I have an unctuous stock aromatic enough to draw tiny woodland creatures to my back door. 

do brine that turkey, even though it lived a most bougie life for a game bird. Poultry bathed in salt, sugar and spices will prove my culinary supremacy to anyone fearing dry meat. 

Even though I don’t want to, I rice my potatoes. When mashed with a ricer the potatoes are nicer! No other method achieves that level of creamy, silky smoothness and if I’m going to eat a deadly super carb, it better be heavenly.  

And finally, the gravy, or if all goes well, liquid umami. I should want to drink it from a Starbucks grande holiday cup. The requisite turkey beneath its shimmering slick will be nearly superfluous. My guests will be rendered mute, emitting guttural moans that will make my dining room sound like the film set of a porn movie. 

The homemade challah, the balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts, the turkey that has rested for 30 minutes are all precision timed. As though it’s a Saturday dinner service at the restaurant and I’m on the line, everything will be ready at 5:00 sharp, as the invitation said clearly, without any stipulations or caveats about traffic or forgotten phones or marital squabbles. Nothing about any of that went into my careful plan. Nothing. 

When they arrive 60 minutes late, without an apology, my purple face swells like a puffer fish. The salad is now as slimy as a bowl of slugs, the perfectly crisped turkey skin flaccid, the fluffy riced potatoes as dry as the Salt Flats.  

They want cocktails although they’ve obviously already imbibed which explains their tardiness and why they don’t seem to notice my twitching. Their taste buds are pickled and their primary incentive will be eating themselves sober. I could have purchased a hormone-engorged rotisserie chicken from Kroger and called it a day. 

I hate them. I hate myself for fronting like Thomas Keller when my guests are Duck Dynasty. I hate that people just eat. I invited diners but instead got eaters. I imagine the turkey, that once proud and haughty creature, fighting back and hurling insults like some R-rated Angry Birds character, jerking away from the tines of determined flatware. “You don’t deserve me! I think Chick-fil-A is open today.” 

I used to love cooking almost as much as I loved my family. I am burned out on the first and fried on the latter. Still, Thanksgiving is the food and family holiday and I will probably always yearn to capture the spirit of Martha Stewart that never once existed in my childhood ever. 

If you’re an eater this Thanksgiving, express your gratitude by showing up sober and on time. Even your mom is a Chef if she’s cooking your fucking green bean casserole. Show some respect and be a diner.  

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