Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Day Sin


I was winning the war in a valiant effort to make it through Christmas without eating myself into gluttony, sin, and self-loathing, until my brother tossed me that deep fried turkey butt. Battle over. I lost. Big time.
At mom’s, my little brother, Quinton, always cooks the turkey, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other time we as a family feel the need to commit one of the Bible’s Seven Deadly Sins. Gluttony is one of the seven, isn’t it? Well, if it’s not it ought to be.

Deep fried. Quinton deep fries the family turkeys, and believe me when I tell you the difference between that and the traditional oven job is like day and night. The new method seals in the moisture and renders a bird full of moist, flavorful meat that is light-years better than anything I grew up eating before some genius thought to drop a big bird in a pot of boiling oil. But before you go out and buy a turkey fryer, a few words of advice may be in order.

You can burn your house down deep frying a turkey. Easy. Not only that, but you can kill yourself, your entire family, and burn your whole neighborhood to the ground. Let me give you a few safety tips. First, get some bailing wire or some old clothes hangers and wire the pot to the cooker. If the pot tips over and the oil touches the open flame, the resulting explosion will be similar to tossing a burning match into an open container of gasoline. I am not exaggerating. Second, if you marinate the bird, make sure his chest cavity is empty of liquids before putting the turkey into the oil. This can cause a boil over and easily result in incinerating a small city. Third, unlight the fire before putting the turkey in. Heat the oil to 325, unlight the fire, put in turkey, then relight the fire. Cook one minute per pound of bird. Fourth, don’t throw the turkey away. It just looks ruined. I promise. Do not throw the turkey away. Underneath that blackness and charcoal is some of the best eating you have never had. Back to the story.

I made it through Christmas Eve without overeating. I even navigated the three Christmas Day breakfasts I was forced to eat without a major pigout. Then in the late afternoon I watched my brother fry the bird while we told “Dad” stories on the back patio of Mom’s house. It was great. We laughed and laughed and laughed telling about our favorite Roger Hodge fits. Our father threw the biggest fits over the smallest things you could ever imagine. No minor irritation was insignificant enough to stop him from going hysterical cussing, throwing, breaking anything within reach or sight. His children are filled with memories we can pull up at any time and get a good chuckle or a deep belly laugh even. I still cry from time to time thinking about him. But since he left us, I have laughed as much, if not more, than I’ve cried. 
The two turkeys were fried and cooled on the kitchen table when it finally came time to cut the meat off the bone, a job my brother loves. He keeps a large pan nearby and tosses the bones and skin and other delicacies in the big scrap pot. He threw me terrible looking deep-fried turkey butt which I caught in midair and immediately put into my mouth. Half in and half out, I bit down, and when I did grease ran out of the butt and dribbled down into my beard. I shook my head while my eyes rolled back in their sockets. Then I removed the butt, peeled back the skin and fat and began eating that thin little sliver of soft meat next to the bone like a mule eating briars through a fence. My nephew joined in the melee as we grabbed bits and pieces of fat, skin, and bone and ate like starving dogs. I had a piece of black, burnt turkey skin stuck to the side of my face and grease on my nose but I didn’t slow down as Harrison and I competed with each other over who could eat the most from the scrap pan.

Before long, I had grease running down each forearm to the elbows and bits of fat and skin stuck to my shirt which I periodically scrapped off and rammed into my mouth. We gnawed bones, growled, grunted, and burped. We ate until nothing was left but the pure meat set out on the plates for our meal which we didn’t want because we were not only full, we were overstuffed.

I went home that evening with the self-loathing I had tried so hard to avoid and slept fitfully while I passed gas and burped all the night long, my overfilled belly preventing me from sleeping face down. The morning would find me avoiding the scales and plotting my comeback. Hark, an idea! Buddy Bones and I planned to run it all away. That’s right. We would run and run until the weight and guilt of fried turkey butt, burnt fat, and slimy skin was all gone. Many miles would be needed and hours and hours to atone for such a deadly sin. But that was the plan, and we would stick to it.