Unexpected guests, Part 1: The Fire Department
Editor’s Note: After writing a column asking people to submit stories of holiday calamities, reporter Jennifer Bauer received one submission, from her mother-in-law. She told of the time her father was discovered inserting a hair dryer in the backside of a Thanksgiving turkey. Caught in the act by an unexpected guest, he explained: “I’m blowing it up and making it bigger because you all showed up.” That incident inspired the following column about surefire ways to ruin Thanksgiving.
If there’s going to be a fire in the kitchen it’s likely to be on Thanksgiving, the peak day for home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. With more and more people deep frying turkeys, things are getting a little crazier. Turns out lots can go wrong with a vat of boiling oil. The deep-fried turkey tradition comes from Texas, which leads the nation in Thanksgiving cooking-related fires, according to State Farm Insurance. Entertain your family with YouTube videos showing what can go wrong if the oil gets too hot (giant column of fire), or the turkey is still frozen (massive fireball).
Unexpected guests, Part 2: Norovirus, Salmonella and friends
Your turkey was safely thawed in the refrigerator or hot water. You cooked it to 165 degrees, or higher just to be safe, but now is not the time to let your guard down. Leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours or they become the perfect, lukewarm breeding ground for invisible bacteria which can double in number in 20 minutes. If you thawed the turkey with a hair dryer they came to Thanksgiving dinner early.
Common symptoms of foodborne illness are nausea, intestinal cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache.
The best ways to prevent sickening yourself and your guests are to avoid cross-contaminating equipment and surfaces, use a food thermometer and wash your hands frequently, says Sandra McCurdy, extension food safety specialist at the University of Idaho. Details on food safety can be found at: www.foodsafety.gov.
Stuff Yourself into a Coma
The origins of Thanksgiving are a 1621 meal of deer, corn, shellfish, and roasted meat shared by English settlers and American Indians — a far cry from the table-breaking bounty and variety on many American tables in 2012.
A walk may be in order after your meal. Find out how many steps you need to walk to burn off your meal with the Thanksgiving Calorie Calculator at walking.about.com. The calculator lists common foods, drinks and their calories. After entering my typical Thanksgiving meal I discovered I would need to walk 29.8 miles to shed the calories I’d consumed, and that was if I only had one serving. I even chose the slice of pumpkin pie (180 calories) over the pecan (480).
But who counts calories on Thanksgiving? You could skip the walk and “fill in the cracks” with some eggnog, as my brother would say. It’s only another 345 calories.
Dumb Drive Drunk
One way to make this Thanksgiving memorable is to end it with a DUI. The public and personal embarrassment will last longer than the pain of the fine, jail time and suspension of your driver’s license. That is, if the police catch you before you hurt someone. No need to wait for a police officer to discover your blood alcohol content. Online calculators like bloodalcoholcalculator.org can factor it for you and your friends.