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“F***ing son of a bitchin’ bastard.
– Charlie, regarding computer

Pots, pans, potatoes, and pie were all strewn about the kitchen counter – intermingled with Dad’s laptops and random computer parts – in preparation for an early thanksgiving feast. I could tell Charlie was eager to dig into turkey with all the fixins, though he masked it well beneath the usual LOUD shouting, cursing (see above quote), and tinkering with his latest eBay acquisition.

There are few things Dad enjoys more than a thanksgiving banquet. Unlike Mexican food (see Charlie’s Top 5 Worse Restaurants list) it complies with his strict definition of a traditional dinner – meat, potatoes, and a veg – with the added bonus of gravy, cranberry sauce, and of course pumpkin pie for dessert. While it would run a very close second to his favorite homemade food of BBQ grilled hamburgers, he does seem to have a keener appreciation for the added effort of the bigger meal.

And considering what I have to put up with to make this, or any meal for that matter, he damn well should.

Motivation Mantra

Before embarking on this culinary adventure, for me the added effort requires a great deal of motivation. Lucky for me that there’s nothing more inspiring than listening to Charlie repeatedly break out the f-bomb from five feet away. In fact, between his ranting, that annoying “dink” sound from his constant keyboard and/or mouse button clicking, and my waning tolerance for all of the above, cooking for Charlie has become a bit like attempting a 12 Step Program:

Me: “Give me the serenity to…”

Dad: “(Dink) How many times do I have to sign in, you a**hole?”

Me: “…accept the things I cannot change about Dad…”

Dad: “(Dink) Well, COME ON!”

Me: “…the courage to put up with the things I can, and the wisdom to…”

Dad: “(DINK! DINK! DINK!)”

Me: “I WILL BEAT YOU IF YOU DON’T STOP CLICKING THAT DAMN BUTTON!”

This Is Not A Recipe

In keeping with the 12-Step theme, the following is Natina’s 12-Step Guide To Turkey Dinner for Dad. *Please note: Unlike salt, trial and error is not optional.

To start, you’ll need some ingredients. As to what kind, I’m sure you’ll figure it out as we go along.

  1. Ignore Dad’s complaints about a malfunctioning hard drive and arrange 1.5 lbs of turkey breast in a pan (’cause a whole turkey takes too long and is too friggin’ big for just two people). Season with olive oil, lemon, rosemary, garlic, and onion. Oh, and don’t forget the Johnny Seasoning Salt. It goes with everything. Add some sliced carrots and celery too for the hell of it and toss it all into a 325°F oven for 45-60 minutes.
  2. Slip wine to help block out the cursing, then peel and cube the potatoes. Add to a pot with water and heat to a boil. Simmer over medium heat until they’re soft, but not mushy. When ready, mash and mix with butter, salt, pepper and milk.
  3. While Dad abuses a Toshiba, save some time by following the microwave directions on the box of Stove Top Stuffing.
  4. Realize that you forgot to pick up cranberry sauce at the store.
  5. Don’t tell Dad that you forgot the cranberry sauce.
  6. Gravy packet says it only takes like a minute to make, the same amount of time Dad claims it’ll take for me to help him locate the missing drivers (whatever that means). Awesome.
  7. Refill your wine glass.
  8. When the turkey juices run clear, reduce heat and toss all completed food items in the oven to keep warm while waiting for everything else to finish. Thank God, we’re nearly there.
  9. Debate about making corn because after 45 minutes the carrots are still hard. Remove carrots from the oven and sauté in a frying pan with butter until absolutely perfect. Then, when Charlie starts in on his most recent grievance with eBay, leave the room just long enough for the carrots to burn.
  10. Make corn.
  11. Now that everything is done, take the food out of the oven, and burn yourself… twice.
  12. After administering first aid to your burns, dish out and serve on the crowded kitchen counter. “DINNER’S READY, DAD!”

Seconds

Mentally and physical exhausted from all the hazards and Dad’s constant pre-dinner background noise, I pushed my empty plate away while Dad rushed back for more side dishes. “Good stuff!” he declared with a satisfied grin on his gravy smudged palate. It’s not often he goes back for seconds so this was a major compliment to the chef, i.e. me. He even took more stuffing, which he usually prefers to scowl at from afar.

It was a tough job, but a good meal if I do say so myself. I had to wonder, however, was the hour-long, stress-filled effort really worth it?

There’s Always Room for Pie

 

Once Charlie was finished stuffing himself silly, I gathered up all the plates, made a half-assed attempt at washing some of the dishes, then threw everything else in the dishwasher. Turning to Dad to advise him of dessert, I said: “Don’t forget, there’s pumpkin pie for later.” Despite the fact that he was clearly full, Dad quickly replied with gusto, “Oh! How much later?”

I had to laugh. Charlie can be rude, demanding, sexist, and so utterly frustrating you can find yourself at your wit’s end. But dammit, he does manage to redeem himself again and again with his oblivious attitude and inadvertent humor. So I decided to cut him some slack and a big chuck of pie (with a side of ice cream) before calling it a day. I have to accept that Dad will not change. The best I can do is to try to maintain my serenity, ignore what I can, and cherish the wisdom that one day I will be moving out.

Photo credit: juptierimages.com

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Photo credit: jupiterimages.com

The following is a dramatization of a phone conversation Charlie had recently with his brother, Elmer. The entire dialogue is Dad’s side of the call (since I obviously couldn’t hear Elmer’s side) and is a fairly typical example of every conversation my dad has with any of our relatives who live back in North Dakota.

There are three things worth noting before we begin.

1. Dad is deaf and he will not admit it or use his hearing aids. Yes, he does in fact own hearing aids, but refuses to ever wear them which leads to a lot of SHOUTING as well as blaring TVs and music in the Schulz household.

2. Whenever someone asks how he’s doing, the standard Charlie answer usually involves “cheating death,” “death is coming eminently” (a claim he’s been making for the last 40 years or so), or “one day is worse than the next.”

3. Every conversation with relatives must at some point include an obituary briefing; a rundown of who’s dead, who’s dying, and how long he has or can out live them.

So with that, we set our scene:

The phone rings twice. Dad ignores it. The answering machine kicks in. No message.

BEAT

The phone again rings twice. The answering machine kicks in. Then Dad recognizes the number on the Caller ID just barely quick enough to grab the phone before Uncle Elmer hangs up in disgust.

“Hello?”

Hello?”

“What?”

“HELLO?!”

“WHAT?”

“Who’s that?”

“SPEAK UP!!!”

“ARRRRRGH!”

“ELMER!”

“Oh! Is that you?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure it isn’t Fudd…?”

“Is that’s right? Well what the hell!”

“What’s that?”

“WHAT?”

“Oh, we’re just livin’ one day to the next.”

“Ah, shit. Who knows?”

“Yeah, we got the kid here for the summer.”

“HUH?”

“I don’t know.”

“No, she’s not working. We had some nice hamburgers last night though.”

“Yeah.”

“How’s Mott? Dead?”

“Yeah. Dead, eh?”

“That’s it?”

“Anymore dead people there?”

“Blotty?”

“Oh yeah?”

“Ah, shit.”

“Well, that’s the end of that.”

“Anything else to say there?”

“Nothing, yeah?”

“Okay then. Good enough.”

“Yup. Bye.”

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