It’s Thanksgiving. Time to take my life into my own hands.
The Spinney family has recently grown fond of cooking the holiday bird in one of those Cajun deep fryers and, as I learned a few years ago, you can’t be too careful when working with boiling oil.
We had an early snow in North Central Massachusetts, a sort of deke by Old Man Winter who rarely showed his bewhiskered face the rest of the year. A coating of snow on the ground made for a festive atmosphere and we had a number of friends and family over for the feast.
After I set up the pot and got it roiling I took the turkey outside for a plunge into the oil. My friend John Sullivan was with me and we chatted about nothing in particular. How hard can this be? I set the turkey down in the snow to make some adjustments, and then began to lower it into the pot. Some snow had stuck to the bird and as soon as it came in contact with the oil the cauldron turned violent. I quickly backed off and looked over at John. We both laughed nervously at the reaction and contemplated what to do next.
I decided that the best move would be to proceed with the operation, but with speed and awareness. I suggested to John that he move back a few feet and, screwing up my courage, I swiftly dropped the turkey into the pot.
Backing quickly away from the scene, the combination of moist bird, cold snow, and an overfull pot of super hot oil erupted into a fireball that rose fifteen feet into the air and instantly melted the snow around the cooker to a steaming diameter of about six feet.
It was spectacular. It was frightening. It was a valuable lesson. It was a close call.
I had set everything up far enough away from the house and cars so that there was no immediate danger of showing up on the evening news, and – thankfully – it was over as quickly as it happened. Maybe the adrenal rush had something to do with it, but an hour later we were all tucking in to a Thanksgiving turkey that was more succulent than others in memory. Nothing like a fireball in your backyard to put the emphasis on “thanks” in the holiday.
I’ll do it again this year – wiser for the experience. Oil and water don’t mix, particularly at high temperatures – and when I gather around the table with family I’ll give thanks to God for health, safety, His blessings and provision, and for the privilege of living in a country where I have a reasonable chance of improving my lot during the coming year.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.