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Lee Coppola: Thanksgiving gravy had the last laugh

The Thanksgiving to end all Thanksgivings began about two weeks before the big day. That’s when my wife, who has hosted turkey days for our extended family for most of the 50 years of our marriage, broke her foot.

Her pain was intense. Her mobility was severely limited. So what to do with Thanksgiving on the horizon and more than 20 relatives expecting the same repast that’s greeted them at our house each year for more than four decades?

Despite my wife’s insistence that she could carry on as usual, it was obvious the cast on her foot impaired her ability to shop, peel, bake and create. I had a suggestion: purchase the complete dinner from the club where I played golf.

I’ll have nothing of it, my wife protested, food made elsewhere served to guests in our house. It took much convincing, but eventually the more reasonable mind prevailed, and I placed the order.

It was strange not to smell the turkey roasting in the oven Thanksgiving morning as I prepared for the 35-minute drive to pick up dinner.

As I pulled into the garage I felt like a Pilgrim bringing home dinner

Then it happened.

When I yanked the box with the turkey from the back seat, the bottom, soaked with gravy that had spilled from the aluminum pan on the ride home, gave out. The main course hit the concrete floor with a thud, then bounced like a basketball. Horrified, I tried to rescue the fallen bird, but it was too hot and slippery to grip.

My wife, mortified but incapacitated and unable to help, offered paper towels from where she watched the drama unfold at the doorway to the house. That did the trick, and quickly dinner was carried inside. What do we tell our guests, my wife said. Nothing, I ventured; hopefully they’ll never know.

But the evidence of the mishap was still in the garage, in the back seat of the car and on the garage floor: gravy. Better get that out of there before company arrives, I thought. More paper towels to wipe the seat and, luckily, the Thanksgiving to end all Thanksgivings was a mild one, allowing the use of the hose to squirt away the gooey, slick gravy

But the story does not end there.

Months later, as winter turned into spring, we ventured to Toronto with my son and his wife, visitors from Colorado. “Dad, what’s that horrible smell in your car,” my son asked from the back seat. Seems the overflowing gravy from the aluminum pan had seeped under the seat and ripened once the temperatures warmed.

My son and his wife managed not to gag on the trip, and he and I, once home, took out the seats, then gagged as we cleaned the floor and tossed away whatever underlying material had harbored the odiferous gravy.

I end with apologies to those who ate at our house that Thanksgiving. If any got sick later, now you know why.