Listening to the radio one day, I heard the editor of a cooking magazine say that 4 p.m. is the “proper” time, indeed, the only time to serve Thanksgiving dinner. If your turkey is done any earlier you should toss it in the trash and start over. No, he didn’t say that.
He did say that it’s only logical to serve Thanksgiving dinner later in the day because, “It’s dinner after all.” Fair enough, except 4 seems a little early for dinner, especially for a stuffed shirt like him.
I’m sure he’d be appalled that I grew up eating Thanksgiving dinner at lunchtime. My mother might have preferred 4. It takes a long time to cook a turkey big enough to serve a family of 12. I think she put ours in the oven around Halloween.
I’m exaggerating. But I do recall her rising practically in the middle of the night to put a turkey the size of a yearling heifer into the oven. I don’t need a bird that big, so I continue to serve our Thanksgiving meal at noon or when the little pop-up thingy in the turkey pops up, whichever comes first. And my guests have never complained—at least not about the time we ate.
I was curious about when other people serve their Thanksgiving meal, so I went to that fount of all knowledge, the internet, and discovered there are more than 200,000,000 results on the question. I didn’t read them all because there isn’t time before Thanksgiving. But I did find a survey that claims more Americans serve their turkey between 4 and 5 than any other time, with those who serve it between 3 and 4 coming in a close second.
Big deal. I’m sticking with my routine. I’m a rebel and a nonconformist and I like it that way. Besides, I have some very good reasons for serving my Thanksgiving feast at noon. For one thing, I have to eat every five or six hours if the people I love are going to continue loving me back.
So whether I serve my turkey at noon or not, I will need a meal at noon, and if I’m going to have a noon meal, it may as well include a turkey. I’m going to have to cook the darned thing anyway.
This means that by the time Stuffed Shirt is eating his “dinner,” I’m enjoying a second piece of pie. And when he’s doing his dishes, I’m having leftover turkey for supper. It’s so much more efficient my way.
Besides, for most people, there are basic components of Thanksgiving Day. If you leave any of them out, all you have is a Thursday with extra calories. For some, it’s not Thanksgiving unless there’s a turkey and stuffing. For others it’s football or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For me, it isn’t Thanksgiving unless there’s an afternoon nap.
As the cook, I could never nap before dinner—not with preparations to be made and the smell of a roasting turkey filling the house. If I don’t eat until 4, I’m not going to be able to fit my nap in until almost bedtime.
Most importantly though, eating at 4 would interfere with my all-important turkey noodle soup ritual, and I won’t do that. If it weren’t for the promise of turkey noodle soup, I’d serve prime rib on Thanksgiving.
Immediately after Thanksgiving dinner/lunch, I put the turkey carcass and other magical ingredients into my stockpot. Then I let it simmer the rest of the day in preparation for National Turkey Noodle Soup Day, which is celebrated every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving—at least by me. Along with soup, the traditional Turkey Noodle Soup Day meal includes leftover pie and other desserts. And by the way, it’s best served at noon.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact email@example.com.)
Americans can’t even agree on turkey time