retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

"Kate's Take" is brought to you by Wholesome Sweeteners, Making The World a Sweeter Place.

MNB's readers have spoken, and I’m happy to report that a man’s place is indeed in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day, along with the rest of the family.

Our informal poll confirmed the results of a Butterball survey finding that 84% of men are involved in some aspect of holiday meal preparations and 42% say they take on the role of preparing or cooking the turkey.

The survey, and the increasing number of men calling Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line for advice, also prompted the poultry giant to seek out its first male spokesman. RJ Jaramillo, a single father of three from San Diego, won the contest with his enthusiasm and turkey know-how.

So let’s forget Black Friday brawls and teeth-gnashing over sales predictions for a day. His story – and the spirited responses from the MNB community – point to everything that is right about Thanksgiving: family, friends and food.

Jaramillo - who writes the blog “CookLikeADad” – gathers his entire extended family for the day and competes with his older sister and younger brother in the “Turkey Playoffs.” All of the relatives judge the best bird “in a loud and boisterous event.” (His secret: savory herb butter.)

Teamwork was a consistent theme in our reader responses. Writes John Lacaria: “Over the last few years at our house we have learned that by throwing the turkey on the smoker outside you free up the kitchen for more cooking opportunities and end up with a delicious, smoky treat.  My father and I are always the ones standing outside in the freezing cold here in Minnesota, generally with a beer or whiskey in our hand.  The other great thing about smoking the turkey is you can easily leave the bird on the grill cooking while we go downtown and run the turkey day 5K.  We do ask that the ladies feed the smoker with more charwood and wood chips until we get back.”

At Stacy McCoy’s home, their large Thanksgiving gathering requires three turkeys.

“I roast one in the oven, my husband cooks one on the grill, and my mother in law brings one over in her roaster!”

Patti Pagels and her husband tag team brining, dunking and basting the turkey. He takes the early shift on the big day and monitors the bird. “I make the stuffing, green bean casserole and salads.  He makes the potatoes and gravy.  Our moms usually handle desserts.  Best of all, I set the table but he does the dishes.” 

Adds Joni Huffman: “My husband does the maple-basted, bacon-wrapped turkey while I do the sides and baking. Works beautifully!”

At Steven Ritchey’s Thanksgiving lunch, the lines of responsibility are well-drawn. “I’m responsible for smoking the turkey, and for making the Butterscotch Cream Pie.  My sister does the pumpkin pie and the cornbread dressing, the sweet potatoes and marshmallow casserole, my brother and his wife will provide another dessert and vegetable dish.”

From John Carnathan: “It is a team effort. She cleans it. I mix the stuffing. We both stuff it. I cook it and carve it. Been that way for 41 years.”

Not surprisingly, some couples vie for best turkey bragging rights. Quips John LeTourneux: “I brine and deep-fry a succulent, juicy and perfectly seasoned turkey for our dozen family and friends on Thanksgiving.  Meanwhile my beautiful wife cooks her overcooked, dry and boring bird in the oven.  Of course, I would never tell her that.” (Though I think he just did.)

Others are more than happy to turn over the potholder. Says Amalee Jayasinghe: “My hubby cooks the Thanksgiving turkey. He LOVES to cook, so why spoil his fun?"

Adds Linda Porritt: “My sons, married and with children, revel in the chance to come up with something different every year to impress us.  Last year’s turkey covered with bacon slices and basted with a maple syrup sauce was incredible.  And there is nothing wrong with me and my daughters in law watching the football games while the men cook for us!”

Still other cooks prefer to do it all. Writes Jeff Bentel: “I make the turkey and all the trimmings. Even make turkey soup with the carcass and leftovers.”

From Bob Deering: “I do all the cooking and love it.”

Says Marilyn Phillips: “I cook the turkey along with the ham and all the fixin's. And it's fun.”

Now that the kids have gone off to college, Doug Baumgartner has assumed head chef duties in his household on weeknights and holidays.

That said, I think Jane Golub speaks for many women with this anecdote: “I cook the turkey – my husband, Neil, carves it in front of the dozen to eighteen guests we have each year, most of whom equate carving to cooking – telling him ‘This is the best turkey ever!’  Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday!”

It must also be noted that not every family opts for turkey. The Content Guy cooks beef tenderloin at chez Coupe and this year plans to grill salmon as well. Scott Donnelly’s yearly tradition is “a nice rib roast prepared by the guys.”

I wish I could include all of the comments, which truly debunk the stereotype of the woman in the kitchen and the man in the recliner. One reader’s response spoke to the evolving American family and creating traditions. She and her partner share children with the kids’ dad and his male partner, and both households gather for Thanksgiving as one large family. They alternate homes, and this year’s plan calls for each family to make dishes from the other family’s recipe book. The one given? “Gravy and mashed potatoes or cheesy mashed potatoes seems to be the one thing all the kids like.”

Clearly, what matters is not the menu, but rather the joy and effort put into creating a communal meal, and pausing to give thanks. I know I speak for Kevin and Michael in wishing you and yours a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving.

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