Thanksgiving 2020 on Skeleton Lake, Muskoka
I had let it bathe in a brine of smoked sea salt, demerara sugar and savoury herbs prior to its slow oven roast. Massaging its flabby, feather-plucked skin with a browned sage and maple butter, it shriveled and crisped under the heat of the broiler into a satisfying layer of sweet and salty crunch.
Wrapped in a blanket basking in the sun on Monday morning, it was just after nine o’clock and I’d fallen asleep on the deck by the water with my now cold coffee in hand. My eyelids were heavy but fluttered open with the breeze and though blurry, the tree line that wrapped around the lake reminded me of a piece of kindergarten artwork I’d once made out of coloured macaroni. The leaves were just past their prime, most had fallen, but if you relaxed your eyes just enough, a flurry of crimson, amber and burnt yellow would swirl together. Exhausted from a cooking marathon and feast coupled with endless wine, whisky and extended relatives, my heart was full of gratitude for the place that gives four generations of our family a place to gather far from the city — the cottage on Skeleton Lake, Muskoka.
I drove home alone, just me and the turkey’s picked over carcass in Thanksgiving cottage traffic. It sat on the floor in front of the passenger’s seat in its original roasting pan, with a steady flow of air conditioning to keep it cool. I had let it bathe in a brine of smoked sea salt, demerara sugar and rosemary prior to its slow oven roast. Massaging its flabby, feather-plucked skin with a browned sage and maple butter, it shrivelled and crisped under the heat of the broiler into a satisfying sweet and salty coat. My plan was to get home and let its remnants wade in their own seasoned water, leaving the roasting pan simmering on low for hours. It would fill my apartment with the smell of thyme, garlic and shallots simmering in wine and turkey broth. I imagined how the meaty bits that once clung to its skeleton would start to swim away from the bones leaving them looking as though they’d been sucked clean. I would strain the liquid from the pan to reveal a beautiful graveyard of the remains of the turkey’s structure — each gruesome piece part of a puzzle ready to be reassembled.
The sieve collected the bones and soaked spices that now formed the base and I’d be careful to extract v-shaped wishbone and that would serve as the garnish to my final steaming soup. If i’d had it handy in the car as I sat in the thick of traffic, I’d have curled my pinky around each end, and wished for the sea of red lights on highway 400 to disappear before hearing it snap apart.