5 Signs You Have “Turkey Block”

I have a confession… I am afraid to make a turkey.

Seriously, it’s like writer’s block…only instead of a fear of the page, it’s a fear of the bird.

My brother, the Bag Whore, talks about his Thanksgiving Bird like it’s his holiday love muffin: rubbing it with butter, seasoning it…BRINING it, for Pete’s sake. There’s like a whole freaking wall at Williams Sonoma right now, dedicated to the bird. It’s more than a little scary.

I can’t take the responsibility of being in charge of the main event, I just can’t. So I pawned it off on Hubby. I even got him a “brining kit,” although I’m not exactly sure what it is.

I saw a post with the five main symptoms of writer’s block and I have ALL FIVE, only with The Turkey. I’ll put them below so you can see what I mean, and heap sympathy upon me in my time of need.

Symptom #1: No Ideas

If you are stuck and have no ideas, it is probably because you started in writing, prepping your bird, without doing the ground work of brainstorming and planning.

Note: This is why Hubby is tasked with The Bird and I have everything else! I’d rather make sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry fluff, mashed potatoes, stuffing and three pies than do ONE turkey.

[I told you...I've got Turkey Block.]

Symptom #2: Boredom

Either you have chosen a topic turkey you are not particularly interested in, or you’ve been assigned a topic bird you just don’t care much about. Either way, you are stuck because you are bored with your topic turkey.

Remedy: Give the job to your spouse.

Symptom #3: Lack of Confidence

If you feel you aren’t qualified to do the writing turkey, you will be stuck from the onset. You may worry that your grammar gobbler technique isn’t good enough or you have poor spelling basting skills. You may be hearing criticisms in your head from previous attempts at writing turkey-making.

Remedy: Give the job to your spouse.

Symptom #4: Anxiety

When you are full of anxiety about something, you feel agitated, fidgety, jittery. Your mind goes in every possible direction except to the task at hand.

[Yesssss.]

Remedy: Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet, dimly lit space. Close your eyes and settle your breathing. Then picture yourself doing the required writing turkey. Don’t think about the content bird that needs to be written conquered, only see yourself writing conquering said gobbler. Notice details surrounding you and the turkey…Then notice how you feel about the image and how the person you see feels. Sit with this image for as long as you can.

[I'm pretty much calling crapola on that "remedy."]

Symptom #5: Stress

When stress has its grip, you can’t think straight. You can’t even begin to sit still and do some writing turkey-wrestling.

Remedy: Have a pre-writing pre-bird ritual that helps you to slow down and relax. Know in advance where you plan to write cook and prepare your space. Make it free of clutter and get out your supplies and materials. Then do some physical activity to relax your muscles and clear your mind. Take several deep breaths and do some long, slow stretches.

[So really, they're saying: "Have some sex instead of worrying about your turkey."]

Addendum: Nope. Not working. I’m still thinking about having to look my guests in the eye and apologize for my dry-ass pitiful turkey.

How about you? Have you conquered the Turkey Frontier? What are your secrets? Enquiring minds NEED to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American Pals!
Jenny

p.s. All of the bloggers at Writers In The Storm are giving “Writerly Thanks” today over at WITS. If you’re curious about what we’re thankful for, stop on by!

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About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! My passion is finding those qualities that are unique in every person and every piece of fiction. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com). Write on!
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71 Responses to 5 Signs You Have “Turkey Block”

  1. This is so freaking funny! Like you, I can’t make the bird. Everyone is coming here, I’m making tons of food, but my MIL is making the turkeys. I can’t do it. Too much pressure. ;-) But my table looks kick ass. And I don’t mind doing dishes.

  2. MonaKarel says:

    Brown In Bag. Seriously, with one of those anyone can do a turkey. I don’t use one any more but my boss (my MALE boss) whose best dish otherwise it peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, make a superior turkey with the bag.

  3. tomwisk says:

    Jenny, Don’t be afraid of the turkey. Look at it as a big chicken. Instead of having your immediate family you’re having relatives whom you see twice a year tops. Just put the sucker in the oven and take it out when it’s done. If you don’t stuff it, it spends two, two and half hours in the box tops. If you’ve got a thermometer take it out at about 170/180. Let it rest. cut it up. Dish it out. Go to a relatives for Christmas. A few bracing beverages always help.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OK, breathing in…breathing out. I can make a roasted chicken (only it’s 3 pounds, not SIXTEEN). I was doing good until I started thinking about it.

      I’ll send Hubby over to read your comment. Many thanks! Have a great Thanksgiving. :-)

  4. Amber West says:

    You are too cute!

    We aren’t Thanksgiving observers, but I have made a turkey before. Brining is easy and makes for a yummy bird. Also? Cook it breast side down for most of the roasting. The breast is always driest, but if it roasts in the juices, only coming up for air at the end to crisp the skin, it will b e awesome.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You’re making me hungry, which is good. And it does sound a lot like a chicken. Hmmmm…

      I’ll observe from the sidelines this year. If it’s exactly the same, I might be able to get over myself. But right now it just makes me hyperventilate a little.

  5. LOL Jenny – I haven’t had Turkey Block for years. But I will say, every time I make a turkey it turns out a little bit different. If you practice on chickens, turkeys aren’t that imposing. Just think of it as a BIG ASS chicken, and you’ll be fine! Hugs hon!

  6. My hairdresser is in a panic because her Mother delegated cooking “the bird” to her this year and she cannot stand touching a raw turkey. “They have pinfeathers and are yucky.” Just talking about it gives her the shivers. We told her to get disposable gloves, but she’s going to make her husband cook it. For me cooking the turkey is the easiest part of the meal. But let’s not bring up the subject on making non-lumpy gravy.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      See, I do OK with gravy. I use a stainless steel pan and use a hand mixer right in the pan. Works like a charm. I have to use gluten free flower now to make a roux but I used to use Wondra and it was a snap. Good luck!

  7. Sharla Rae says:

    I’m told that you can buy cooked and sliced turkey with all the fixin’s at Costco. Just heat and eat! :) My husband is Chinese and hates Turkey. I have to admit, I’m not overly fond of it myself. Every year I prepare one of three different kinds of meat – Rack of lamb, prime rib or Orange duck. If the kids are coming they vote for duck or prime rib everytime. But hubby and I and our Chinese friends adore the lamb. Once in a while I do spiral ham but not often. This year it’s the prime rib for Thanksgiving so that means one of the others for Christmas. :) Good luck with Tom Turkey, Jen.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Hmmmm. We have a ton of family recipes that we only whip out at this time of year though. The fam would be heartbroken. Still, I do want you to show me how to do a rack of lamb – my husband LOVES lamb. If he rocks this turkey, I’ll reward him with lamb. :-)

  8. The first time I made turkey I had the same reactions. This year I brined my turkey for the first time. I added just a touch of orange and lemon juice in my brine water along with a smidge of olive oil and salt. It came out awesome. Meat just fell off the bone. My step-dad deep fried one a couple weeks ago. Now that would freak me out. One of my gal pals brines her turkey, then puts a seasoning rub on, then seals the juices in by coating it in olive oil. She says that she bastes it every half hour to hour in Swanson’s chicken broth because that will soak in through the olive oil, and unlike butter, isn’t so greasy. The last hour and a half she uses the drippings for basting every half hour.

  9. amyskennedy says:

    Jenny, only you could relate Turkey roasting to writing! Loved it.
    We’ve been hosting Thanksgiving for both sides of our families for 14 years. Yup. I finally saw the light and began brining one turkey (husband and father-in-law deep fry another). Brining is so awesome.

    This year I’m cooking the turkey with reservations…the kind made on the phone! I’m taking the year off, maybe I’m done with it for awhile, all I know is, no stress this year baby!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I am completely jealous that you’re a woman of leisure this year. But I’m terribly impressed that you’ve hosted BOTH sides of the family for 14 years. That’s a hell of a long time…you deserve a break!

  10. Kathy Walker says:

    Jen–Turkey is really one of the easiest things to make. Celery, onion, and carrots in the cavity–pour melted butter over the turkey–seasoned salt and any other seasoning you wish sprinkled over the turkey–if the turkey begins to get too brown on top–turn it over–that way–breast down–the juices make the breast meat moist–of course use the giblets to make stock with water, onions, celery, and onion–use that in the gravy–I never even baste my turkey I just put it in the oven and let it cook until the thermometer reads 165-170 in the inside thigh.–you can do it!

  11. Cory Imhof says:

    Sis,
    This must be where our genes differ. I love making turkey. I have done a practice turkey the first week of November for the past three years. Infact, we hosted Thanksgiving year before last and it was my first brined turkey, delicious. I’ve been working in the recipe ever since. I’ll share it for extra cookies in my Christmas basket :)
    The following recipe is for a 12 pound turkey double for a 20 pounder. 
    1gal apple cider
    3/4 c sea salt
    3/4 c brown sugar
    2-3 bay leaves whole
    1Tbs ground ginger or 1/2in sliced fresh ginger 
    1Tbs pepper corns
    1/2 Tbs whole cloves
    4 large cinnamon sticks
    In sauce pan combine 2 Cups cider with dry ingredients. Bring to a boil just to dissolve sugar then cool completely.
    Place turkey in brining bag or large clean garbage bag placed in a large bowl or basin. Pour cooled brine concentrate and remaining cider over turkey. 
    Stuff turkey cavity with orange quarters.
    Tie up tight. Consider double bagging if needed.
    Leave in fridge 8-48 hours (I do 36-48).
    To cook:
    Pour off brine and spices, place turkey breast down in pan. Squeeze juice of  1-2 fresh oranges over turkey. 
    Lightly rub turkey with canola oil or butter.
    Sprinkle with salt & pepper and you favorite  poultry seasoning mix.
    In bottom of pan place vegetables to roast such as carrots, celery, onions, whole garlic cloves, potatoes etc. just cover veggies with 50-50 mix of vegetable or chicken broth and dry white wine.
    Roast at 500 degrees for
    15-20 minutes or until skin starts to brown.
    Cover any part that is thin, burning or will dry out with foil such as wings, legs etc.
    Reduce heat to 350 until internal temp of turkey is 155 degrees.
    Turn breast side up and remove foil until turkey reads 165 degrees and golden brown.
    Let rest 15 minutes on platter before carving to retain juices.
    Strain and reserve pan juices for gravy.
    To make gluten free: In sauce pan whisk 1Tbs cornstarch per 1C of cooled strained pan juices. Then bring to boil 10- 15 minutes or until desired thickness is reached. It will thicken more as it cools.
    Enjoy!!!

  12. So here’s my issue with Thanksgiving. My husband is the cook in the family. He cooks dinner EVERY night of the year EXCEPT Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why? I have no idea. HE is the one who loves Thanksgiving. As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather sleep in, give thanks to the good Lord out on my lanai when I finally wake up and eat peanut butter.

    But for some reason he has never even TRIED to learn how to roast a turkey (and, Jenny, sweetheart, it ain’t really all that hard). It’s like the holidays come along, and suddenly he reverts to the gender roles of 1950. “Roast me some turkey, woman, so I can say, ‘Thank You, Lord!’”

    Two years ago, I put my foot down and now we go to a communal Thanksgiving dinner at my church. Yes, I might get stuck sitting across from the crazy guy who thinks he’s a retired CIA spy, but, hey, I don’t have to cook the DAMNED TURKEY!!

  13. LOVE the comparison to writer’s block! I have to admit that relaxing with sex sounds like a good plan, whether it actually helps with the bird baking or not. ;)

    I was terrified when I did my first one, but it turned out great. (it was such a defining moment in my life that I even remember which store I bought it at-the only time in my life I’d ever been there).

    Now it’s just no big deal. Especially since the year my dad told me about Reynold’s baking bags. Here is a simple way to turn out a great turkey every time. First…put a couple of tablespoons of flour in the bag. Shake it around a bit. Roll ends back about half way. Then put a pair of rubber gloves on. Next, remove giblet bag from neck end, and neck from the….OTHER end, and rinse thawed bird well. Pat dry with paper towels you laid out beside the sink beforehand.

    Then pour a big handful of salt (from the cup you dumped it in) on one glove, Rub salt inside both cavities (this is the main reason you want the gloves…it’s disgusting). Slide bird in bag, breast side down…it will want to stick to the bag, but you can pull it away after it’s in. I do NOT like stuffing cooked in the turkey (because the large cavity is GROSS), so I just close the bag up, use the oven proof tie, make 3 small cuts in the top of the bag, set in roasting pan, and put it in the preheated oven. Bake according to bag instructions.

    The turkey is always done to perfection, moist, and delicious. And I ALWAYS have plenty of broth for the gravy. Quite a bit more than before I started using the bags. The only thing I forgot to mention is you might want to do is move the popup thing to where you can actually see it when it pops up.

    Trust me, Jenny…baking a turkey is a breeze when you do it this way. And if you use a disposable aluminum pan, it’s even better, because the broth will fill it up when you cut the bag apart to get the turkey out.

    One thing to note… The bird won’t be quite as pretty as baking it upside down, but the breast meat will be moister, and that’s what most people want. At least in my family.

    Good luck! And don’t worry about it. It will turn out just fine. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  14. Emma Burcart says:

    Look for a recipe and have fun with it! I’m telling you there is nothing as fun as making a butter-infused turkey. You get to play doctor or druggie and shoot the turkey up with melted butter in a syringe. :) There are plenty of recipes out there that make it fun. But, I also think your solution is great. In my family, my dad always made the turkey. With a deep fryer in the back yard. Deep fried turkey is my favorite!

    • You’re making me drool, Emma. When my dad was still alive, and we’d all go up to the lake, they’d deep fry turkeys, ‘shooting them up’ with seasoned butter. Haven’t had one of those in 10 years. Guess I’m going to have to get brave and give it a whirl. Just not for Thanksgiving. Gotta have the bird making the house smell good for a few hours. :)

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I adore deep-fried turkey too but we don’t have a fryer and I’m a little scared to deal with one around a baby. But YUM-MY!!!

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  16. jennysbrother says:

    Ok your solution to #5 DOES work…but ewwww on the Sister and sex thing. Gross. Right up there with naked grandparents…Blech.

    Just brine the friggin bird in a large clean cooler (rock salt, sugar, orange slices and fruit loops- Okay just Kosher salt is all you really need, the other stuff is superfluous).Think Hulkified chicken. Start with bird breast side down (gravity and bird juices..works) Flip it over halfway through the cooking time, baste excessively… and it comes out just fine.

  17. LOL Jenny! You tackle everything with confidence, but not the big bird?
    I use the Alton Brown method, similar to the recipe up top, but I don’t brine. Who has the time? I can barely get the thing defrosted, it is so big it takes two weeks in the fridge. (Although I hear you can use the bathtub.) And as for cooking it breast down, then flipping it? I can’t even imagine trying to flip a 20 pound bird with the meat falling off the bone. That’s for the small birds. Not our super sized turkey. Lucky me, this year my bro is cooking and he is also a briner. I’m bringing the frozen pies!

  18. patodearosen says:

    I second what Kristy James said about Reynolds Oven Bags. I’ve used them for turkey for years, and the bird comes out moist. I’ve got a system for the bird, dressing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and roasted vegetables, but I’ve got gravy block. Gravy anxiety is a terrible thing.

    Happy Thanksgiving. (Don’t pass the gravy)

  19. Funny and brilliant! Well played, Jenny.

  20. Catie Rhodes says:

    Nobody in my family likes eating turkey, so no turkey block here. Your post made me grin, though.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      No turkey?? So, what do you eat?

      • Catie Rhodes says:

        When I was a kid, my daddy’s mother (Mamaw) made the BEST homemade hot tamales. We had those both at Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were so good.

        Nowadays, we’ll usually have a ham, some chicken and dumplings, some sausage stuffing, and stuff like that. One year, my uncle cooked fried catfish for all of us. I guess the real answer is “whatever sounds good.”

  21. LOLOL! We just buy a turducken and throw it in the oven. Makes the house smell awesome, low (no) maintenance, and yummy to boot.

  22. Shannon Esposito says:

    Haha! Yep, got the turkey block here, too. And all this well-meaning advice in the comments about herbs and rock salt and bags and… gasp, syringes?! Not helping. We get our turkey from Honeybaked Ham and just make the sides. What is cranberry fluff, by the way? That sounds delicious! Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!

  23. Diana Beebe says:

    LOL. That is me!!! So glad my in-laws are still willing to roast the bird. I am going to save your brother’s recipe though–for some day. :-D Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

  24. zkullis says:

    I’m lucky enough to not get turkey block. My problem is that I start trying to do too much other stuff that is a little over-the-top.

    Imported truffles one year for some wicked good risotto, tried some funky goose, a sushi plate another year, and then all of a sudden I don’t get invited to help……… Go figure. ;)

  25. Patricia says:

    I felt the very same way until I actually cooked my very first turkey. Now, mind you, I did not cook this bird on Thanksgiving. I practiced earlier in the year. It’s actually extremely easy. The oven does most of the work.

    However, since my hubs experimented with the BBQ and the bird, I no longer have turkey cooking duty. We BBQ the bird every year. It is sooooooo good and my husband has full responsibility for adding charcoal and keeping a consistent temperature and basting and all that other stuff. BBQing is actually harder than using the oven because you have to keep adding fuel to the flame, but the taste is out of this world.

    I think you should try cooking a turkey in the spring. Just give it a go. Worse case – you throw it out (or your house burns down), but hey, what it it turns out good?

    Have a super Thanksgiving, Jenny!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  26. Tanya Cienfuegos says:

    great post!
    the mister always cooks the turkey, he makes checking on the bird and basting look so easy, all he does is pour a few cups of water over the thing and just bast until it’s done, the jerk.

    Anyway this year, he’s going to have to work Thanksgiving because this new game was released by the company where he works in customer service and they’re expecting a lot of calls. I persuaded him to order us a cooked turkey dinner package from the supermarket so I don’t waste precious NaNoing time cooking but I gotta heat it in the oven for 1-2 hours before serving and I’m terrified of burning the thing.

  27. BAHAHAHAHA! Brilliant analogy, Jenny! I’ve been roasting turkeys for so long, it’s second nature and somehow I never get tired of doing it. Thanks to Cory for that fab recipe! It may be time for a little change in our Thanksgiving menu! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  28. S. J. Maylee says:

    We are staying home this year, which means I have to cook the bird. eek!!! Loved this post, thanks for making me giggle :) I’m following Alton Brown’s directions for brining and cooking. So far I’m doing pretty good, turkey is thawed and brining, but who knows how it will actually turn out. eek, eek, eek, gobble, gobble.

  29. K.B. Owen says:

    I’m happy to say that I will NOT be in charge of the bird this year – we’re going to my sis-in-law’s. I did it last year, though, and while I didn’t burn the house down or leave the giblet bag inside the bird, it took almost as much research ahead of time so I’d know what the heck I was doing – but you know me, that’s how I roll. ;)

    Some of the advice is sooo contradictory, or at least there are these hotly-contested different philosophical schools of thought around cooking the dang thing. I mean, it’s just a turkey, right? I thought I was back in grad school, studying Deconstruction Theory vs. Feminist Theory vs. Formalism: to brine or not to brine? Put the bird upside down first, or leave it up? Tie the legs, or not? When to tent and when to expose? Stuffing inside or outside? Wowzers. You’re smart to delegate that job.

    Speaking of inside vs. outside, I didn’t feel so inept after reading about the kinds of problems the Butterball Turkey hotline folks heard about over the years from customers calling in: a pet chihuaha getting inside a turkey and not able to get out, toddlers sticking toy cars inside the turkey cavity when the parents weren’t looking (and it got popped into the oven that way), a woman storing her turkey in the snowbank outside her house because she ran out of room in the freezer, but then couldn’t find it because it snowed again and covered it up….

    Yep, we’re doing well by comparison!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Jenny! Thanks for the call today – highlight of my afternoon. :D

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  31. lynettemburrows says:

    LOL. Who knew turkey block was such an issue?! Now, gravy . . . my nemesis until I learned to mix the flour and water FIRST, then add it to the drippings. What’s funny now, is that even when we aren’t having anyone over on the day – my hubby (who is responsible for the grocery shopping) brought home ALL the trimmings plus some! LOL. Guess we’ll be eating leftovers for a long while.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Jenny!

    • K.B. Owen says:

      LOL, Lynette, when all our kids fly the nest, we’ll probably be making all the trimmings, too. Do you know there’s a cooking term for mixing the flour and water first, before putting it in a recipe? That water/flour mixture is called a slurry. I love stuff like that! ;) Happy Thanksgiving!

  32. I cooked a turkey once when in my early twenties. It thawed out just before everyone left, so we ate the entire meal backwards, starting with drinks and dessert. ;)

    I think this should go on t-shirts, aprons and tablecloths: “Have some sex instead of worrying about your turkey.”

    Hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving, dry-ass turkey nor not! *hugs*

  33. Piper Bayard says:

    I spatchcocked my turkey this year. Mostly because I love to say, “spatchcocked.”

    That’s where you cut out the backbone and flatten your turkey on a pan. Then you brush it with olive oil and cook it at 450 for a little over an hour. Like frying it in the oven. You can hear it sizzling the whole time. It was amazing. Wish I’d learned to say “spatchcocked” years ago. :)

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