About twenty years ago, my aunt and uncle’s neighbor Nelson burst into the dining room, his face ruddy and beaming, his red hair a little wild. Our Thanksgiving meal nearly complete, my family and assorted neighbors and friends looked up in surprise to see him.
Nelson’s house sat perpendicular to my aunt and uncle’s home, a dirt path connecting the two yards and the two families. We’d spent many holidays and other days with Nelson and his family so his appearance only surprised in its boisterousness.
“I did it! And it was great!” Nelson exclaimed, rubbing his hands together in the manner of an evil cartoon character though without any of the malice.
A southern friend had suggested that Nelson try a new way with his turkey this year: deep fry (or deep fat fry as my Midwestern parents always say as though there exists another medium for deep frying than fat). In the early ’90s, the deep fried turkey had yet to become so common as to be passe. Fry a turkey? We’d never heard of such a thing.
Nelson loved the idea and wanted to try it. He’d gone to the store and returned with gallons of peanut oil. “It takes a lot of oil to submerge a whole turkey!” he said.
He set up his pot in the backyard on Thanksgiving morning over a flame and lowered the bird inside the hot oil. The glistening bird emerged fully cooked in less than an hour.
Nelson punctuated his hero’s tale of the triumphant bird with sweeping arm motions. It was only in that motion that we noticed the holes. Holes, holes, and more holes. His navy sweater was covered in small holes actually. And one big one near his waist.
It seemed the hot oil had gotten a little out of control, splatters burning holes through the yarn. Fortunately, the sweater appeared to be the only casualty of what could have been far worse. And we all got a story and image that makes me laugh every time I think of it.