From the Nov. 19, 1971 edition of the Vineyard Gazette by Yvette Eastman:

I wonder if The New York Times or Theresa Morse or Louise Tate King, or Julia Childs for that matter, realize that there are some people in this world (and at least one on the Island) who belong to the group that finally graduated from the I Hate to Cook Book (paperback) by mastering the art of putting a slab of meat onto a piece of foil at around 9 a.m., sprinkling it with some powdered soup mix, folding the foil so that the whole thing is closed in, putting it in a 200-degree oven and taking it out 10 hours later without any visible signs of disaster. Although we are now into the slightly more sophisticated I Never Cooked Before Cook Book, no one in his right mind would pronounce us fit for combat duty with one of those Times-Morse-King-Childs formidable turkey recipes that we, at one time or another (like Thanksgiving), must come face to face with. If you rush in where angels fear, etc., as I did the last time (needless to say, it was some years ago), this is what you might expect:

You refuse two dinner invitations for Thanksgiving because you’d just as soon not cope with your host’s Aunt Cora or with a Hal Forstensampler — an-old-friend-of-the-family. You decide you’re not going to do anything about Thanksgiving this year. On Monday afternoon, in a weak moment, you “pick up” a 12 lb. 6 oz. turkey with the reasonable explanation that you have to have something for dinner anyway, so it might as well be turkey — it being Thanksgiving.

On Tuesday morning as you are about to empty the wastebasket, the “food, fashions, family furnishings” page of Monday’s Times looks up at you: The Turkey: No Matter How You Slice It, This Is How to Cook It. You take a quick look and find that you have to first defrost the bird and that this takes from two to four days “or about 24 hours for each five pounds of turkey.” You can just make it if you postpone emptying the wastebasket. On Thursday morning, finding the turkey defrosted, success goes to your head and you decide to take a peek at Tree Morse’s recipe for that added je ne sais quoi. You size up your kitchen space — hereafter called “the battlefield”: the floor is 55 inches long and 27 inches wide at its widest. You are 62 inches long. If you lie on your stomach on the floor — this being necessary to light and relight the 1941 vintage gas oven — it will leave 7 inches of your legs and feet outside the kitchen.

Confrontation: The New York Times says to “place the bird on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.” You don’t have a rack. Undaunted, you decide to use that French wire thing you twirl lettuce around in to get the water out. Both the Times and Morse say to “baste every 30 minutes.” Morse also says to “turn the bird over every half hour.” She has no alternative if you happen to have tennis elbow that shoots pain from your elbow to wrist if you lift anything as heavy as an economy-size “gentle-white Ivory Liquid detergent” to sprinkle on the dishes. This condition being assured, you slide out the oven rack on which sits the “shallow” pan in which — on the French lettuce twirler — rests the 12 lb. 6 oz. turkey with the meat thermometer stuck in its “inner thigh” as per N.Y. Times.

Now you are ready for the basting. You try the soup ladle, but it’s too big to pick up more than a trickle of juice. You try the enamel Kitchen Spoon (the light blue one with the white specks you bought in a gourmet shop two years ago at great cost and no obvious need except esthetic. You liked the color). This doesn’t pick up enough juice, either, so you hunt for and find the silver gravy spoon and you baste 20 teaspoonfuls times.

Morse’s plan for turning the bird over is more challenging. While you hold the pan with your left hand and with your right slide the blue enamel spoon under the bird, you suddenly renounce the cherished thought of rolling her over. She won’t budge. Besides, with the meat thermometer in its groin, you can’t let the turkey’s stomach lie on it. This requires a surgeon-like decision: you pull out the meat thermometer — and there being no counter space — put it in the sink. Then you lift the bird with both hands and put “it” in the sink. Then you adjust the French salad twirler rack — which is too wide for the pan — and return the bird on top of it. You baste this new side of the bird with the silver gravy spoon and finally close the oven door, resetting the Minute Minder for Round 2 in 30 minutes.

A final warning: When at last you put “Mrs. Paul’s-Candied-Sweet-Potatoes-in-the-Majic-Foil-Package” into the oven, it is more than likely that this is the moment when the oven will go out completely and you must ready for Ground Maneuvers by lying on the floor on your stomach to relight it.

Since that last time (I repeat: some years ago), I have been discovering a gradual but unmistakable unfolding beauty in my friends’ Aunt Cora’s and an irresistible spark that suddenly surfaced in the Hal Forstensamplers.

Compiled by Hilary Wall