Tassie Types is about growing up and growing older, facing the mirror, and laughing through it all. Here, you'll find stories of family and friends, courage and love, and laughing without fear of the future.

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November 15, 2018

Fowl Play

The Thanksgiving after my grandmother passed away, my family was too chicken to tackle a turkey.

Yaya barely weighed more than a Butterball herself, yet she spent days preparing feasts for us, which we would gobble up before she even had time to sit down. In our Greek family, food was love, and Yaya loved us with all her heart.

We considered going cold turkey that first Thanksgiving without her.

“I’ll pick up some barbecue,” my dad offered.

My mother hadn’t inherited the cooking gene.  “I could make no-boil lasagna.”

I stared at my parents, horrified.  My happiest childhood memories were waking up Thanksgiving morning, smelling Yaya’s turkey roasting and admiring the lavish spread on the table. Turkey cost thirty-five cents a pound in November, for Tom’s sake!  I vowed to give my family a Norman Rockwell dinner if it killed me.

Going grocery shopping was a workout.  Dozens of women wearing yoga pants leaned into the frozen cooler, digging through mountains of smaller turkeys, struggling to reach the heavier ones at the bottom.  I elbowed my way through, zeroed in on the plumpest bird and wrestled the woman beside me for it. Breaking a sweat, I hoisted two-ton Tom into my cart and sprinted to the check out counter.  Seven dollars later, I was cramming frozen fowl into the fridge to thaw.

Days later, my daughter caught me at the kitchen sink staring in horror at the naked bird.  Mounds of pale goose bump covered flesh quivered under the harsh kitchen lights. With a couple of strategically placed bay leaves, it reminded me of myself in the Macy’s dressing room trying on the first bikini of the season.

“This won’t hurt a bit.”  I plunged my hand in, searching for the neck.  Grasping it in my fist, I pulled and twisted, but the bird wouldn’t budge.  Bracing my feet on the cabinet, I strained with all my might until the neck broke free with a gruesome sound, sending me sprawling onto the tile floor in a puddle of turkey juice and tears.  This never would have happened to my grandmother. I pictured her wearing her floral housedress, shaking her head at me.

“Mom, are you crying?”  All three children surrounded me now.  “What’s that gross thing in your hand?”

Somehow I rose to the occasion, summoned Yaya and lovingly spread olive oil over our main course.  I sprinkled it with oregano and paprika and stuffed it full of onions, celery and carrots. Hours later, my house smelled like Yaya’s kitchen.

My family tore into the juicy meat and pronounced me chief turkey maker.

For life.

They loved it so much they requested one for Christmas and Easter, too. While other family members offered up store-bought rolls or canned sweet potatoes poured into a Pyrex dish, every holiday from then on, I woke at dawn to battle the beast into a feast.

Fifteen years later, I’m still thankful for the role.  Yaya would be proud.

But I’m dying to give someone else a chance.


  1. You should include the recipe; the choice of spices is intriguing. I’m half Greek myself, but my mother always made turkey ‘American style’.

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