The Thanksgiving Chicken

Thanksgiving dinner at the Aubrey estate has always been a glittering affair, a marvelous journey that leads to the sublime merging of the splendid and the sated.  Invitations have always been jealously guarded, leading to bloodletting and tear shedding.  Popularity can be a curse.

Menus, however, have changed.  I am still looking for a vegetable dish that people will eat.  Some guests will NEVER eat their greens.  I will never cook a pie until I’ve fully recovered from the pecan debacle of the mid-nineties.  Bread…cookies…I’m always looking for a new look.

The turkey, of course, remains the same.  Cooking time is estimated so that the bird cooks all day, so that the Scent of Holiday will entertain both hostess/cook and guests all day.

The chicken also remains the same.

Prior to one of my first Thanksgivings, Mother and I were shopping for a centerpiece.  Every grand table – like a grand dame – needed a suitable crown.  I thought this was common knowledge, but we found nothing.  I wasn’t interested in sprays of autumn flowers, or gourds or candles.  I wanted something magnificent and feathered; a turkey built on Steiff-like proportions – a bird to fix upon the other lowly dishes on the table with its glassy eye.

No such bird presented itself.

But a chicken – sensing its chance, perhaps – did.  It was harvest colored and bold.  It held itself proudly.  Mother and I agreed that it was fine and brave enough to hold its own against the bird that would be roasting its way to fame in the kitchen, a few yards away.

And ever since that distant, wandering year, a Thanksgiving chicken has held court over the rich and annual meal.  Sometimes cheddar biscuits will be at its feet, sometimes pumpkin bread.  One year cheddar-potato gratin, another year the gratin will have goat cheese and caramelized onions.  Sometimes a vat of lasagna will find its way to the table.  Once or twice I’ve been forced – angrily – to add dried cranberries to the stuffing instead of cherries.  Every year will feature subtle differences.

But my guests can always depend on a turkey.  As well as a chicken.  And in a few hours it will stand at its rightful post, a feathered statuette commandeering one of the most wonderful meals of the year.

I can only hope that my twinkling blog-friends – I can hear you even now, hushed and charming – will emerge from this holiday with memories of vast and foolish caloric intakes, of turkeys past and present, and with your own version of the eternal Thanksgiving Chicken. May he – and you – crow forever.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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10 responses to “The Thanksgiving Chicken

  1. That’s fantastic! Cock-a-doodle-doo!

  2. I love this! Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and the Thanksgiving Chicken!

  3. Ha! I thought we were the only ones with a Thanksgiving chicken! Actually, it was a Christmas chicken that my mother got as a white-elephant gift at a long-ago party. The chicken, which I found out is a collector’s item, sat neglected in a corner for many years: then, when I moved back, I was looking for something to decorate the table and thought the chicken looked appropriate for a celebration of the harvest. It took me a half hour to scrub all the dirt off of it, but he now has a place of honor in the house. My mother however thought it was “the most awful thing.” Happy Thanksgiving, Aubrey!

  4. What a wonderful fellow! It’s little grace notes like this that make our holiday songs lilt and flow – thanks for sharing this one! Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Wonderful! I hope the chicken has many more years of faithful service. Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. very belated happy thanksgiving to you!
    the chicken is an odd, but cool, tradition.

    my holiday meal was 2 bananas. i could have had more but didn’t want it.

  7. I am so envious of that chicken!

  8. Oh I love your Thanksgiving chicken tradition and the story behind it! You have inspired me to start searching for a holiday centerpiece of my own… Goat cheese-potato gratin and caramelized onions sounds scrumptious… Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast and many blessings, Aubrey!

  9. I missed this when you posted it. As someone who often put an origami dragon as the angel on her Christmas tree, I highly approve of the chicken centerpiece.

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