It's a little shocking to me when I try to think about Thanksgiving meals gone awry, and my mind comes up with nothing but good meals. I think of my mom's stuffing, or the bacon my in-laws drape across their turkey, or the time my ex's mother made Yorkshire pudding...!
How in the HELL can someone so negative as me not come up with a single bad Thanksgiving meal, especially when you take into account the fact that holidays often stress me out for a variety of reasons? My mind just kept running through good meal after good meal, delicious food insulating memories of tense days.
Then, it hit me.
The first time I lived on my own, it was in the fall. I was working two jobs and mostly staying home, attempting to jumpstart my dating life while spending most of my downtime with my faithful companion, Zena. I met someone quickly but he was out of town for Thanksgiving and my family and I weren't getting along particularly well, so I went to the store and got myself fixings for a low budget thanksgiving meal.
Specifically, I bought two things: a Stoffers spinach souffle, and a turkey loaf.
Let me start by saying that I love that spinach souffle beyond reason. This is a longstanding love affair that I refuse to give up on. It would be perfect, and I remember being excited that the souffle and the weird box of turkey required around the same amount of time in the oven. Within minutes, my meal was on its way to Donesville, so I had an hour to sit around and do nothing for an hour.
I don't remember this part of the day, but if I know myself at all (and I would like to think that I do), I most likely brought my aging iBook into the bathroom and browsed the internet while sitting on the toilet. It was a rough day, and all I wanted was comfort; in a weird way, the bathroom has always been my happy place, and remains that to this day.
Speculation aside, the food cooked and eventually I pulled it out of the oven and tried to arrange everything on a plate. The problem with turkey loaf is that it's essentially a rectangular cube of meatishness. I chose to leave it in its corrugated metal tray full of tasteless gravy and plopped the whole thing down on my plate, clumps of souffle leaning against its sides and getting stuck in the divots.
What I realized is that I only liked the spinach souffle when it was cooked in a microwave: the consistency is perfect, with creamy undercooked bits eventually mixing with overcooked crunchy parts...but cooking it in the oven didn't have the same effect, much to my dismay.
The turkey loaf was worse, in a way I can say with neither an attached "thankfully" nor "unfortunately." It was dry and devoid of flavor, which I somewhat expected. It was still somehow a shock, but not a shock that kept me from finishing the whole mess.
I refused to admit defeat and ate all of it, but I certainly never tried to replicate the saddest holiday meal I've ever made myself eat. There's a line there that isn't worth crossing, even for the weird definition of nostalgia that my brain occasionally employs.