burner man
“Burner Man” tightening gas cap on Fire Unit at Hill 34

Monday, November 25, 1968

Not being able to prep for the Thanksgiving Day meal was a little stressful (we had not yet received the ingredients).  Sumo and I debated about making the stock for gravy and stuffing.  My training was to cook the birds in advance, refrigerate the meat and use the bones for stock.  Sumo had another plan . . . boil a whole turkey and the leftover liquid would be our stock.  I was skeptical, but he was the better cook, and I trusted his wisdom with this endeavor.

The turkeys arrived (20 of them), and we started boiling one after dinner.  It simmered slowly for hours and was removed when the burner unit ran out of gas.  The bird was stored in the walk-in along with the strained stock.  Sumo said, “We will know in the morning if the stock gels.”  The collagen in the bones causes the stock to gelatinize.  This would be our base for reheating the turkey meat.  The stuffing and gravy would also be enhanced with this richly flavored bouillon.

The logistics were tight for cooking the remaining turkeys.  Our plan was to cook 8 on Tuesday and the remainder on Wednesday.  We would need all ovens free for the Thursday meal.

I went to sleep, thinking of Master Gunnery Sergeant Washington’s words in Steward School, “Gravy is the most important dish on a Thanksgiving table.  The roux needs to be the consistency and color of wet beach sand.”  I had nightmares about lumpy gravy.

Next Edition:  Fruitcake

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