Every year since 1981 the Butterball Lady has been around to coach turkey newbies on how to best prepare a turkey. And she doesn't even ask if the turkey is Butterball...she just asks a few simple questions; how many pounds, what cooking method you're choosing, and how crispy and brown do you want that turkey breast to be.
Butterball started out in 1981, hiring 30 Home Economists to answer a telephone hotline for folks cooking their first bird. That staff has now expanded to 100, with each of the staff having a manual at hand to refer to if they can't answer the most exotic of cooking questions. The Butterball lady opens her help line about the first of November and is available throughout the holidays to handle your questions. She always shows up on the Today show during Thanksgiving Week, usually with an uncooked bird and a fully cooked magnificent roasted turkey, just to show you how it's done. When she reaches over to fondle that golden brown breast I have to admit to getting a little excited! (I never tell my wife about this!)
Well, before the turkey lady came along my Asian wife and I stumbled through Thanksgiving with mishap after mishap. We would just throw the frozen turkey in the oven and crank up the heat and cook it until the outside resembled a sun-browned 85 year old retail heiress from Scottsdale, then take it out, slide it off on a platter, then cut into it only to see blood pouring down the sides and chunks of frozen turkey parts flying all about the the table. Once we didn't bother to remove the string or even the neck and gizzards hiding stealthily in the chest cavity. We might have done okay if we'd just bought a Butterball with that little button that pops out when it's done but we usually opted for "cheap" and took the free turkey our grocer gave you if you purchased a hundred dollars worth of groceries.
Once I decided we'd have our turkey cooked on a Weber Grill. Of course i didn't bother to read the directions, or even ask how one cooks a 25 pound turkey out on the grill. So I just threw in a 20 pound bag of charcoal, threw a quart of charcoal starter fluid on the briquets and waited for an impressive high wall of flame to blossom, then lower the turkey on to the grill. As the rest of the family began preparing all the pies and side dishes, my ineptitude was beginning to concern them and they began to throw sidelong glances my way as they stared as our turkey, partially blackened began dancing around the grill in sizzling splendor, promising the likelihood that they'd be putting an ugly and undercooked turkey on the family table once again.
Finally, my wife came out with the phone in her hand and said "call for you". When I put the phone to my ear I heard a nice lady ask "Butterball Kitchens, how can I help you today?" In desperation I described what I was doing to a perfectly good turkey and the nice lady began to calmly "talk me down". She had me take the turkey off the grill before I could do any more damage, then explained how the charcoal briquettes were to be strategically placed around the four points of the grill pan, then allowed to get glowing hot, while keeping the cover on. Butterball Lady then explained how I was to feed the fire with a few briquettes every half hour or so to keep up a consistent grill temperature. Only then did she give me permission to put the turkey back on the grill.
Happily the turkey was roasted on time for Thanksgiving Dinner and as I carved and served I began to hear oohs and ahhs about how good the turkey was this year! I kept thanking our dinner companions over and over, finally stopping from basking in the glow of triumph when I looked over at my wife and got that "I saved your ass, buster" look that she's so good at. Happy Thanksgiving!