Submitted Date 04/01/2019

When I tell people that my grandmother was the worst cook I have ever met, they usually chuckle. Then I tell them about the turkey.


It was Thanksgiving the year my dad proposed to my mom, so it was time to introduce the future Mrs. Dabbs to the already Mrs. Dabbs. In the car on the way to my grandparents' green house in Allied Gardens, my dad tells me he gave my mom one last, desperate warning: don't eat the food.


He had advised her earlier that day to wear pants that would allow huge cuffs to be made, to utilize her piece of iceberg lettuce strategically, and to make use of the dog. My mom had laughed, just like most people did when I tell them my grandmother was the worst cook ever to live, thinking I'm speaking in hyperbole. Everyone learns in time.


My mom wore a dress, much to my dad's dismay. He told her that relying solely on the lettuce and the dog to offload all the food was a rookie mistake, and would leave her with no other option than to eat what was left visible on her plate after all her other outlets had been exhausted. And just like everyone does, my mom only smiled indulgently, happy to listen to the exaggeration that makes stories so good.


My grandmother only used expired products, she cleaned her dishes by soaking them in a sink full of bleach; an appropriate amount of cooking time for oatmeal was approximately four and a half hours, she has given me food poisoning more times than I have fingers, and instead of dinner, my grandfather used to drink black coffee and smoke a cigar at the dinner table. I have not included the alleged deaths of the two dogs, but they both went on tuna casserole night years apart.


Her cooking was exemplary in its ability to inspire fear in the hearts of men. And Thanksgiving was her D-Day.


Upon meeting the family, and exchanging "hellos" and some drinks, it was time for dinner. At this point, my mother was sure my dad's blarney had gotten the best of him: the green beans were perfectly overcooked, being that dull shade of green you can only find in canned beans or beans cooked by someone from the greatest generation (a generation chock full of boilers), the carrots seemed harmless and there was no sign of potato salad. The troops had yet to arrive on the beach.


Disappearing into the kitchen, my grandmother returned with something that you definitely knew was a turkey.


I swear, even decades letter when I was told this story by my dad, I can still hear my mom's proverbial jaw drop.


This thing had an oil slick sheen on it that you see on the pavement underneath a car with a leak in the gas tank. It had a layer of congealed gelatin an inch thick. In some places it was pink, and in some it was green -- simultaneously undercooked and most likely beginning to rot. The silence was deafening.


"Mom! How long did you cook that?"


Had it just been him and the family who had grown up with the atrocity of my grandmother's cooking, I'm sure my dad would have just rolled his Levis up and silently scooped the bird into his cuffs for the rest of the night until he could empty them in the bushes outside the Denny's down the street. But my mom had refused to believe that anyone could be so bad of a cook they were a danger to the people they fed. I think on some level he really wanted to prove just how bad it was, because he already had an idea of how the turkey came to look like that.


"What?? I cooked it for about four hours, like you're supposed to!"


My mom looked genuinely confused. How could a half-rotted, undercooked gelatinous blob of a disintegrated bird carcass have been cooked for 4 hours? How did it turn out so differently than everyone else's?


My dad knew.


"You cooked it for four hours... over the course of how many days Mom?"


There was a pause. The lid had been blown off my grandmother's entire fucking operation and she knew it.


"Well-- you know-- "


"How many days did you cook it mom?"


"For a week! I knew I wouldn't have time to cook it all today, so I've been cooking it for 20 minutes a day and letting it rest out on the back table!"


20 minutes a day. And then left TO REST. OUTSIDE. ON THE PATIO TABLE. FOR A WEEK.


This turkey was in such bad shape, even the coyotes wouldn't eat it. And here my grandma was, all nonchalant, putting it in front of my family for Thanksgiving dinner.


My mom wasn't laughing anymore, and as my dad tells it, was trying not to look genuinely horrified.


This turkey was obviously not consumed by the family, and given the historical coincidence of dogs dying after eating a particularly bad dinner, the new family dog was spared what the coyotes had avoided.


The Thanksgiving turkey will live in infamy in Dabbs family history of an emblematic triumph of the sheer atrocity of my grandmother's cooking. Rarely had there been such a perfect "Grandma Edith Moment" as the Thanksgiving turkey...


At least until we found the 7-year-old Sloppy Joe in her fridge that she told us not to touch because she was "saving it for later."

Related Stories


Please login to post comments on this story

  • Kiersten Felch 7 months, 1 week ago

    All I have to say is "oh no!" I worried about them from start to finish lol

    • Zoe Dabbs 7 months, 1 week ago

      Thanks for reading! Glad no one died haha

  • Tomas Chough 7 months, 1 week ago

    20 minutes a day. And then left TO REST. OUTSIDE. ON THE PATIO TABLE. FOR A WEEK.
    Lol this is insane! Grandparents can be so funny and crazy sometimes. Not sure exactly why.. Maybe because they're old and just do whatever they feel like doing, kind of like a kid. Things like this have happened in my family as well. Great story.

    • Zoe Dabbs 7 months, 1 week ago

      Thanks Thomas! Yeah, always funny to be a fly on the wall with an older generation!

  • Ceara 7 months, 1 week ago

    Oh my goodness, that is hysterical. I can so clearly picture a family gathered around the table and then Grandma comes out with this horrifying thing! And the ending - what a great way to wrap it up.

    • Zoe Dabbs 7 months, 1 week ago

      Thank you! That Sloppy Joe was still in there the next year!

  • Miranda Fotia 7 months, 1 week ago

    This is hilarious! Thanks for sharing!

    • Zoe Dabbs 7 months, 1 week ago

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed!