Just add water?

Students share their Thanksgiving cooking tips

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Cooper Elementary School kindergarten students Noah Simon, 5 and Emmalyn Utley, 6, contemplate cooking a “miniature” turkey after sharing their turkey cooking tips. The turkey is not actual size — in fact, it’s not actually a turkey, but rather a Cornish game hen, as kindergarten students can’t be expected to actually hold up a 20-pound frozen turkey.

If a disclaimer can be attached to the Thanksgiving turkey cooking directions given by a small sampling of Cooper Elementary School students, it’s this.

“Actual results may vary,” and “Don’t try this at home.”

Noah Simon, 5, knew to put the bird in the oven.

His time and temperature?

“Nine degrees for one minute,” he said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Avery Friesth, 7, a first grade student at Cooper Elementary School, finds a “miniature” frozen turkey less than appealing after sharing her turkey cooking tips.

Emmalyn Utley, 6, gave it a little more heat and twice as much time.

“Ninety degrees for two minutes,” she said.

Azarion Preston-Grady, 7, opted for the other end of the spectrum.

“A hundred days and super, super high,” he said.

One of their teachers, Dana Recker, opted for a temperature and time less likely to produce frozen salmonella or a 16-pound lump of carbonized soot.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Azarion Preston-Grady, 7, a first grade student at Cooper Elementary, demonstrates his preference for a balanced Thanksgiving meal by balancing part of the meal on his head, a nice big potato.

For the record, her husband, Tony, actually cooks the turkey for the family.

“You know,” she said. “I’ve never made the turkey. Low and slow, maybe 300 degrees. Six hours … I hope my mother isn’t disappointed in my answer.”

Avery Friesth, 7, found the whole temperature and time thing a bit of a mystery.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know.”

Joey Salvatore, 6, gets to watch the process.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Joey Salvatore, 7, a first-grade student at Cooper Elementary School, tries to open a can of cranberry sauce with his bare hands after sharing his turkey cooking secrets. He did manage to dent the can which ruins the perfectly concentric can rings on the gelatinous mass of cranberry deliciousness inside.

“My grandpa always cooks it in the oven,” he said. “I never pay attention, I just play with my toys in the back room.”

Of course, there’s more to Thanksgiving dinner than just turkey. Side dishes are important, too.

Simon pondered the subject.

“Ham,” he said. “I’m thinking … I’m thinking … carrots and broccoli.”

He said no to the cranberry sauce.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Cooper Elementary School teacher Dana Recker shows off a jar of turkey gravy and a tiny “turkey.” Students shared their tips for cooking along with Recker who leaves the turkey cooking to her husband Tony. The family also makes their own gravy which includes the traditional lumps not found in jars.

Utley stayed with the traditional fixings, mostly.

“Grapes,” she added to the menu.

Salvatore went traditional, too.

“Mashed potatoes and gravy,” he said. “Maybe some fruits.”

Preston-Grady added another important item.

“Maybe a bun,” he said.

For Recker, it’s an old family favorite.

“We have scalloped corn,” she said. “It’s been my favorite dish since my grandmother made it when I was a first grader. Now my mom makes it.”

One minor detail the students didn’t realize was that simply putting the turkey into the oven isn’t quite all there is to it. Recker, who has no desire to clean her oven any more than she absolutely has to, pointed out the need for some sort of container to keep it off the oven’s bottom. It will turn into a charred mass of carbon chunks after pieces of it fall through the oven rack without one.

“You need to cook the turkey in a big pan,” she said.

Friesth could simply not believe that.

“No,” she said. “I don’t want to do that. No. That will not fit.”

“Wow,” Recker replied, “Everybody is a critic.’

Apparently, pans, ovens and turkeys are also dangerous when combined.

“You could burn the whole house,” Friesth said. “Then you’d get a new house.”

Once done with the meal, regardless of how it’s cooked, each had a favorite Thanksgiving activity.

Simon had one quite memorable year.

“One year my birthday was on Thanksgiving,” he said. “This time it’s before.”

Friesth has a little traveling on her holiday.

“I play and we watch some TV,” she said. “We always go somewhere far away for one day.”

For the Reckers, it’s the beginning of the next season.

“At the end of Thanksgiving we kick off the Christmas season by watching National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation,” she said. “We always do that with our family.”

The final phase of the meal, the course between the turkey and the nap, is of course, dessert.

Simon’s family enjoys ice cream and popcorn, he said, For Friesth, it’s just ice cream, the Reckers enjoy the traditional pumpkin pie and for Utley, it’s cake.

Preston-Grady has a less traditional favorite.

“Pizza,” he said.

Disclaimer: No actual food products were harmed in the production of this story. The Cornish game hen went to a good home where it will be stuffed and cooked to perfection by an adult.


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