By Cindy Bennett
(Editor’s Note: Cindy Bennett is from North Carolina and has recently graduated from Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. In this article, she writes about the annual Thanksgiving feast the BLIND, Inc. students prepare for their instructors and how that activity builds self-confidence.)
Thanksgiving with my family has always been just that, very family oriented. We used to travel but have taken to hosting the dinner and housing up to 16 guests in our 1900 square foot home. So this meant that Thanksgiving was filled with wonderful chaos, chaos that often left me at a loss for how I should help out. I took to the tasks I knew like the coveted potato pealing or before-dinner-even-begins dishwashing. I had always been curious about turkey preparation, but in my teen years, and OK maybe still, I had never been ambitious enough to wake up at 5:00 A.M. or courageous enough to interrupt the chaos to ask questions. So everyone left the turkey roasting to mom, and the turkey frying to the boys outside.
At Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. however, the students prepare a giant Thanksgiving meal for the staff, and the staff repays us with a holiday dinner. So we began with a plan to map out a menu, decide who was going to do what, and what to prepare beforehand. We wanted to fry and roast turkeys, and I was excited to assist with both processes.
I first carved a turkey and realized that the artistic connotation that carving gives is not accurate. It was actually quite easy to feel where the various parts of the turkey such as the legs and wings bent and joined with the mid-section. I cut the legs, thighs, and wings off before slicing the breast.
The morning of the dinner, I prepared the fryer for turkey. I examined its pieces before hooking up the propane tank. It was quite simple to feel each end and connect the tank to the fryer. I have worked with matches, but I was a bit wary of lighting one so close to the propane tank. I used the match to find where I needed to light before doing so, and I listened for the fryer to light before removing the match. The oil has to heat to 325 degrees, and for the amount we used it took about 45 minutes. Typically, before you fry a turkey, you displace it in water to figure out how much oil you need. You can do this by filling the fryer with water the day before, and placing the thawed turkey, still wrapped, inside the water. After all of the excess has spilled, you can measure how much water remains to determine the amount of oil to use.
A turkey must fry three minutes per pound, so this meant that our 12-pounder needed to cook for 36 minutes, but before that could even start, we had to lower the bird into the incredibly hot oil. Brice, another student, held the basket, which is metal with holes, that comes with the fryer. Food is placed into the basket, and a device that looks like an upside-down hanger is utilized to lower the basket. I lifted the raw turkey and placed it into the basket. I do not mind working with raw meat, but I was a little grossed out since I had to stick my hand into the inside of the carcass to lift it, but it was definitely worth it. Brice then connected the hanger device to the basket handle. This would be comparable to hooking the part of a hanger that hangs on the closet clothes bar to something. He found the side of the fryer with the basket, lifted, and lowered slowly to avoid scorching splatters. He removed the hanger device from the basket handle, and we put the lid on and waited.
Removing the finished turkey is tedious, because you first have to use the hanger device to find the handle, hook it onto the handle, and lift. Then, you must move the side of the basket, which has a lip, slowly up the side of the fryer and hook it onto the top edge of the fryer. This allows oil to drip. After the dripping has stopped, the turkey can be lifted completely out of the fryer and placed to cool.
Although the turkey was the main course, there were many other tasks necessary for a successful meal that we engaged in the entire week prior. I learned how fussy homemade piecrusts can be, and worked on patience while cutting them. I placed a toothpick in the center of each pie to center myself and placed toothpicks along the side to indicate the slices I had already cut. From the appetizers to the dessert, we all worked hard to serve the staff, and finally, ourselves, and the meal was incredible.
I am appreciative of BLIND, Inc. for creating opportunities out of holidays to learn the important nonvisual techniques essential to hosting large dinners with food that is typically only cooked at those occasions. I look forward to hosting several holidays for my family, and even though I did not perfect any of these skills, I built a foundation of skills and confidence to start from in the future.