My Thanksgiving Cooking Disasters

You probably are already aware that Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and if you’re like me, you’re beginning to hyperventilate ever so slightly about the dinner. I have hosted Thanksgiving for my family every year for more than forty years, yet I never manage to pull it off without at least one disaster.

Now, I am a fairly smart person. I can master the intricacies of most technology within minutes. In school, I got A’s in algebra, calculus, and geometry. I can create complex plans and projects and ensure they run on time and on budget. I write mystery novels, for heaven’s sake.

I have many advanced skills. Cooking is not one of them.

Those of you who know me know that I am a terrible cook. In fact, calling me terrible is doing me a kindness.

I am completely unable to follow a recipe. If the page reads “add a teaspoon of this,” I’ll think, teaspoon, tablespoon, wing it. What difference can it make?

Those of you who can cook probably know it can make a huge difference, and while intellectually I agree with you, I am somehow constitutionally incapable of executing on that knowledge.

Many is the year where we’ve eaten dinner—planned for 1 PM—at 5:30 or later. Sometimes I forget to turn the oven on. Sometimes I accidentally turn it off. Some years I forget to defrost the turkey, so I shove it in the oven with ice crystals clinging to the wings.

Then there was the year I put the oven rack in up-side-down and it collapsed under the burden of the thirty pound turkey I placed upon it. The turkey went skidding across the kitchen floor. My dog licked it. I rinsed it off and cooked it anyway.

How about the year I stuck whole bouillon cubes in the stuffing, assuming the heat and liquids would cause it to dissolve, and the resulting rich flavor would suffuse the dressing. (Hint: It did not.) My daughter bit down on a whole bouillon cube and has never forgiven me. Apparently, in their undissolved state, bouillon cubes taste nasty. Really nasty.

The year the turkey was still raw, so we ate all the appetizers and sides and politely ignored the star of the show.

The year the turkey caught on fire.

So as you can see, Thanksgiving dinner at my house can be an adventure. I’m grateful my family still lets me cook for them, even knowing there is bound to be a disaster. At least dinner at my house is entertaining since we have a new disaster every year.

I’m  thankful for my fellow Miss Demeanors, and for all the lovely people who read my books. And for you.

Thanks to everyone who preordered Killer Storm, and all those of you about to order it soon.

About Sharon Ward

Sharon Ward is the author of the traditional mysteries In Deep Sunken Death, and Dark Tide, and Killer Storm, all part of the Fin Fleming Scuba Diving Series.

Writing as S L Ward, she is the author of the new release Smart Self-Publishing Strategies: A Roadmap for Beginners.

Sharon was a marketing executive at prominent software companies Oracle and Microsoft before starting her writing business. She was also a PADI certified divemaster who has hundreds of dives under her weight belt.

Sharon is a member of Sisters in Crime, MWA, ITW, Grub Street, and the Cape Cod Writers Center.

She lives near Cape Cod with her husband Jack and their miniature long-haired dachshund Molly.


  1. Oh Sharon, you had me laughing! Maybe it’s time for pick up from Boston Market!
    Have a truly Happy Thanksgiving folks, however and whatever you cook. I’m grateful for all of you, readers and writers alike!

  2. Feeling your pain although I’ve only had a quarter of those disasters. So I did a practice cheesecake this past weekend and will send it home with daughter along with the T day cheesecake. Calendared to take bird out of freezer on Tuesday. (We’re doing T Day on Saturday.) And massive delegation. Good luck!

  3. I have questions… I have this image of your family taking secret bets on what will happen. Also, I think we need to hear more about the turkey catching on fire.
    As for me, out of the 20 years my husband was in the NYPD, he spent maybe 3 with us. Since my extended family is tiny and spread out across the planet, this meant for most of those years I spent it on my own, or with just my kid and mom. One year I refused to cook at all as a demonstration of my opposition to this situation, but that didn’t make me feel better. Now that my husband has retired, I’m finally growing to like the holiday. I swear by frozen, pre-brined turkeys, which always come out tender and juicy. You barely even have to baste them, they kind of do the work themselves. Add roasted brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and hot biscuits and life is good!

    1. My family take bets on when I will actually give up this fruitless search for an edible Thanksgiving dinner. I’m glad you put your foot down about spending the holiday alone.

  4. Because I have gone to my uncle’s house for almost all the Thanksgivings of my life, I have never cooked a turkey, except for once, and that was for a homeless shelter. No one told me you had to defrost the darn thing. So when that became apparent to me, about an hour before I was due to drop it off, I turned the heat up high. It was not a proud moment. I think I wound up making a bunch of peanut butter sandwiches.

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