Unclassified Info: Celebrating Thanksgiving with a side of gratitude

I have always loved Thanksgiving. What’s not to love? It’s a four-day holiday, meaning no matter how hard you work on Thursday, you still have three more days to recover. How great is that?

I have especially loved the years where I play the part of host, probably because of my “A” type personality. I’d rather control the festivities than sit back and let others do the work.

Of course, the fact that I happen to make an incredible turkey is partially why I love the holiday. I can’t for the life of me understand why people insist on putting their turkey in the oven at sunrise and leaving it there to dry like some bizarre, Egyptian mummification ritual.

Come to think of it, I’d consider my life a modest success if I could rid the world of dry, flaky turkey meat. So here’s the easiest, simplest way to ensure your bird is the talk of the town.

Stuff the bird with aromatic things like rosemary, thyme, oranges and lemon. Rub with salt and a little canola oil. Before putting the bird in the oven, shape a foil shield over the breast area to allow the white meat to cook at a lower temperature than the dark meat.

Without the shield, stick it in an oven at a temperature of 500 degrees for about 30 minutes to brown the skin and seal in the juices. After that, put the shield on the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees — no basting, please. Cook by temperature, not by time. When the breast meat is 161 degrees, your turkey is done.

And my life’s work is complete.

Succulent white meat aside, the other vital component to my favorite day includes taking time to reflect upon things that fill me with gratitude. Our family used to have a tradition of going around the table and giving everyone a chance to have their say. But since I am persona non grata with them, I’ll use this column as my way of continuing this annual ritual.

So with that in mind, here is this year’s list:

First and foremost, I’m grateful for this column and to my readers. Whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, it is truly a pleasure to express myself here every week. I’m always eager to hear from you and participate in lively, well-mannered debate.

Some of you have even managed to change my stubborn mind now and again. And those readers who seem bent on doing nothing but hurling grade school insults my way? They make me grateful for junk mail filters.

I’m eternally grateful to Mario’s Deli, Far Niente and Sedthee Thai Eatery for being so close by, so friendly and so incredibly delicious. When I’m not enjoying my juicy turkey sandwiches, you rock.

I’m grateful for my other job in corporate America and for all the smart people I work with. Although I see a different kind of writing career somewhere down the road, and my current work week is long, demanding and stressful, I realize it is certainly a blessing to have a steady paycheck these days.

I’m grateful to the late Larry Zarian. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of being a guest on his show. That appearance inspired me to rework my first novel, which later led me to the big idea for my next piece of work.

I’m grateful that this year’s football game between UCLA and USC has title implications on the line. When I was a kid, it always felt like the Rose Bowl or more was up for grabs, making the cross town rivalry more engaging.

Not to gloat, but I’m especially glad the less significant role of spoiler falls to USC this time around. In other words, go Bruins!

I’m grateful for my small circle of close friends. I’m grateful for my larger circle of acquaintances. I’m not the most forthcoming with affection, but I love you all.

I’m grateful for all the things in my life I do not want. I know it sounds contradictory, but knowing what I don’t want in life guides me like a compass toward the things I do want.

And finally, I am grateful to my children. Like all kids and parents, we have our ups and downs. But no matter what, I Iove each of them very much. One of my greatest hopes is that they always find an abundance of things, large and small, which constantly fills them with gratitude and hope.

That would also be my wish for you. Happy Thanksgiving.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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