Disastrous flat dinners: My doomed Thanksgiving Day roast

Before romanticising a wholesome flat dinner, a Courier writer shares a stern warning.

Arthur Ferridge
8th November 2023
My burnt thanksgiving chicken (Image source: Arthur Ferridge)
As I embark on my third year at Newcastle University, I can say that I have attempted to cook for my flatmates on exactly two occasions. Once in first year, when I attempted a Middle Eastern style sausage called kafta, which lost its shape so badly in the cooking process that I couldn’t bring myself to share it with anyone, and once in second year, when I made a doomed attempt at celebrating my American heritage by hosting a Thanksgiving dinner party.

For the uneducated, Thanksgiving takes place annually on the last Thursday in November. Supposedly celebrating the famously amicable relationship between British settlers and Native Americans, the holiday is generally celebrated with a large roast dinner (typically turkey), a variety of sides, and pie for dessert, generally with pumpkin, pecan, or apple for a filling. Think a typical British Christmas dinner, just a month earlier.

For the most part, the meal came out very well. As an anxious cook, I had a lot of plates to juggle, but managed to pull together mashed potatoes, stuffing, bread rolls, and gravy without a hitch, not to mention the best macaroni and cheeses I had ever made from scratch. This was sadly the end of the night's high points.

Mac and cheese
"The best macaroni and cheese I had ever made from scratch." (Image source: Arthur Ferridge)

Where things fell apart was the turkey itself, the first issue being that I couldn’t actually source a turkey to cook and was forced to resort to making a chicken. The preparation went as smoothly as I could have hoped. The prepared roast got approval from all those in attendance, as well as my Mum.

The roast was due to cook at 200° for 2 hours, before tragedy struck. At some point in the cooking process, the oven’s temperature gauge was knocked from 200° up to 250°. Nobody knows how long it stayed there, but judging from the charred state of the resultant roast it was quite a while.

On the left: stuffed chicken with onions and carrots in an oven dish. before going in the oven
On the right: the same dish after it has overcooked in the oven. The onions and carrots look carbonised.
Image source: Arthur Ferridge

As one might be able to tell from pictures, the roast was just a couple of minutes of cooking away from just altogether disintegrating. The same could be said for the onions, carrots, and sausages that had shared the pan, some of which were actually brittle by the time they were removed from the oven.

The meat was incredibly dry, but we came up with a quick and innovative solution: drown it in as much gravy as possible. Half a tin of Bisto later, the meal was at best passable. Little was said, we quickly cleaned up, and retired to the Lonsdale for a pub quiz and a pint in an attempt to drink away the memory of the crunchy roast chicken.

James Kellett, current Courier gaming sub-editor and my former flatmate, stated that “the mac and cheese was a fine silver lining for the cremated turkey,” though declined to comment when asked whether the meal contributed to his decision not to extend our tenancy agreement.

Aidan Matthews, a bona-fide American who had commuted from Edinburgh specially for this meal, could only add: “Why Lord, why did you make me just to suffer.”

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AUTHOR: Arthur Ferridge
Head of Sport, 2023/24. @rthur_ferridge on Twitter/X

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