Opinion: Hosting Easter dinner No. 42


Commentary by Ward Degler

This was the 42nd year for Easter dinner. Ever since we moved to Zionsville in 1981, we have invited the entire clan to be our guests for Easter. We’ve had crowds upwards of 50 people in any given year.

The dynamics of the day haven’t changed much in all those years. We start by frantically cleaning the house and yard of trash (inside and outside). A day or two before the event, I buy a turkey. The biggest one I can find.

To my distress, Kroger doesn’t carry whole turkeys anymore — turkey breasts but not the whole bird. Meijer to the rescue. This year, I managed to find a 20-pound young frozen turkey. I think it weighed closer to 50 pounds by the time I got it home (I’m not as strong as I used to be).

Not for the first time, I had to return to the store to buy an aluminum cooking tray.

Saturday afternoon I fill the bathtub with cold water and put the frozen turkey “in the birdbath.” By morning it is defrosted.

Sunday starts at 5 a.m. Shower, shave, dress. Then, I load the grill with charcoal and set it ablaze. I lug the bird from the tub to the kitchen sink. Unwrap it from its plastic and net covering.

At some moment during these 42 years, the companies that pack turkeys split up the giblets and packed the neck in the rear cavity, and the others in the front cavity. One year I found only the neck and assumed that was all there was. Imagine my surprise to find the packet of heart, liver and gizzard fully cooked in their paper bag when I removed the turkey from the grill.

I don’t use a meat thermometer. Most birds these days have a plug that pops out when the bird is done. And even if it didn’t have this, by the time the charcoal has burned down to mostly ash, the bird is done.

Folks start arriving at noon, and for the next hour it is a steady migration from the driveway to the house. And, of course, everybody brings food. Potatoes, vegetables, salads, corn pone. And desserts. I cannot forget the desserts. Everything from freshly baked cookies to cheesecake.

Son Bobby Joe and his wife Raylene took it upon themselves several years ago to manage the Easter egg hunt. No routine hunt, this, their hunt is made up of dozens of plastic eggs filled with pieces of paper, each with a number. The number corresponds to a prize, a toy — this year included water pistols, so just about everyone got sprinkled before the day was done.

A nephew brought his guitar and serenaded everyone throughout the day. Late afternoon folks started packing up their dishes and heading home. Our fridge is filled with leftovers so we know what we will be eating for the next few days.

The memory will linger beyond those days. The warmth of family over the years has made a permanent mark.