What looks like a turkey, weighs far less, and could cost me a fortune? The answer a marshmallow, specifically a marshmallow turkey. It’s a long story, and since I’m waiting to hear if I will be making this same sugar bird every year, I’ve got some time.
What’s sad is, up until this year, I refused to eat marshmallows on Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I love them at Christmas. I’ll eat every chocolate covered marshmallow Santa or snowman I see.
This isn’t the case in November, probably because I refuse to eat them with vegetables. Some families make their sweet potatoes with nut toppings, cinnamon, etc, but not Aunt Doris. I didn’t know why as a child, but Aunt Doris insisted that if it was November, that meant marshmallows and sweet potatoes were glued together.
I love Aunt Doris, in fact I adore her, but we refuse to see eye to eye on this one. Especially the way Aunt Doris makes, what I affectionately referred to at ten years old, as the goop. It was the only holiday I think I made her cry, a fact that I hated.
Of course Aunt Doris knew I hadn’t meant to. She took me aside and explained why the two things were together. Her Mom had always made them that way, and making them this way made her feel a family connection. Then she gave me a big hug, and made a sweet potato soufflé.
From that day on, every Thanksgiving we had two sweet potato side dishes. Aunt Doris even sat them both on different sides of the table, just so I didn’t accidentally get the group. I love Aunt Doris.
This is why, when I found out about the requirement to create a marshmallow turkey, I had to share the news with her. Understand, at ten I only refused a side dish, at fourteen I had declared I would never in any way marry marshmallows with November!!!!! The word cackling had never described her laugh, until this phone call.
When she took a breath, and regained her composure, she focused on the problem at hand. “Lisa honey, how did you get wrapped up in all of this? It seems to me you shouldn’t have to do this, but if you do, I want one picture with you and the marshmallow November to keep!”
I ignored that sorta. “I’ll meet you at the grocery store for supplies. If I’m doing this, you’re going to help me, and we need to practice first. By the way, you may want to ask Aunt Caroline to come too, love you, gotta go!”
I wasn’t there, but I can guess what happened. She sat there, phone in hand for a minute after our call. I had sprang one back on her, Aunt Caroline. They were twins, and loved each other. The two of them were identical in so many ways beyond their looks, though they couldn’t see it.
As I said they loved each other, but Aunt Doris and Aunt Caroline each had an allergy. An allergy to each other. They could see each other in small doses, like Easter and Christmas, but prolonged exposure led to irritation, and eventually out and out grumpiness. Here’s the funny thing, they called each other every night and talked for hours.
They lived in the same city, but had separate tracks. When they talked on the phone, or even saw each other over the internet, no friction. It was only when they were together that sparks flew. I dated a medical student once, he couldn’t understand it either.
Though I enjoyed given Aunt Doris a jolt, I didn’t due it out of meanness. I really did need both of them. I was scared to death, and I needed my security blankets to help me pull this off. So, what does me producing a marshmallow turkey this year have me waiting to hear if I have to do it again next year? It all started with one man, Irving Austerlitz.
When you first see Irving, you think, what a sweet little man, and he is. After you get to know him, you think what a sneaky, tricky, pushy, and lovable little man. He’s my agent, so that’s part of it. The other part is, he’s my Godfather, so he feels the need to protect me, and to push me.
I’m a professional chef, and a caterer. Two years ago I was an executive chef at the best restaurant in town, and I was miserable. I loved the cooking, but I didn’t like the business side of things. I had made the mistake of telling Uncle Irving this when he came by for dinner.
The next morning, when I showed up at work, the owner was there. He pleaded with me not to quit. I didn’t know what he was talking about. He said, “Your agent called, he said this was no longer a healthy environment for you, so you were giving your two week’s notice.”
I didn’t realize I had an agent, and then it clicked. I started to explain when something said, “You’ve been wanting to do this, he just gave you the push you needed.” So I thanked the owner for everything he did for me, and told him I was needing a mental break.
I worked my two weeks notice, and showed up at Uncle Irving’s law office. “So what do you have for me Mr. Agent?” I wasn’t going to hold him to it, but I did want to give him some grief. He didn’t bat an eye.
“You start on Monday. It’s going to be called Lisa’s Menu, five days a week. It airs in the afternoons. We’re starting on channel two, and we’ll go national in about a year. You’ll be making six figures in four years, so get ready. Also, here is a thousand. Go buy a wardrobe. You can’t keep dressing like you are an advertisement for beige.”
I was at the first department store trying on a pink business jacket when I realized I had been insulted. I started to call him, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. So I penciled it in for the next needling session, and bought some professional clothes, including one beige jacket out of spite.
The last nine months had been wonderful. The show was off the charts. Uncle Irving said he was in talks with the big culinary tv guys, but we needed one final push. “You’re a great chef Lisa, but you need a gimmick kid. Something that draws the initial attention of the tv people. You need a holiday attraction.”
It was one of those times that I didn’t have any idea of what he was talking about, but he had gotten me this far. I agreed to whatever he said, which wouldn’t have made any difference, it was already in the works, and went back to work.
That brings me back to the giant marshmallow turkey. The giant, free standing, marshmallow turkey. That’s part of what made it so difficult. It had to bare up under it’s own weight. “No supports, no rice cereal gimmicks in marshmallow fondant Gus Geiger had said. The marshmallow king wants it to be all marshmallow, maybe a little food coloring, but he’d prefer it to be torched.”
I murmured something about I’d like to torch it too. Gus Geiger, the marshmallow king is the city’s biggest business success. On top of owning everything marshmallow Coal Nebraska had to offer, he was the biggest charitable benefactor. He was the sponsor of the big Christmas Parade, the Fourth Of July fireworks spectacular from Geiger Tower, and the city’s Thanksgiving Festival.
“In short Lisa, if you can make this turkey fly, he’ll soar you all the way into the big time. I believe in you. Can you do this?”
That last sentence, that what got me. The rest he asked like Irving Austerlitz steamroller, that one, he asked like Uncle Irving. The same one who held me when he and Aunt Doris took me in after their best friend’s car wreck. I was nine.
“I’ll do my best Uncle Irving. I’ll get Aunt Doris and Aunt Caroline involved. This might make your next few days difficult, but you asked for it.” I smiled.
He laughed. “I know, and I know they’re crazy, but I love them both. Your Aunt Doris was crazy when I married her, and your Aunt Caroline was insane from the moment she was born. The level of crazy is the same, but you didn’t hear that from me.”
My Mom was my Aunt’s older sister by a year, and they adored her. Uncle Irving and my Dad Allen were best friends from kindergarten. The fact that Uncle Irving was inviting this trouble into his life meant he really did believe in me, so I couldn’t let him down.
For the next week and a half, we tried everything we could think of to make this turkey stand. A time or two, we thought we had it, until the legs gave way and he flopped forward to the floor. “How I wish turkeys had four legs.”
Then I tried making the mold to where the wings were longer to touch the platter. They just mushed the turkey down faster. We had to confirm we were successful with a trial run three days before the festival. That morning, I was covered in sugar, tears flowing, and ready to give up.
Uncle Irving was running late, so he couldn’t meet me. He sent his young law partner, Adam Ruiz over. We had known each other since college, but were just friends. I’ll admit I usually tried to spruce up when he came over, but not today. I was too distraught. He had brown hair like me, only his was short. His eyes were blue, mine were brown. We were about the same age, and liked the same things.
When I answered the door he looked at me different. I apologized for the mess, and asked him to come to the kitchen. “I’m trying this one more time, and if not, we’re done.”
He helped me with everything. I didn’t realize he knew how to cook. He was a happy bachelor, so I assumed he had take out menus plastered over his fridge. When the last one flopped backward on it’s backside, I burst into tears.
He waited a minute, looked at me, then looked at the turkey. He sat me down, fixed me some coffee, and put it in my hands. “Lisa, look, Geiger said the turkey had to be supported by it’s own weight. Did he ever say it had to be standing, or just free standing?”
I looked at him first like he was crazy, and then I thought. I burst into tears again, but this time, I was laughing. I had done all this work, went through all this stress, and I never had to in the first place. It was my idea he meant it had to stand up.
We quickly worked out the new design, and got the turkey finished with about thirty minutes to spare before time to leave. “You’ve got just enough time to get ready turkey girl. So hurry and clean up, oh, and wear that pink jacket from Thursday’s show, not the beige one. The pink accents your eyes.”
No, the comment wasn’t lost on me. I just didn’t know how to respond. So turkey girl got ready, and we met Mr. Geiger. He was short, round, and dynamic. “That is wonderful! Also, you figured out my test. I assumed, when I said free standing, you’d back out, telling me a marshmallow turkey couldn’t stand on it it’s own.”
“I make marshmallow for a living I know sugar. I know long term it would be very hard to do without a gimmick. I wanted a sitting turkey, but I didn’t know if you’d figure it out or not. You did a great job. I’m going to feature it at the festival. Also, your Uncle mentioned you needed a sponsor for a national show. If this is the hit at the festival I expect it to be, then, how do you feel about about being a Geiger’s marshmallow spokesperson?”
Uncle Irving said she’d love too, and I agreed. When we got there I was a bundle of nerves. My hands were shaking, and I couldn’t light the small torch to bring out a little color for the turkey. I had waited on it til it would have the right affect.
Adam took it out of my hands and sat me down. He torched it just as I told him how too. “Where did you learn how to do all of this?” He said he had been watching my show the last few months.
“I never miss an episode. I try not to miss anything you do. I ate at the restaurant every Friday night hoping to see you. How about we find a restaurant to go to together tonight?” It was that simple. We started dating that day. The festival was going to be a success, and it looked like I was on my way to the big time.
That’s when, the day before Thanksgiving, my old nemesis showed up, the sweet potato. I mentioned that I would never eat sweet potatoes and marshmallow together on Thanksgiving. Well, call it irony or root vegetable revenge, but it was responsible for what happened next.
The network loved the marshmallow turkey idea, they loved me, they even loved Uncle Irving. Who they didn’t love Mr. Geiger. They already had a sponsor for the show lined up, Miss Alice Frozen Sweet Potato Pies. Now I was forced to either say no to the offer, and be loyal to Mr. Geiger, who I found out had helped bankroll the local show, or agree to their sponsor.
It turns out Mr. Geiger had been Uncle Irving’s silent partner in the local show. He had been watching my career for some time. All of this, what I thought of as coincidence, was them positioning me for bigger things. I couldn’t be disloyal after all they had done, without ever asking anything in return.
So I told Uncle Irving to thank the big culinary guys and turn them down for me. “Please apologize to Mr. Geiger, I guess he’ll probably have no interest in continuing to back the local show now. So I guess it’s back to running a kitchen.”
Adam hugged me, which I didn’t expect, and I hugged him back. Uncle Irving said he’d pitch me doing the festival each year, and a marshmallow Thanksgiving centerpiece to Mr. Geiger. “No promises Lisa, but we’’ll see what happens. Adam you take care of her, I’ll call you both tonight.”
He took me to a little restaurant that he liked, and I loved the food. Adam encouraged me to talk to the chef about being a guest on my show. I didn’t think I’d have a show anymore, but I agreed.
Call it romantics, but by the end of the dinner, I knew that Adam and I were going to be together forever. It was about that same time that Uncle Irving called. “Lisa, listen, I don’t have time to explain, but Mr. Geiger wants to talk to you tomorrow. I know that with the festival, we were going to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow afternoon, so he’ll be at the house at 4:00. Looking forward to your Thanksgiving feast.”
I ran cold, I hadn’t got anything for Thanksgiving dinner, and it was my year to cook. This marshmallow turkey was so in my mind, nothing was in my kitchen, not even a sweet potato! I held it together with Uncle Irving, but Adam asked what was wrong as soon as I got off the phone.
He had picked up on something though. Adam had already paid the check while I had been on the phone. He got me to the car before I broke down. He listened to the story through my sobbing, and took me straight home.
“Turkey girl, don’t worry about a thing. You go straight to bed, get plenty of rest. I’ll pick you up tomorrow for the festival. You take care of the marshmallow bird, I’ll supply the other one.”
After depositing me at my door safely, he kissed me, and left. Neither of us expected this, but neither of us complained. What I didn’t know was all that he went through that night. I didn’t find that out until the next day.
It was a huge success, but I noticed Mr. Geiger changed the subject when the reporter asked him what was planned next year. He didn’t mention anything to me either. We kept smiling through it all and Adam took me to Uncle Irving’s.
In the car this morning, on the way to the festival, Adam explained he had went to three all night markets before finding any turkeys. He managed to get everything together, slept two hours, and banged on Uncle Irving’s door until they let him in.
“I started everything, and gave your Aunt Caroline and Aunt Doris strict instructions on how I wanted dinner to go until I got there. When they asked me who I thought I was, your Aunt Doris’ words, I told them I think I’m your Fiancé. That shut them up.”
Upon that bomb drop he said we were here and pushed me out of the car. We went through the festival like I said before. Now I’m smiling at the small chit chat my family is making while everyone is waiting for Mr. Geiger. You’d think that would be the focus, but Adam’s comment is what’s weighing on my mind right now.
A whirlwind courtship is a recipe for disaster. We need to date before getting engaged. All of that is what is going through my head. I tell myself all of this, while thinking about wedding dresses. ‘Craziness, stop it!’ I say to myself. Oh, here is Mr. Geiger.
“Hello everyone, thank you for inviting me to Thanksgiving dinner. I couldn’t join my grandson and his wife in Colorado this year, so this old widower is so thankful for the company. Lisa, Irving told me of how generously you turned down the network on my behalf.”
“While I would have completely understood if you hadn’t, I love loyalty. As you may have guessed, I also have some pretty good contacts. The network is big, but they’re not the only game in town.”
“How would you like for me to sponsor a national show with a syndication deal on one of the big three networks on the afternoons? Of course, you would need to add some interviews and things to the cooking format, broaden your audience slightly. What do you think?”
“Mr. Geiger, I’m speechless. I just was talking to a chef last night about an interview. I’ll do my best for you sir.”
“Yes young lady, I’m sure you will. You’ve got a great team here around you. I think you’ll go farther than you can ever imagine.”
“Yes she will Mr. Geiger. Would you all excuse us a minute. I need Lisa’s help in the kitchen with the desserts.”
I’m almost in shock, being pulled into the kitchen to help with desserts while my future is in the living room, or at least the business future is. He starts handing me things to decorate the apple cake that he’s made. Apparently he can bake too.
“Lisa, here’s one last thing. It’s an engagement ring, and before you say no, I know we’ve only went on one date, but well I’m old fashioned. My intention is to marry you, even if I have to wait a year. I couldn’t date you without you knowing. You may only have noticed me lately, but I’ve been trying to get the guts to ask you out for years. What do you think?”
As I open my mouth to tell him that’s the worst proposal in history, I hear the words, “Yes, a spring wedding will be very nice.” So Happy Thanksgiving folks, this year has been full of unexpected surprises, and I’m sure more are ahead!”