A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do

Thanksgiving is almost here, and with it comes one of those traumatizing times for us menfolk - namely, carving the turkey.

What's the big deal, you ask? All you've got to do is take a knife and hack the thing into bite-sized chunks.

That might be suit-able when it's just you at home alone and all we're talking about is fending off a mild case of starvation. But on Thanksgiving you usually can't get away with something that simple.

Thanksgiving is the traditional family feast day, and if everybody's at your house, that means you might have a grandparent or two, some parents and at least a few uncles and aunts gathered around. And, like it or not, you, dear Bunkie, are on display.

So, when the turkey comes out of the oven, all golden brown and fragrant, it's up to you to get it reduced to appealing, individual servings.

I used to have a father-in-law who would approach turkey carving as almost a rite of man-hood. He had his "carving instruments," as he used to call them, put away in a polished wooden box. He'd make a very big deal out of lifting the top off the box and slowly revealing to everyone gathered around the bird with watering mouths his exquisite cutlery contained within.

There, on a bed of blue velvet, was encased a gilt two-pronged serving fork and knife with a supposedly finely balanced handle and blade. (I always wondered what it needed to be so delicately balanced for; I mean, never once had I seen him throw the thing into the bird from the other side of the room.)

He'd then take the knife gently by the handle and begin to repeatedly run the blade up and down his special sharpening stone.

When he was finished with the sharpening ceremony, you could envision the knife not only splitting hairs but being used for any major medical surgery you'd care to name.

The carving, at his house, was always done at the table before the fully assembled throng, and accompanied by such comments as: "This must be an especially tender bird. Notice how I have to barely exert any pressure on the blade at all, and it's just cutting through the breast so easily.

"Who wants a drumstick?"

My father, on the other hand, would walk out into the kitchen and take one look at the bird as it lay cooling on the kitchen counter and call out, "Gimme some tools, I need tools!"

He'd then pick up what he hoped was a suitably sharp knife of the proper heft and size and wade into the task at hand. While every slice might not have been exactly the same, uniform thickness, he always managed to get the meat separated from the bone. And you could sometimes grab a little pre-meal sample off the platter if you were quick, as he was doing the same thing.

My father would then finish off with his oft-repeated maxim of "Anybody can work with tools. It takes a mechanic to work without tools." We'd all look at him and wonder, what did he mean by that?

Then one year Mom bought ol' Pop an electric power knife, and I mean he was ready to do some real cutting then.

WHHRRRrrr... went the knife as he pushed the button. "Just listen to that sucker rev," he said to anyone who was standing around. "Get ready, we're doin' some precision cuttin' now."

I remember that every slice was perfect that year with his new knife.

You could have used a micrometer and not found a difference of more that a few hundredths of an inch.

I guess he just had to have the right tool.

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