How to Make Stock with Thanksgiving Leftovers
- On Thursday night after the turkey’s cooled, rip every shred of meat from the carcass. Ignore your distant relatives’ complaints that you’re wasting valuable family time. Don’t tell them that’s the point, that you barely made it through the door this year after what they did to your now ex-girlfriend Kerry at Christmas.
- Dislocate the thighs and wings. In fact, separate as many bones as you can. Take pleasure in the snap of cartilage. Twist bones to weaken joints. Experience the primal satisfaction of taking apart an animal. Don’t picture your smug uncle asking if Kerry’s “the girl” as you do this.
- Bag all the bones. Don’t call anyone a bag of bones. If you struggle to get the entire chest cavity in, don’t be afraid to crush the ribs. Enjoy the light snaps. Ignore your relatives as they watch—horrified—as your forearms and stomach get sprayed with meat, fat, and viscera. Reality makes them queasy.
- Wash your hands three times with scalding water, up and down your forearms. You’re washing your hands of them. You won’t get guilted into Christmas. Not when your cousin Greg never apologized for cupping Kerry’s ass and promising he could turn her straight. Not that your family believed it.
- Toss the bones into a stock pot. Add vegetables and season it. Rosemary and thyme for depth. Salt to bring out the range of flavors. Peppercorns for spiciness. Then add six cups of cold water. Cover the bones.
- Bring to a boil. Don’t focus on all the digs at your lack of a dress, your lack of makeup, and your lack of a partner. Don’t think about their belief that people like you shouldn’t be allowed to adopt. Hell, they voted for the guy who thinks you belong in conversion therapy. The water will be boiling in no time.
- Cover and let simmer for an hour and thirty minutes. Listen as Greg’s children run willy-nilly throughout the house, breaking the occasional heirloom, and balk when his wife tries to smear her lipstick on you. It’s not like lipstick saved her.
- Lift the lid to give your simmering stock a stir. Feel your rage hum in your throat, growing with every pity-filled look from the people who are supposed to love you, and every dig that’s designed to make you rethink your choices. As the hum threatens to burst from your throat, feel your mother’s hand on your shoulder as she offers you a mug of steaming peppermint tea and offers a sympathetic look. She’s why you’re still here. She’s the one that matters to you. But she’s also the one who says and does nothing to help you, lets your relatives tear you apart until there’s nothing left. Waited almost a year and then criticized Kerry for reacting to the abuse you’re accustomed to. The one who says, “Don’t be so sensitive!” when you complain. Understand that you don’t need them anymore for food and shelter like you did when you were a kid.
- When the liquid is golden, remove the bones, vegetables, and seasoning. Skim and toss the fat that comes to the surface. In lieu of proper storage, bags will do. Call Great-Aunt Jean an old bag and fill it with stock.
- The stock bag lasts up to two months in the freezer. Pain from relatives can last a lifetime. Feel the warm-in-your-belly soup made from scraps that radiates through your extremities, warmer than your family any day of the year.
Since I write flash fiction, I always have to keep an eye on what I’m spending my words on. The heart of the story is what comes first. Food emerges when it can pull (at least) double duty. What is it telling me about the character? Their mental state? Their personal history? Are they celebrating or lonely or massacring a cooked turkey? Use your words wisely.
Chelsea Stickle is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and enjoys saving kitchen scraps to make homemade stock. Her fiction appears in CRAFT, Gone Lawn, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Best Microfiction 2021 and others. “How to Make Stock with Thanksgiving Leftovers” is a reprint from her debut chapbook Breaking Points (Black Lawrence Press, 2021). Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.