Month: November 2014

Me setting out the dishes and that Cherie in the back boning the turkey.

Me setting out the dishes and that’s Cherie in the back boning the turkey.

(If you’re getting this by email without the pictures, just click through to the site to see them all.)

As you know if you’ve been following me for long, one of my main goals for this website is to create a vandwelling tribe. I don’t think it’s enough to just inspire people and teach them about living mobile, I believe they need to have a community so they aren’t alone. For the last two years my friend Steve and I’ve been putting on a Thanksgiving Dinner  that was open for  all vandwellers to join us in our camp for Thanksgiving. For this, the third year, I put out an open invitation for all of you to join us. From the replies I got I was pretty sure it was going to be the biggest one yet. The first one was about 15 people, the second was around 20 people and this one was gigantic with over 40 people!

Steve and his two great masterpieces; 32 pounds of delicious turkey.

Steve and his two great masterpieces; 32 pounds of delicious turkey.

Think about that for a second. We were going to feed 40 people a full, traditional Turkey dinner totally off-grid in the middle of the Arizona desert. That means no running water of any kind, no stove and no electric grid! Sounds crazy doesn’t it! But my friend Steve is crazy like a fox and he knows how to get around every one of those problems. Every year he has managed to pull-off the impossible and deliver a delicious meal with seeming ease. With double the number of people, we knew it was going to be harder.

Part of the group.

Part of the group.

The last two years we de-boned frozen turkey breasts, wrapped them in aluminum foil then cooked them in our Weber portable barbecue grills. But we knew that would not be enough for 40 people. We needed two big turkeys to feed all of us, not just the breasts. But how to cook them? Our friend Bryce had just bought a large back-yard barbecue and had been using it as an oven so we knew for sure it could easily cook a big turkey. He generously offered to allow us to borrow it for one of the birds, but that left us with figuring out how to cook the second.  We finally decided that we needed to get  turkey fryer to do the second one. There’s a K-Mart in Blythe so I checked it out and they had a turkey fryer on sale for $45. That was a good deal so we decided it would work perfectly for us.

The turkey fryer. Steve had this frame from an old chair so we sat the fryer in t and pounded rebar stakes into the ground. We used rathchet straps to firmly secire the char to the stakes so the fryer could not move. We had a breeze that day so the plywood was to break the wind.  Of course the fire extinguisher is right where we can grab it if we need it.

The turkey fryer. Steve had this frame from an old chair so we sat the fryer in it and pounded rebar stakes into the ground. We used ratchet straps to firmly secure the chair to the stakes so the fryer could not move. We had a breeze that day so the plywood was to break the wind. Of course the fire extinguisher is right where we can grab it if needed. Everything worked perfectly!

Like us, you’ve probably heard the horror stories of people burning down their houses by miss-using the fryers so that made us wonder if we could do it safely, but Steve is such a good cook and practical guy we were confident he could. Se we did a Google search and learned the common ways that people mess up and cause fires so we were confident we could learn from their many mistakes and do it right. Here are the keys to safely use a turkey fryer:

  • Place the fryer somewhere so that nothing else can catch fire and  the worst that will happen is you’ll lose your turkey.
  • Don’t put in too much oil. Many accidents happen because their is too much oil and it overflows when you put the turkey in.
  • Water and hot oil don’t mix, the turkey must be 100% dry when you put it in the oil.
  • The oil is highly flammable so turn off the flame when you put the bird in, then once it’s safely inside, turn the flame back on.
  • The turkey fryer is very tall and top-heavy so it must be constantly protected from the wind, dogs, and kids or it can’t be knocked over..
  • If the oil goes much over 400 degree it’s possible to  spontaneously ignite all by itself. So someone needs to be there constantly to monitor the oils temperature and adjust the flame.
  • A fire extinguisher far away in the kitchen does you no good, have it nearby and ready to go at the first sign of a problem.

We followed all these safety rules to the letter and it went off without the slightest problem. We had the fryer very secure so nothing could move it, we placed a large piece of plywood so the wind couldn’t affect it, and I stood and watched every minute it was cooking. It was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it. If you are interested, at the bottom of the post I have pictures of the entire process of frying the bird.

The food out on the tables.

The food out on the tables with people loading up! Thanks Sameer for the photo!

While I was watching the turkey, Steve was inside doing every little bit of the cooking. Yes, he did it all and it was a lot!!! I was expecting 30-40 people, so we had bought what we thought was plenty of food:

  • Two, 16 pound turkeys (we were limited by the size of the barbecue and fryer pot)
  • One gallon of Campbell’s turkey gravy
  • Ten boxes of Stove Top Stuffing
  • Eight large fresh baked yams topped with butter, brown sugar and marshmallows
  • Two pounds of frozen green bean casserole with Cream of Mushroom soup and Frenches Onion Rings
  • One large 50 ounce box of Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Four cans of Cranberries
  • Three bags of chips
  • Five pies
  • A large cake
  • Three tubs of Cool Whip

Obviously, that was a lot of food and a lot of work and Steve did it all by himself! He’s a really amazing guy (and ladies, he’s available)!  It all turned out hot and delicious! Everybody got plenty for firsts but with more than 40 people we did run out so there were limited amounts of seconds. But everybody got a normal amount to eat, just not enough to “stuff” yourself like we usually do at Thanksgiving! I’m counting it as a blessing in disguise!

Jo and Cherie boning the turkey. That's the barbecue behind that Steve used as an oven.

Jo and Cherie de-boning the turkey. That’s the barbecue behind them that Steve used as an oven. Thanks Bryce. for letting us it borrow it from your Man-Cave! Sameer took this Photo.

But the best thing of all is the camaraderie! Making new friends and seeing old ones is worth the trip here even if there was no food involved at all. As is pretty normal, we had numerous  “newbies” people who have just moved into the vehicle and it’s very helpful for them to be around others who accept and embrace them for their courage at living a non-traditional lifestyle. Plus the huge advantage of getting to see how other people have converted their rigs and solved our common problems gives you a big head-start in making this new life the best it can be.

People all lined up for Steve's World Famous Thanksgiving Dinner.

People all lined up for Steve’s World Famous Thanksgiving Dinner. Thanks to Sameer for the photo!

So I’m declaring this Thanksgiving Dinner a huge success: lots of delicious food, over 40 new and old friends and perfect weather made it a time to not only remember, but memories to treasure always!

The only way it could have been better is if you were here! Start planning now for next year!

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Over 40 of us on a beautiful Thanksgiving day in the beautiful Arizona desert. Life doesn't  get any better than this!

Over 40 of us on a beautiful Thanksgiving day in the beautiful Arizona desert. Life doesn’t get any better than this!

Steve and I have both cooked a tirkey breats on our small portable Weber grills, bu for a full turkey we needed a big one.  Bryce lpaned his full-size barbecue. With the inside burners off it makes a perfect oven. Here Steve is warming the yams and the green bean casserole.

Steve and I have both cooked a turkey breasts on our small portable Weber grills, but for a full turkey we needed a big one. Fortunately, Bryce loaned us his full-size barbecue. With the inside burners turned off it makes a perfect oven. Here Steve is warming the yams and the green bean casserole.

We would have liked to have gotten a bigger bird, but as you can see this was about as big as the pot would hold.

We would have liked to have gotten a bigger bird, but as you can see this was about as big as the pot would hold.

We would have liked to get bigger birds, but as you can see t16 pounds was about as big as we could fit in this pot.

Almost instantly the bird returned to a full boil after Steve gently dropped it in . We had turned the heat off so even if a little had spilled over there wouldn’t have been a fire.

The Turkey just about perfectly done.

The Turkey just about perfectly done 45 minutes later. I watched the thermometer constantly.

Both birds done perfectly!

Both birds done perfectly!