A Tradition is Born

By Barbara Ries

Published on October 14, 2009

We started grilling our Thanksgiving turkey the year our oven broke. It was 1994, and my husband, John, and I had recently bought our first home, in Arlington, Virginia. We had a four-year-old son and a baby girl, so when the old KitchenAid oven-dishwasher combo died that summer, we were upset but decided it gave us a good excuse to give the kitchen a face-lift. By Thanksgiving Day, however, we hadn't bought a new range, so we pulled out our kettle grill, lit a stack of coals, and decided to try grilling the bird. We seasoned a big turkey with salt and pepper, put it into a roasting pan, and placed it on the grate, not quite sure what would happen. While I shuffled the sweet potatoes and the stuffing and all the other side dishes in and out of the toaster oven and the microwave, John tended to the bird, basting it and replenishing the coals every hour or two until the meat thermometer told us the turkey was done. The meal was perfect; it taught us just how much we could accomplish in a bare-bones kitchen—a good thing, since we ended up doing without a real oven for the next three years. The kitchen of the house we live in now, in San Rafael, California, has a built-in convection oven with a fancy rotisserie feature, but we still cook our ** Thanksgiving turkey** in the great outdoors. —Barbara Ries, a photographer in San Rafael, California

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