Etiquette Confidential with Lynne Rossetto Kasper

The food show host, author and cook helps keep our listeners' Thanksgivings civil.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper is the host of the splendid The Splendid Table, our sister show from American Public Media and the Infinite Guest podcast network. The program has won two James Beard Foundation awards for Best National Radio Show on food (an admittedly hollow victory, as we ourselves weren’t even nominated), and Lynne has penned a pile of bestselling cookbooks. This week, she’s gearing up for her annual Thanksgiving day tradition: the “Turkey Confidential” radio show, during which bewildered home cooks can call in for soothing advice, live on air, from Lynne and an impressive buffet of gourmet guests. To make sure she’s ready for that, we thought we’d start her off easy, with a few food-related etiquette questions from our audience.


Rico Gagliano: Lynne, it is great to have you!

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Great to be with you both!

Brendan Francis Newnam: So you and a bunch of other food luminaries host something called Turkey Confidential — the name alone, I love — people can call in for food preparation advice for a couple of hours. What was the strangest or most memorable emergency you’ve been called upon to solve?

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: One man called in, and he said he had been cooking his turkey for his family for years this way: He had taken the turkey the night before Thanksgiving. Stuffed it and seasoned it.  Put it into a 500 degree oven, I think for something like a half hour or 45 minutes. Turned the oven off and left the turkey in the oven until the next morning. And when it was time to serve dinner, he turned the oven on to heat it through.

Now, between 40 and 140 degrees, bacteria have a field day. Spoilage is a real danger. This man had created the perfect, I mean, a perfect… it was an over-sized petri dish! And he was very put out when I suggested that maybe it wasn’t a good idea.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, that he’d been lucky, basically, for years.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Well… I was trying to figure out a polite way to ask him how many people had died after Thanksgiving! Or, you know, how many hospital visits have you had to make?

Rico Gagliano: You think you changed his mind? It’s really hard to break people of their traditions.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Never. Ever. This man was convinced that he was doing it right.

Rico Gagliano: You maybe should give us his name, so we can all be sure never to eat at this guy’s house. This is a public service you’d be providing.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: But I think, if all them have been eating this way for years, they’ve probably built up all kinds of defenses. I don’t want to be a stranger at that table.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright, we told our listeners you’d be here. And they’ve got food etiquette questions for you. So are you ready for these, Lynne?

Lynne Rosetto Kasper: I am ready.

How to deal with turducken

Brendan Francis Newnam: This first one comes from Patrick in Santa Monica, California. He writes:

“What’s the right way to eat turducken? I’m intimidated.”

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Okay, this is the deal with turducken, you know? It’s a small poultry, inside of a bigger poultry, inside of a bigger poultry, inside of a bigger poultry. And the reality is, this is like a boneless roast. I mean, this has all been pressed together. So there’s no big secret. I would thin slice it, and do a gravy number, and you’re there.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Are people still doing the turducken, Lynne?

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Well, this guy is! You know what’s funny about turducken? You know, when did it start — 15 years ago or whatever? In the Medieval Period this was a very big deal! They just didn’t call it “turducken.” And they used things like a peacock, stuffed with a swan, stuffed with a partridge, stuffed with a pear tree! And they went on from there. It’s been around for a really long time.

Brendan Francis Newnam: In Philadelphia we would just chop this up, add onions and cheese whiz, and we’d have a cheese steak.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Well that’s right. And that’s what I think that’s what you should do with the leftovers.

Brendan Francis Newnam: There we are. Alright Patrick, so, don’t be intimidated. Just slice it and dig in.

Should you have to BYO vegetables?

Rico Gagliano: So here’s something from Anna in Melbourne, Australia. Anna writes:

“Some Argentinian friends invited me to a dinner party. I kindly reminded them I am a vegetarian. They replied by asking if I could bring along my own vegetarian food. I have never been invited to a dinner party where I had to self-cater. I feel a little insulted. Should I attend the dinner party?”

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: I don’t know that this issue is something that’s worth breaking a relationship for. And it’s also how the question is asked: If you say to somebody, “Hey, look — if you want to do this, bring your own food!” that would be a signal of, best not share bread at their table.

But, I mean, if you want to say it this way, which is: “I would really love to make something special for you, but we’re in such a state of overload. Would you mind bringing a dish you can really enjoy? Because we’re going to have salad, and we’re going to have this, and we’re going to have that…”

Rico Gagliano: “If you leave it to us, you might be dining on raw carrots tonight.”

Lynne Rosetto Kasper: Exactly.  So it’s all in the tone. But if she’s faintly insulted, I would also talk to them about it.

Rico Gagliano: Although it’s tough on vegetarians. I think vegetarians already feel like – and not without reason – that people are already judging them on their their food choice.

Lynne Rosetto Kasper: Oh, I agree.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Nooo… I think, if anything, it’s going the other way, where I feel guilty presenting a roast.

Lynne Rosetto Kasper: Both of you are right, but remember where these people are from. They’re from Argentina.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s a beef culture.

Rico Gagliano: Meat. Meat centric.

Lynne Rosetto Kasper: That’s a beef culture! I don’t think there’s even a white chicken breast entering the picture. I think still there are pockets where people look upon vegetarianism as something they really don’t know how to deal with.

When life gives you burned buns, make croutons

Rico Gagliano: All right, so, Anna, take into account the tone, and the nationality, and proceed from there. Here is something from JR in LA. This is our last question. JR says:

“Say I burned some buns I’ve been toasting in the oven and forgotten about.” Just a hypothetical!

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Yeah, okay.

Rico Gagliano: He continues: “Is it alright to scrape off the burned part and still serve the edible buns, as I would if I were eating alone, or should I find a work around?”

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: I think find a work around. Unless you want to turn all of that stuff that didn’t get burned into croutons! Break them up into big pieces. A little olive oil. A little bit of garlic. A little salt and pepper. Into the frying pan. And toast them up. That can go into salad, that can go to on top of a vegetable. And no one will know that the only way you can get to it is by first burning your bun.

Rico Gagliano: Or tell everybody that you burned them on purpose and that you’re a genius.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right. Just play it off legit.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Yes! This is the trick to this recipe, to get just this level of golden brown luscious toastedness.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Lynne Rossetto Kasper, you are always welcome at our table, burned buns or not. Thanks for telling our audience how to behave.

Lynne Rosetto Kasper: You are welcome and have a great holiday!