Thanksgiving ’02 memory: I will start by saying that Thanksgiving was my favorite day…one of the few days of the year where the dysfunction was kept at bay. So I always looked forward to them.
In ’02, I happened to be deployed to a small, remote fire base. We would, however, be regularly resupplied via helicopter. On one of those resupply sorties, we got a few frozen turkeys. Funny thing was, we had absolutely no way of cooking those turkeys other than roasting over a campfire. Being an expert in turkey frying, I knew that we could make it work with the proper pot and some peanut oil. I figured that the nearest town could have some, as earlier that week I saw a pelican on a leash on the side of the road. Any town that has one of those must have everything, so peanut oil couldn’t be that hard to find.
So the plan was simple: All I had to do was build a brick bed in the center of the fire pit, start a bonfire early enough prior to cooking to ensure I had enough coals to heat the oil to the proper temperature, and find a way to hoist the pot on/off the coal bed. The pot had a sturdy metal handle, like a bucket, and I found a large iron pipe. I then ensured that the pipe was long enough so both guys would be nowhere near the flames when lifting/lowering the pot of oil. It all looked good. I even did some walkthroughs with some of the guys that said they’d help.
Now the cooking part was the trick. As I stated before, the turkeys were frozen. This was November…this was Afghanistan…thawing the thing fully was not going to happen. So this is pretty much a disaster waiting to happen. We have open flame (in the form of a big bonfire), we have hot oil and a large bird that is essentially a block of ice. I mitigated the entirety of the risk by clearing a path that led to an area devoid of anything flammable, completely away from the flames, where we could take the pot of oil and drop the turkey in, then let it flame up until all the water burned off. Then we would just carry the pot back to the pit if the oil got too cold.