During the holidays, we’re not only thankful for family, we’re grateful for neighbors. This year, our neighbors we’re helpful as always, especially when our oven caught fire on Thanksgiving.

A few days before the feast, I called Norm and Ruth. I had to take the tarnish off the candlesticks and we were out of silver polish. I couldn’t see buying a whole container when I could borrow. Besides I had a bargaining chip.

When I asked Ruth for the silver polish, I offered to return her furniture polish we had borrowed ten years ago. While we were exchanging polishes, Norm came in after a fruitless search of store shelves for Allspice. I assured Ruth I’d come to their rescue.

Searching for the spice gave me an excuse to delve into my favorite area of scientific study: kitchen archeology. I unearthed no less than five containers of sprinkles; tiny jars of nutmeg and a lifetime supply of paper shells for cupcakes. I even found Allspice.

Meanwhile, we discovered we had a self-cleaning oven. By the time, we slid in the roasting pan containing a 26-pound turkey; the oven was spick and span. We also tried something different with the turkey – we read the directions. They recommended slathering the bird with vegetable oil.

Not long after the turkey starting cooking, a thin haze filled the kitchen. We couldn’t figure out why the inside of our oven looked like a foggy day in London town but we kept cooking. When our guests arrived, they noticed the smokiness and did not object to open windows and doors. Obviously, they preferred hypothermia to asphyxia.

Then the big moment came. When we slid the roasting pan out, there was a whoosh and suddenly flames were shooting up from some dark liquid on the bottom of the oven. I was ready to scream like a little girl when my wife quickly doused the flames with flour.

Catastrophe avoided. But what about the sweet potato casserole we had to bake? If there had been no sweet potato casserole at the First Thanksgiving, the feast would have been a fiasco and the Pilgrims would have sailed back to England.

In my panic, I called Ruth. “What do you want,” she answered sweetly, “You only call when you want something.” This implied that I only thought about myself, when actually I was worried about my other neighbors because their families live far away. I later learned that they had greatly enjoyed their Thanksgiving tuna fish, which they call “turkey of the sea.”

Anyway, Ruth and Norm let us use their oven and dinner was saved. In fact, everything turned out warm, juicy and tasty. You know, you just can’t beat the flavor of smoked turkey. And, Ruth, I had no idea that Allspice container was dated 1997.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.