(Nov. 16) -- Cooking a turkey isn't rocket science, but you'd be surprised at how many birdbrained questions people have when it comes to actually preparing the Thanksgiving staple.
"What do I do if my turkey is on fire?" "When do I have to put my turkey in the oven to have it ready exactly by half-time?"
For the past 29 years, silly, strange questions like these have been handled by the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, a free, 24-hour, call-in hot line staffed by expertly trained operators who know the ins and outs of preparing the perfect holiday gobbler.
Headquartered in Naperville, Ill., the Talk-Line is open to callers in the U.S. and Canada throughout November and December by calling 800-BUTTERBALL.
Those who phone in with questions about cooking their Thanksgiving meals are greeted by one of 52 highly qualified turkey pros, such as Talk-Line director Mary Clingman, who's fielded endless weird calls during her 25 years at the holiday hot line.
Clingman told AOL News that some of her wackiest phone encounters include the time she stayed on the line with a rookie Thanksgiving cook as he wandered aimlessly through a grocery store buying every single one of the ingredients to make his meal. Clingman said the man wanted to be sure he got exactly what he needed, down to the turkey.
Another time, she answered the phone to a frazzled new dad whose wife had just had a baby. The man was nervous that their thawing turkey had been left out too long while they were away at the hospital and when Clingman asked him how much it weighed, the distracted but proud papa replied, "The turkey or the baby?"
Then there's the year Clingman's own son called into the Talk-Line for some very basic turkey advice. He was away at college and wanted to cook a Thanksgiving meal for his roommates, but his plan was foiled from the start.
"My son was wondering what to cook the turkey on and had chosen a cookie sheet because he didn't have a roasting pan. The drippings from the turkey got everywhere, all over his oven, and set off the smoke detectors in his building," she recounted with a laugh.
Another time, Clingman said a woman called in wondering if it was all right to cook her turkey on a bed of cat litter. Seriously.
But, Clingman said one of her all-time funniest calls came from a woman in Colorado who had the bright idea to bury her Thanksgiving turkey in a snow bank until she was ready to thaw and cook it.
"It had snowed heavily the night before, and when she went out to get it in the morning, she couldn't find it in the snow. She had absolutely no idea where her turkey went; she lost her turkey!" Clingman remembered.
For that particular caller, there wasn't much practical advice to give, so Clingman simply suggested the woman rush out to the market for a new turkey and maybe put up a red flag as a marker in the snow next time.
Fellow Talk-Line veteran Marge Klindera, who's taken calls for the past 28 years, can also vouch for some wacky turkey questions over the seasons.
"One call I still laugh over was the man who called in stressed out because the turkey he bought was too big for his oven. As we talked, he decided to wrap it in a towel, take it outside and stomp on it to break a few bones. He finally made it fit into the oven and he was just so proud," Klindera told AOL News. "That was a great call."
Of course, not every inquiry that comes into the Talk-Line is bizarre.
Both Clingman and Klindera agreed that the hot line's No. 1 most frequently asked question revolves around how to thaw a turkey. They said people also fret about overcooking their turkeys and how to tell if they're actually done.
Klindera's advice? Buy a meat thermometer and stick it in the bird. It's that simple.
"It's the best way to tell when it's ready," she said.
Another tip: Take a deep breath and don't panic about cooking Thanksgiving dinner because, according to Clingman, it's a piece of cake.
"The turkey is easy; the oven does all the work for you. You don't have to baste it or turn it over a bunch of times, just let it cook and keep an eye on it. Basting a turkey is like pouring water on a raincoat: it's not going to do anything. The real key to a moist turkey is to avoid overcooking," she explained.
Despite the easiness of preparing a fine holiday feast, the ladies still get tons of frantic calls each year, with people on the verge of tears on the other end.
They chalk up the panic to the pressures associated with cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a big group, especially if the in-laws are coming over.
"We can help you, even in those moments of total despair, when you think dinner is ruined," Clingman insisted. "It's not over. You can almost always save your turkey."
"We never get stumped [on questions], either. We can always figure out some sort of solution. We're here to hold your hand and reassure you that it's going to be fine. We're like calling your mom," Klindera added.
Except, of course, these surrogate mothers have a lot more on their plate around the holidays.
Klindera said the Talk-Line takes at least 100,000 calls from folks every season -- 10,000 to 12,000 calls on Thanksgiving Day alone, when it's open for questions between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
After a long season of helping strangers with their turkey troubles, Clingman and Klindera admitted that they're not exactly pumped up to cook Thanksgiving dinner for their own families.
Luckily, their loved ones understand and usually take over the holiday cooking duties instead. Clingman and Klindera just show up to eat.
Being a guest to Thanksgiving dinner instead of hosting? Now, there's something to be thankful for.
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