Tag Archive | Thanksgiving

Turkey Tomfoolery

Everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving Bird

November 23, 2021

A native to North America, this bird – which takes center stage this week – is, perhaps, the best representative of all that is uniquely American.

The turkey, it turns out, has been around a long time. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

There’s even a giant turkey statue in Frazee, Minnesota

“The earliest turkeys evolved in North America over 20 million years ago and they share a recent common ancestor with grouse, pheasants, and other fowl. The wild turkey species is the ancestor of the domestic turkey, which was domesticated approximately 2,000 years ago.”

The Aztec culture developed a myriad of recipes for the fowl, many of which are still used in Mexico today. We know that the turkey was known in North America when the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, documented as being served at the first Thanksgiving.

Since then, the turkey has come to be THE meat to serve on the fourth Thursday in November and, for many families, at their Christmas feast also.

Of course there is a good case to be made for cooking a turkey. The size of the fowl, unlike a chicken, make it possible to feed a large group with just one bird. The Guiness Book of World Records tells us:

“The greatest dressed weight recorded for a turkey is 39.09 kg (86 lb) for a stag named Tyson reared by Philip Cook of Leacroft Turkeys Ltd, Peterborough, United Kingdom. It won the last annual `heaviest turkey’ competition, held in London on 12 December 1989, and was auctioned for charity for a record £;4400 (then $6,692).”

That’s a lot of leftovers!

Some of my earliest childhood memories center around Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners both of which featured a large turkey.

An annual tradition is for a pair of turkey’s to get a Presidential Pardon. Pictured at the White House are Peanut Butter and Jelly, the 2021 turkey’s.

Because the family ate ‘dinner’ at noon, that meant my mother (or my aunt if we were going to their house) was up at four a.m. to get the bird in the oven. It was always a treat to awaken to the smell of roasting turkey.

My job, when I was a child, was to set the table with my mother’s china. Oh how I loved the anticipation of that meal.

It was sometime in the mid-1980’s when I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal. After the hubby and I married in 1980, we ping-ponged between our two families, never giving a thought as to the work it took to create the feast.

Our first Thanksgiving as a married couple found us in Blaine with his family. When we walked into his parent’s turn of the century farm house that November 27th, the kitchen was in a state of being updated. The hubby’s dad had recently built an ‘island’ in the middle of the kitchen to house the pride and joy of my mother-in-law’s kitchen: a Jenn-Air cooktop.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the original Jenn-Air was a cooktop only and featured burners, grills, and griddles which were all a standard shape and size. These cartridges were ‘plugged’ into a power source. The typical Jenn-Air had two cartridge slots on either side with a down draft fan in the center; you mixed and match your elements. It was easy, for example, to remove the two burner cartridge and plug in the grill.

A Jenn-Air cooktop circa 1980

My mother-in-law was VERY excited to use her new cooktop. There was only one problem… it was a cooktop and, at that time, there was not a conventional oven in the kitchen.

Which brings us back to the issue of cooking a turkey. No matter how wonderful the Jenn-Air cooktop might be, it wasn’t going to be able to cook a 12 to 16 pound bird.

But never fear, dear readers, because there was another new – unknown technology – appliance in the house that year: the microwave oven.

Now, in 1980 hardly anyone understood the advantages or disadvantages of the microwave. In fact, only some 25 percent of U.S. households owned one. The average new microwave cost about $400 which in 2021 dollars is about $1300. Microwave manufacturers were busy touting how great this new ‘oven’ was. We had all been told that the microwave could do everything a traditional oven could do, but would take less time and cook more efficiently.

And that’s how we ended up eating a Turkey cooked entirely in a microwave! That bird got flipped and turned more times than an Olympic Pairs figure skater. And it took much, much longer than anyone could anticipate. For HOURS the microwave was cooking that bird with, it seemed, minimal impact.

Companies advertised microwaves as being able to cook just as well as a conventional oven.

Finally, rather late in the day, the turkey was declared done and dinner was served.

The turkey was nearly inedible.

Rather than a nice roasted brown color, it was gray. There was no crispiness to the skin, no yummy juice coating it.

When the knife cut into the bird for carving, the meat was stringy and tough.

Of course we all made the best of the situation. And it was a rapid learning event in regards to microwaves. They are great for some things, but not for cooking whole turkeys (or other poultry and meats in my opinion).

I also SHOULD have learned that doing kitchen remodels on top of a major holiday is a bad idea. Unfortunately, it was a lesson that I promptly forgot on several occasions in subsequent years. But that’s a story (or two) for another day.

This year I am the one hosting Thanksgiving and am thankful that my in laws will be joining us on Thursday. My turkey will never see the inside of a microwave. Call me a traditionalist, but there are some things which are sacred. A properly cooked Thanksgiving turkey is one of them.

My mother’s china on the table I set for Thanksgiving 2018 – the last one with my Dad.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_(bird)

I purposefully didn’t comment on this photo which I posted on Facebook along with the link to this article. Why? This was from Thanksgiving a few years ago when the larger of our two ovens ‘failed’. I was unable to fit a full size Turkey in the smaller oven and had to cut the bird in half and turn it on its side to cook. Now that was quite the chore! That turkey – unlike the one in the microwave – DID come out just fine after I performed my surgery (as pictured)

The Fourth Thursday in November

November 26, 2019

…A National Day of thanksgiving

v-70 first english thanksgiving in virginia.jpgThe celebration of harvest by setting aside a day of ‘thanksgiving’ is a tradition long observed by people the world over.  Most Americans embrace the idea that the first Thanksgiving was held in Plymouth, Massachusetts, by the pilgrims who settled the wilderness there in 1621.

Virginia Thanksgiving

An early Thanksgiving in Virginia 1619

But a historical look at ‘thanksgiving’ celebrations indicates a more haphazard approach. In fact, colonists in Virginia also held feasts of ‘thanksgiving’ during the early years of European settlements and a number of years before the New England events. In subsequent years such feasts were declared from time to time, occurring whenever it seemed a good idea for a few days of eating and celebration.

It was George Washington, as the first president, who by proclamation made Thursday, November 26, 1789, a national day of Thanksgiving.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“As President, on October 3, 1789, George Washington made the following proclamation and created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government of the United States of America:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.’”

Although additional ‘days of thanksgiving’ were proclaimed over the years, it was during the Civil War when the last Thursday of November became the traditional celebration date. And, in a coincidence, it was also November 26th for that official celebration.

Controversy arose, however, when – during Franklin Roosevelt’s term as President –there was a ‘fifth’ Thursday.  Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“On October 6, 1941, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution fixing the traditional last-Thursday date for the holiday beginning in 1942. However, in December of that year the Senate passed an amendment to the resolution that split the difference by requiring that Thanksgiving be observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November, which was usually the last Thursday and sometimes (two years out of seven, on average) the next to last. The amendment also passed the House, and on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed this bill, for the first time making the date of Thanksgiving a matter of federal law and fixing the day as the fourth Thursday of November.

For several years some states continued to observe the last-Thursday date in years with five November Thursdays (the next such year being 1944), with Texas doing so as late as 1956.”

Eventually, however, everyone got on board with the change which, of course, made the planning of parades, retail sales, and football games much easier.

For me, Thanksgiving was always a long anticipated day. My family moved to Yakima in 1961 and, as a small girl of four years, I had no prior memories of the event.  All my recollections are of the two holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – being spent at either my family’s house or that of my cousins.

Being that my cousins’ house was a short walk down 31st Avenue, it became tradition that our two families of six each – along with my maternal grandparents – would spend Thanksgiving together.

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Royal Doulton Country Roses China

I loved going to their house for the holiday for a number of reasons, the first being that my Aunt Helen set the most gorgeous table.  Even as a child I loved china and hers – Royal Doulton Old Country Roses pattern – was exquisite.

Second, her dining room was not big enough to accommodate 14 people… so the five younger children (2 boys, 3 girls) were relegated to the kitchen table WITH the pocket door closed. It was glorious. Behind that closed door, mischief abounded with my brother – who was four years older than I – the main mischief maker. There were jokes told, inappropriate noises, and much laughter. We thought we were the lucky ones not having to endure the boring adult conversations which seemed to center on who was sick or had died that year.

The third, and my favorite, reason I loved going to the cousins’ was because of their basement.  After dinner (which was ALWAYS served at 1 p.m.) we were sent downstairs. That basement was the one place in my fastidious Aunt’s house where we could play without concern over too much noise.

Oh the adventures we had. Like the time we set up the Ouija Board and invoked spirits (of the dead relatives) only to have the basement window bang open at the exact moment of contact! And the time that my sister and cousin Tim put on a play in the basement, complete with a curtain and props, and a surprise ending. 145568-004-DE99C63D.jpgMy uncle had an old pump organ down there which fascinated me as I pumped the pedals and pulled on knobs to create different sounds as I ‘played’ the instrument.  We never ran out of things to do and I was always sad when the hour grew late and we had to return home.

When I think of my many blessings in life, I’m especially thankful for my childhood and those special holidays I spent with my siblings and cousins. At the time I did not appreciate the transitory nature of life and thought it would always be that way.

I’ve come to cherish Thanksgiving and have to say that it’s truly my favorite holiday. At no other time do we pause to give thanks for all our blessings and the people who make our lives richer and better.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

As always, a link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_(United_States)