Jeff Smith 6 p.m., Oct. 8
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- Vista Blues
Thanksgiving...The Reason vs The Fiction.
"Thanksgiving...is where you get the turkey and I get the feathers." --from a Pat Oliphant cartoon (1977)
In a few weeks, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving, or as my grandmother Franny calls it (yes, she'll be celebrating birthday number 95 on the 12th) "Turkey Day." Lots of folks will be celebrating the day with two NFL games on the tube, lots of turkey with the trimmings, pumpkin pie--and praying that Prankster Uncle Jimmy didn't slip something into the corn-meal dressing.
However, the way we celebrate this holiday was far, far different that the Pilgrims did when they "broke bread" (rather than broke heads) with the Native American tribes on that cold fall day. First off the bat, it was the "dinner guests (the actual hosts, btw)" that brought most of the dinner.
The Native Americans in that region celebrated a autumn harvest festival, and decided to include their new neighbors--The Pilgrims--in that autumn's feast. Not willing to pass up a free feed, the Pilgrims dug in! They dined on venison, fowl (ducks and geese), corn, beer, and small ale. There was no real mention of turkey in the menu of the first Thanksgiving...at least by the Pilgrim's accounts.
Besides, the turkeys on the American Continent were definitely NOT Butterball-standard birds! Real WILD Turkey meat has a bluish tinge to it, a much richer taste, and isn't loaded with steroids and antibiotics.
The reason our modern-day "supermarket turkeys" look like they do comes from the early 1950's, from a survey done by a research group. According to these folks, most of the respondents liked the "breast meat" the most, and wanted turkeys with bigger pectoral muscles to sate that desire. Hence came Ol' Butterball--a white turkey fed steroids, antibiotics, and other stuff to "give the buying public what they want."
Problem is, your typical bird found at Von's or Ralph's may have all that "yummy" breast meat, but when stacked against a free-range bird (or one taken in the field and prepped right), guess what? That "Butterball" wasn't so smart an idea to begin with. Try "Oilball," and you'll get the idea.
Besides, anybody who understands Home Economics knows that the "Dark Meat" (thigh and leg meat) is more nutritious, since it has a high concentration of "B"-family vitamins. All that the breast meat offers is as high concentration of tryptophane--the hormone that induces the after-meal snooze after Thanksgiving (or Christmas) Dinner.
Also, Americans did not celebrate "Thanksgiving" as a national holiday until 1863, to help with the Civil War effort (which is also why we have "In God We Trust" on our money, btw). The "Thanksgiving Story" we grew up believing as kids? THAT bit of fiction (complete with turkey as main course and the Pilgrims as the hosts) was coined-and-popularized in the 1890's by Currier and Yves!
Frankly, however, Thanksgiving Day takes on different meanings for different folks. Some folks spend the day in introspection, giving thanks for every blessing in their lives. Some spend the morning in church--then spend the rest of the day communing with their families and friends.
Some unfortunates will get a turkey dinner from a charity kitchen...then go back to their lives surviving on the streets, thankful for when each sunrise welcomes them to another day. Others will break bread with their squaddies and shipmates, in uniformed service to America (at home and overseas) in the Armed Forces.
An unfortunate few will have to toil on this day to keep the great engine of retail sales purring smoothly along--as well to prep for the next day...Black Friday...when the Christmas Shopping season begins dark-and-early at 06:00 hrs. Others work at public safety jobs, praying for a calm day and a calm populace.
Those who work in hospitals have to toil this day as well--for accidents, disease, and other violations of the human body know no holidays, nor take a day off. So it is with them, so it is with those who are charged with healing-and-repairing our bodies from the damage caused.
For myself, Thanksgiving Day will be spent like any other day. On my grill will be two marinated turkey thighs (soy sauce, terriaki sauce, ginger, and sake), served with mashed potatoes, corn, and garlic bread. No dessert, but perhaps a liter of iced tea.
Other than that, I will be giving thanks that God let me live another year--and that I no longer work in retail. However you celebrate (turkey, Tofurkey, or prime rib) is your choice. However, a bit of introspection about what you have to be thankful for never hurts.
Happy Thanksgiving, folks! --RKJ