It’s Thanksgiving today, a truly American holiday. It occurred to me yesterday as I was Skyping with Gracie in London that maybe folks outside of the States needed a little tutorial regarding this day and its significance, so here it goes.
“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” ~ Johannes A. Gaertner.
A lot of our history is lost in the mists so time so my rendition of this story rests largely on the the common generic elementary school model which is basically what we all cling to dispite all the attempts to make the record straight. This all took place in the seventeenth century on the East Coast of the US in the area of Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. So, the story goes that the European folk, who are called Pilgrims (yes,Pilgrims) came here largely on faith to set up a new life free from religious persecution. Maybe they were short on practical knowledge and survival skills. Due to the help of the Native Americans the Pilgrims made it through their first year and here they were at harvest time. Things were so abundant and joyful that they decided that a big dinner party was in order so they invited the local tribe members who helped make their survival possible.
And this thanksgiving meal at harvest time with definite types of foods that the new environs provided is the basis for what we do on the fourth Thursday of the month of November. Also, included is the gratefulness that we all owe God for the bounty of Mother Nature. Also included is the idea that we invite family and friends and new folks and strangers so that everyone has somewhere to go and everyone gets fed. We try our best to make that happen and it goes to the extreme that American service members will be served hot (or semi hot turkey) on the battlefield or in the MON ( Middle of Nowhere) or wherever on this day.
Because Gracie in London, who is a native of Australia, had never tasted some of these foods I will run through the menu. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without these although there might be a variation or substitute in an emergency.
First of all the centerpiece is turkey which is generally a farm raised bird now but the original was the wild turkey which there are still plenty of and may grace the table of a hunting family. Think about it being a giant chicken but with a chicken weighing a few pounds and a turkey weighing ten times that. It is generally brought to the table whole in all its golden brown roasted glory and carved there. White meat comes off the breast which goes to the white meat people and the dark meat coming off the legs goes to the dark meat people. Yea, Americans either are one or the other.
Cooked inside the body cavity of the turkey in the oven is the mysterious stuff called stuffing. It is little cubes of bread with onion and celery and herbs. Everyone’s different family has a old family recipe that reflects their separate traditions and that they cling to no matter what. Rebecca makes one based on corn bread which reflects her Southern upbringing. It is spooned out of the bird on the table when the bird is served. Sometimes it is baked separately in a pan to shorten the cooking time of the turkey. But in the old days it was “stuffed” into the bird.
So, next are the mashed potatoes (white potato generally), smooth and creamy served with a brown gravy made from the drippings of the roasting bird. Fancy gravy would have giblets in it which is the cooked and diced heart, liver and gizzard. This follows the “waste not want not” rule. Next to that is cranberry sauce which is a tart dark red sauce or perhaps relish made from this particular swamp berry. Then there will be a veggie, perhaps green beans or Brussells sprouts, generally something green. Can you visualize the whole plate with the different colors?
Then, another must is the dessert of pumpkin pie. A pumpkin is a squash that grows on a vine in the garden. It is big and orange. So the pie is made by cooking the meat of the pumpkin and adding other things to make an orange custard and that goes onto a pie crust. No top crust so you can see the great color of it easily. It is usually served with a dollop of whipped cream on top.
There, I think that I did the thing justice. I am a white meat guy by the way and Rebecca is a dark meat person so we balance out beautifully. So, wherever you are, Happy Thansgiving To you and yours. White meat loves, Felipe.