Conan The Barbarian and The Turkey of Doom

Well, I was trying to be witty with the title, but sometimes I don’t quite hit it. This is about dealing with the leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. I did something this year that was always my mother’s job — ripping all the remaining meat off the carcass. This was always a job done by hand and it can get pretty ugly. My wife left the room because she did not want to witness me defiling the carcass.

There was grease all over me from the turkey fat if you saw me from behind there was meat flying off to one side and bones off to the other. It was a real mess getting the meat off the bones, but I did it in a timely fashion. We couldn’t store the carcass whole as it was too big for our refrigerator and well, bird carcass isn’t very visually pleasing to my wife. In the end I ended up with several pounds of meat so what did I do next? Well I waited a few days because other things came up, but yesterday I through the now finely shredded meat into a pot with a lovely mixture of celery, onions and carrots, i.e. the classic mire poix. To this I added three tablespoons of a spice mix called Pride of Prague which is a really good spice blend from Urban Accents. I let this all boil slowly for about an hour after adding some chicken stock and added some peas and corn in the last half hour. Now that I think about it, bacon should have been there somewhere.

In the end it tasted great and the soup/stew weighed in at a little over 10 pounds. Now my mom never really liked to eat dark meat when she could see it, just like I as a kid never liked to eat vegetables unless they were in a soup. She used to buy only a turkey breast for thanksgiving because she felt since she only like white meat that would waste the least amount of meat. That’s true, but it also cost her over $20. We decided to go cheap this year and got an 11 lb turkey for $5, yes, you read that right. Safeway was selling 8-12 lb turkeys for $5. If you purchased $25 in groceries.

We figured we could find something to do with the rest of the meat and when dark meat is finely chopped and boiled in chicken stock with some vegetables it’s pretty unrecognizable. So what did I learn from this? For under $10 we were able to get over a weeks worth of food. Top that one.


The History of Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, the day when we eat way too much, drink way too much and we all fall into what has been referred to as the Turkey Coma after dinner. This is the biggest day of the year for feeding the rich and the poor so I decided to take a look into the history of this all American holiday.

Well first off, it’s not just celebrated by Americans. Maybe on this day it is, but there are many other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving as well. The fourth Thursday of November was declared to be the official celebration date of Thanksgiving by congress in 1941. The same year we entered into World War II. Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. Grenada celebrates Thanksgiving on October 25th, but that has nothing to do with pilgrims, but is a giving of thanks for the 1983 US invasion. Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday in November. The Netherlands celebrate Thanksgiving on whatever day we tell them we’re going to celebrate it in honor of the Dutch pilgrims who moved here because of the hospitality they received in Leiden on their way. The Australian territory of Norfolk Island celebrates Thanksgiving on the last Wednesday of November because American whaling ships dropped by and said, let’s eat!

Now the oddest thing about this holiday around the world is that except for Grenada, no one can pin it down to an exact date. Christmas or yule is always on the 25th of December. Valentine’s day is always February 14th. The Fourth of July is always on, well, you get my point. Easter always changes dates, but I guess that’s because people are confused about how our lord and savior pooped out multicolored hard boiled eggs while coming back to life and gave them to bunnies to hide for the little kids to find.

But getting back to the point…Thanksgiving was a end of the harvest celebration for years that finally got it’s name in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared November 26th a day for all to give thanks. What people refer to as the first Thanksgiving that the pilgrims celebrated was [and I lifted this from the font of all truths, Wikipedia]:

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated to give thanks to God for guiding them safely to the New World. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing enough food for 13 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. The feast consisted of fish (codeels, and bass) and shellfish (clamslobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducksgeeseswans, and turkey), venisonberries and fruitvegetables (peaspumpkinbeetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and the Three Sistersbeans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings” — days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

Three days of eating and turkey was just a small part of it. Since the first pilgrims were near the coast, seafood was probably the biggest protein they consumed during this time. The holiday wasn’t as secular as it is today and I still haven’t been able to find out how the turkey became the center piece, but it seems that turkey day started in the 20th century.

I had never thought about it, but there is also some controversy associated with Thanksgiving and I quote [once again from wikipedia]:

Much like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving is seen by some as a celebration of the conquest and genocide of Native Americans by European colonists. Professor Dan Brook of UC Berkeley condemns the “cultural and political amnesia” of Americans that celebrate Thanksgiving, saying that “We do not have to feel guilty, but we do need to feel something.” Professor Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin is somewhat harsher, saying that “One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.”

Since 1970, the United American Indians of New England, a protest group led by Frank “Wamsutta” James that has accused the United States and European settlers of fabricating the Thanksgiving story and whitewashing a supposed genocide and injustice against Indians, has led a National Day of Mourning protest on Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the name of social equality and in honor of political prisoners.

Another notable example of anti-Thanksgiving sentiment was when hundreds of supporters traveled to Alcatraz on Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the Occupation of Alcatraz by Indians of All Tribes. The American Indian Movement also holds a negative view of Thanksgiving and has used it as a platform of protest, most notably when they took over a Mayflower float in a Thanksgiving Day parade. Some Native Americans hold “Unthanksgiving Day” celebrations in which they mourn the deaths of their ancestors, fast, dance, and pray. This tradition has been taking place since 1975. 

However, the perception of Thanksgiving among Native Americans is not universally negative. Tim Giago, founder of the Native American Journalists Organization, seeks to reconcile Thanksgiving with Native American traditions. He compares Thanksgiving to “wopila,” a thanks-giving celebration practiced by Native Americans of the Great Plains. He writes in The Huffington Post that “the idea of a day of Thanksgiving has been a part of the Native American landscape for centuries. The fact that it is also a national holiday for all Americans blends in perfectly with Native American traditions.” He also shares personal anecdotes of Native American families coming together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Jacqueline Keeler of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux also celebrates Thanksgiving. She sees it as a celebration of Wampanoag generosity to starving, impoverished colonists while still lamenting the violence that followed. Members of the Oneida Indian Nation marched in the 2010 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a float called “The True Spirit of Thanksgiving.”

Well, I guess giving thanks for successfully invading another people’s lands could piss a few people off, but it wasn’t like they didn’t have a hand in it. The Indian tribes that the first pilgrims interacted with actually gave from their food stores to help them through the winter because they didn’t have enough when they arrived.

All in all, Thanksgiving to me is just a day to gorge yourself on food. Now we just have to figure out how to get our $5 Safeway turkey that’s been in the refrigerator for two days to defrost so we can cook it today.

Thanksgiving Humor

So I’ll assume by now that we’re all overstuffed with Turkey or Tofurky and are trying to keep from nodding off so I thought I’d share a joke my old boss Jay Walsh sent me this morning:

“A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to “clean up” the bird’s vocabulary. Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s outstretched arms and said: “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior.” John was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, “May I ask what the turkey did?”

Happy Thanksgiving!