Originally Published: November 23, 2015 6:01 a.m.
I am done with turkey! Yes, Dear Readers, the big beast of a bird that is the Thanksgiving tradition in most American households is staying in the chicken coop this year. I refuse to brine (newest trend that seems way too difficult), will not be using one of those burn-down-the-house hot oil cookers that require a fireman stand close by and won't be having the oven on for six hours (and drying up the meat). I am turning over a new Thanksgiving leaf. Time for change in the kitchen!
Did you know that one million people will call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line around the holidays? From anxious first-time cooks to experienced chefs, it seems every now and then, it helps to "talk turkey" with an expert. There are 50 "turkey experts" standing by to advise people on how to safely thaw out a bird (no, do NOT put it in the bathtub with your children) to how to speed up the cooking process when you forget to turn the oven on (impossible to do). One lady called in screaming because she dropped a frozen turkey on her little poodle. She was told to take the doggy to the pet hospital.
If a million people a year have been calling in to hotlines about cooking turkeys for the past 35 years, it tells me that something is way too complicated! And maybe the only reason we eat a turkey is because it is big enough to feed a crowd, even if we don't necessarily like it. Uh oh, now the emails will be flying my way. But honestly, how many times a year do people actually make turkey dinners? Ha! Once. And we all suffer through it.
So how is your Thanksgiving shaping up? I sometimes wonder if the Pilgrims would understand this holiday. If we really wanted to celebrate the original "Thanksgiving experience," what we might do is something completely different. Why get cozy with the same old turkey when we could try, for just one day, to be like those brave souls who were struggling to survive in a strange new world?
Imagine getting on a ship, going off to a place unknown, unsettled, with only hopes and dreams of a better life. One hundred men, women and children spent 66 days crossing the Atlantic to come to a "New World," overcoming harsh circumstances, sickness and fear. Native peoples, different foods, no way back home and bad weather were but a few of the challenges that faced these folks. They must have been very grateful that they made it through a year in the wilderness called America. So in1621, one group of weary and thankful Pilgrims joined in to feast with the Wampanoag tribe.
I would have loved to be sitting at that table. Communication had to be a barrier. Maybe not so different than sitting around the table with your own grandkids and realizing you have no idea what that new tattoo means, and wondering why they are texting or tweeting during dinner. Life is not just a Facebook moment! Yikes, a modern-day Thanksgiving can be just as much a culture clash as the original!
Is Thanksgiving interfering with shopping? Yes, the stores are open and people will shop. Hmm ... maybe Thanksgiving will become the "Early Bird Special." That would be a shame, since it is the one day that symbolizes the pure spirit of giving thanks in the midst of hardship. In some ways, it is the best of all holidays - no gifts to commercialize it, no religion to limit it, no elf to trivialize it - just one day in November to give thanks for all that we have and to remember where we came from.
Thanksgiving used to be celebrated before the traditional date, but in 1864 Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the last Thursday in November as a time for all Americans to observe "a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God." Still reeling from the effects of the Civil War, Lincoln asked Americans to pray "for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union and harmony throughout the land."
What are you thankful for this year? How might your Thanksgiving Day dinner compare to those early settlers who gathered around a long table, grateful for life, holding on to hope and dreaming of a bright future? More holidays are coming. With one feast fast approaching, there are several more opportunities before Christmas to "experiment" in the kitchen. Oh, and if you have a recipe for turducken in light béarnaise sauce, give me call.
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at email@example.com.