Thanksgiving Revived

A week ago I  read an interesting, humorous post over at the blog, Tales From the Mama Duck. If you liked my story about Firecracker the rooster, you’ll get a chuckle from her post, titled I Can’t Have A Relationship With My Turkey. Click here to read it

Her post brought to mind the account of another dinner menu that was changed in a hurry one Thanksgiving morning. I first posted this in Nov 2013, so I guess can make a second appearance now. This account appeared in New England Scene almost 25 years ago in a collection of humorous Thanksgiving memories. It was submitted by a lady from Tuscon, AZ, USA. I’m retelling her experience as I remember it.

Turkey

Photo from Pixabay

The Thanksgiving Turkey
A Raw Experience

One year someone gave a young wife, new to the farming life, a turkey to raise for Thanksgiving. She got quite enthused and decided when Thanksgiving rolled around she’d invite both her family and his for this Thanksgiving feast.

So she set out to raise the turkey that would grace their festive platter. She decided that a happy bird is bound to be a delicious bird, so she fed her turkey chick by hand. No hard scrabbling for this bird. To encourage optimum growth, she gave her bird many an encouraging word.

The chick grew into a fine specimen of its breed that summer and by fall it had plumped up nicely. In spite of its maturity, it still came running if it saw her outside and tagged along after her. She smiled and pictured a family feast with all the relatives commenting on her tasty turkey. Thanksgiving Day was around the corner and she had issued her invitations.

Over time, though, she smiled less when she looked at her turkey. On the Eve of the event she knew it was time to deal with the Thanksgiving platter’s guest of honor, but a strange sadness niggled at her. When her turkey came running to meet her as she stepped out the door, she burst into tears. She went back into the house sobbing and told her husband, “I can’t do it!”

“Just leave it to me,” he comforted her. “I’ll take care of it. You make room in the fridge.” He went out and came in half an hour later with the limp turkey in his arms. She sniffed the air as he passed and caught a vague whiff of… Chloroform?

Hubby opened the fridge door and stuffed the turkey in, feathers and all. “It can chill in here overnight and we’ll pluck it in the morning.”

She was good with that. Avoiding opening the fridge that evening, she and her husband passed a few relaxing hours. Then, thinking of the busy morning ahead of her — and perhaps feeling some unconscious stress over poor bird — she said,  “I’m sleepy; let’s go to bed.”

She woke up quite early the next morning, her mind on the task at hand. She was anxious to have the turkey plucked, cleaned, and dressed for the oven in good time. She dressed and headed for the kitchen. And when she opened the fridge door the turkey leaped out at her. Its garbled gobble would have translated as “Mom! Save me!”

She screamed and fell in a dead faint. Her husband came running and found her out cold and the well-chilled turkey staggering drunkenly around the kitchen. He must have thought he could avoid the merry chase around the poultry yard and bloody-axe episode by drugging the bird, but hadn’t used enough chloroform. He grabbed it and ran outside, dumping it in the yard. Then he came back to revive his wife, and face the music.

His parents and siblings arrived on time for the Thanksgiving dinner and heard the sad tale of the Thanksgiving bird that got away. The couple invited all the family to a nice meal at the local restaurant. Strangely enough, no one ordered turkey.

From that day on the festive bird enjoyed an unthreatened existence in the farm yard and lived to a ripe old age.

Firecracker

Fandango’s prompt word for today: BELONG

FIRECRACKER: A Feathery Tale

Rooster 2

See that handsome young rooster over there. That’s Firecracker. Raised him from a chick, I did, fed him, fussed over him, gave him lots of TLC so he’d be nice and plump come fall.

He was a cute little guy back then, especially when he started following me around the yard. I’ll admit, I’m going to miss having him tagging along after me, but now that he’s full grown, he’s going to be the star of our Thanksgiving table.

He wasn’t very old when the grandchildren named him Firecracker — and we thought it was kind of a cute name, so it stuck. I’ll tell you why he got that name. Oh, yes, he can make enough noise when he wants to, like at 5am when you’re wanting another hour of sleep. But you should hear him explode when he catches sight of a mouse or rat around the chicken yard. One day the grandchildren were in the yard fussing over him like they do, when he spied a mouse in the grass nearby. They said he went off just like a firecracker and went dashing over to do battle.

He’s been really good that way. Every time he sees a rodent he goes after the thing, calling all his ladies to come help him. He has a certain kind of squawk that says, “Enemy spotted!” and the hens come running. Our dog, Duchess, dashes into the action, too, when she hears that sound. Between them all, they make short work of rodents. I’m thinking poor Duchess will miss Firecracker. The hens will, for sure, but he belongs on our Thanksgiving table.

One thing I’m happy about is how good Firecracker is with the grandchildren when they come over — maybe because they’ve fed him grain and other tidbits ever since he was just a spring chick. Roosters can sometimes be cantankerous, but not him. You know how kids are. As soon as they get here, they rush out to see Firecracker and he usually comes running when he hears their voices, to see what treats they might have for him.

When I told the youngest grandchild last week that Firecracker is going to be our Thanksgiving dinner she got all sober and sad-looking for awhile. I probably shouldn’t have said anything. I guess they’re all going to miss seeing him around after next week.

One of the grandsons must have heard the news, too, because he phoned a few days ago specially to ask if I was really going to cook Firecracker for Thanksgiving. He sounded so blue about it. I told him that Firecracker has had a good life and now it’s time to say goodbye, because he belongs on our Thanksgiving table. That’s what we raised him for.

I’ve got the bread cubed and in the freezer for the stuffing. Next Tuesday my husband’s going to dispatch Firecracker. I’ll tell you, plucking that bird is going to be hard. Oh, hang on a minute…my phone’s ringing. I see my son is calling.

“Hi, Jason. How are things going? Glad to hear it. By the way, I wanted to let you know we’re planning to have our Thanksgiving dinner at 5pm this time… What do you mean, you’re not coming? … Are you saying NONE of you are coming? … But why? I have this huge meal planned… Your kids are all refusing to eat Firecracker? … But he belongs in our Thanksgiving meal. What am I supposed to do with him if… What!?”

Doesn’t that beat all! The grandchildren have emptied their piggy banks and say they want to buy Firecracker. They want to keep him as a pet, of all things, and we can just let him live here. And the family is offering to bring fish for the meal. Jason says none of them know any fish.

Oh, well. Anything for the grandkids, right? The hens will be more content having a rooster around the place, too. And Duchess will be happy if Firecracker stays around, seeing she’s grown so fond of him.

I’m not especially sentimental, but I have, too, if truth be told. 🙂

 

Of Chemicals and Consumers

Fandango’s prompt today: CHEMICAL

I wonder if this word, for most of us, doesn’t bring up negative connotations? We have a love-hate, relationship with the things. Like the old English song about the wife, “You can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.”

Pollution of land, air, sea, and body — this all stems from chemicals, right? They’re keeping us alive longer and at the same time making us more sickly. We want our strawberry ice cream to be pink, our blueberry jelly to be blue, our white flour to be white. Which means we are, by default, consuming dyes and bleaches.

Even with death, we prefer the chemical version. When my birth mother died here in Saskatchewan the family opted to have her cremated. Our family doesn’t really do death and funerals well, so the children opted against having a viewing, so there was no cosmetology used. But I was coming from Quebec and my sister from Alberta, and neither of us had seen her for a good while — in my case it was over fifteen years — and we wanted one last goodbye.

So the funeral home prepared her for viewing that morning. When my birth father heard that I was going to view the body, he decided to go, too. We got there and looked down in her in the coffin they’d put her in, and she looked…well…dead. Her skin tone starting to degenerate in the way dead skin does.

My Dad was okay with it and so was I. He patted her hand and said his good-bye. But I made the mistake of saying in front of my sister, “I guess this is what the Bible means when it says, ‘From dust thou art and to dust though shalt return’.” And my sister burst into tears.

If given a choice, most of us prefer attractive to plain, enhanced to reality, bleached white paper to the natural colour that would come off the rollers in paper mills. But we fuss about pollution and climate change. Over the years we’ve come up with a delightful — at least to the employed — alternative. Companies in North America have shipped their manufacturing jobs to countries where pollution control and worker safety concerns barely affect the product or its cost.

We buy cheap; pollution, wages — or lack of — and safety issues are someone else’s problem. What’s not to love?

The trade deficit, you say? Forgot about that. (Thankfully my own country, Canada, has natural resources to sell, so our deficit isn’t so bad at present.) Immigrants flowing in the front door while jobs are flowing out the back could be an issue, too. However, I’ve heard some people emphatically deny that there’s a lack of jobs for the incoming crowd.

Which brings me to the dilemma I see in North America today: should consumers insist on buying items produced here in our own countries and pay the price — pollution control, wages, company pensions, and public safety costs included? Which means doing with fewer choices and a LOT less stuff. Or shall we continue to support overseas production and let those countries deal with the consequences? (And keep on borrowing from international money lenders to cover trade deficits.)

A person’s answer may well depend on what income bracket they are in.

And I have wandered far off the prompt topic of chemicals.

As I type this, I have bun dough rising in a warm spot. Yeast is a bacteria, not a chemical, so I can’t exactly call dough rising a chemical reaction. But the effect of warm cinnamon rolls on the human palate could maybe be explained as a chemical reaction.

Baking Bread the Irish Way

It’s chilly this morning: Saskatoon thermometer at 7 am read -18̊ / 0̊ F. Pookie, the youngest of our two cats, keeps wanting to go outside and see if things have improved weather-wise, but after three minutes he’s ready to come in again.

Last night I took a notion I’d like to have cinnamon buns for breakfast this morning, so I set out the ingredients before I went to bed. When I got up I mixed the dough. As it turns out, they won’t be baking until mid-morning, but we can have them for our dessert after lunch.

I’ve half an hour before they need punching down, so maybe I can reply to this morning’s prompts and tell you about how a young prairie wife acquired the skill of bread-baking.

Ragtag daily prompt: SKILL
Fandango’s word today: DISRUPT
Word of the Day prompt: WHIFF

I’m not sure where I acquired the skill of baking with yeast, because my mom taught me almost nothing about cooking. Thankfully I had a great mother-in-law who was herself an excellent cook and taught me so much about life, love, and the pursuit of good food.

Like me, Mary hadn’t been taught how to bake before she left home and found herself needing to learn after she was married. I at least watched my dad take golden loaves of bread from the oven when I was a girl, so I knew something. When it came to bread and pies, both Dad and Mom F (I was raised by my uncle and aunt) were excellent bakers, if they had the time.

Mary grew up in Guildford, England, where a baker’s wagon would come down their stree every morning. All her mother had to do was go out to the land and pick whatever baking she wanted for the family that day. After Mary and her husband, a store clerk, immigrated to Saskatchewan she tried to learn baking skills from a recipe book her mother had given her. But her bread didn’t rise, was solid as a rock, or full of holes.

Before long her baking inability was disrupting their marital bliss as well as family finances. “We NEED bread,” her husband told her one day. “Why can’t you make the stuff? It can’t be that hard.”

“I’ve never been taught. I can’t seem to succeed just reading a recipe.”

“Ask one of the neighbour women for help. They all know how.”

Mary thought about the neighbour women she’d seen out and about. They were … well… coarse. Non one she would have ever associated with in England. In Canada things were different, she knew, but she’d listened as they talked and rudely gossiped in the store and didn’t see anything to be gained in associating with them. And then to admit she couldn’t do a simple thing like bake bread? Wouldn’t that get the gossip going!

At the time they were getting a farm paper and she took note of a column offering “Homemaker Hints by Millicent” or some name like that. Women wrote in with a question, which would be printed with the senders initials and the columnist’s response. Mary got her courage up one day and sent a letter to the column, asking Millicent’s advice on baking bread.

About three weeks later she opened this paper, found Millicent’s column — and saw her letter. Oh, but…! Here was her name…and her address…printed for all the world to see. She blushed with shame. All the women in town would be laughing at her. Mary shuddered to think what her husband would say if he ever saw this.

To add insult to injury, the recipe Millicent printed in response was the same one she’d already tried. She shut the paper and tried to forget about it.

The next morning her routine was disrupted by a few hard raps on her door. Mary opened it a crack and saw Mrs Ratigan — one of those “ill-mannered” women who lived nearby. Mary had seen her bustling around town, a large, assertive Irish woman, fussing over the children around her, wiping their drippy noses and giving them a smack when they needed one.

Mary opened the door to ask…and Mrs Ratigan marched right in. She held the incriminating page from the farm paper in her hand. “Mary Watson. Wants to make bread. I read it here.” She grabbed a chair and sat down. “Nobody ever learned to bake bread out of a book. You need a mother to teach you. Where’s your mother?”

Mary recovered from her shock enough to reply. “Back in Guildford, England.”

“Fine. Leave her there. I’‘ll be your mother this morning and we’ll make bread.”

Swallowing her pride, Mary got out her ingredients and Mrs Ratigan started giving instructions. Before the morning was done she’d showed Mary how to mix and knead, how long to let the dough rise, how to test it. Mary learned how to form loaves, eliminate air bubbles, and how to bake them.

As soon as the loaves were in the oven Mary made tea. Mrs Ratigan sat at the table and watched her pour. After a few sips, she said, “The good Lord never said a person always has to have Irish coffee. There’s Irish tea, too, you know, dear.”

Mary laughed and took the hint. She got the bottle of her husband’s brandy from the cupboard and handed it to her “mother for the day”, thinking it would likely make an acceptable substitute for Irish whiskey.

Mrs Ratigan opened the bottle, took a whiff, then poured a generous smack of it into her tea. Taking a sip, she grinned and said, “If you weren’t an Anglican, I’d say you’re one of the true faith.”

Mary laughed again. She was coming to like this cheerful, motherly neighbour.

Mary poured tea and Mrs Ratigan poured out the flavouring. By the time she left there wasn’t much left of the bottle of brandy, but Mary thought her husband would forgive the loss when he saw four lovely loaves of bread and some buns waiting for him when he came home from the store.

She’d been fearful about how the women in town would talk about her and treat her once they read her letter in Millicent’s column, but things turned out for the best after all. Sharing her need actually brought her friendly smiles and greetings from the town wives and made some satisfying friendships.

Visiting with one of these new friends sometime later, Mary discussed how embarrassed she’d been when Mrs Ratigan arrived at her door waving that paper. “Now the whole town knew! I was so ashamed and just cringed to think what you’d all be saying about me.”

“Oh, you needn’t have worried. It felt like you were one of us at last.” Her friend smiled. “Besides, Mrs Ratigan informed us all that if she ever heard anyone laughing at you, she’d conk them in the nose.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, by now my cinnamon buns are in the pan, rising. The faintest whiff of cinnamon lingers in my kitchen and it will soon be a delightful fragrance. Can’t you just taste it? Almost as good as chocolate. 😉

Attractive Offers

Parking

As you can see, parking was tight in front of the Haggleburg General Store two days before Thanksgiving.

The reason for this was obvious to everyone who lived there. On the Monday before the holiday Geordie MacLellan, a poultry farmer west of town, would butcher his young turkeys. This gave local cooks time to choose their birds and get them in the oven for Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal. On Tuesday morning Geordie’s three teenage daughters came to town and set up a table beside the General Store. Here they would sell fresh young turkeys all morning.

Everyone knew Geordie’s birds were attractive, plump speciens with nicely toned flesh and exquisite drumsticks. In the heat they’d toast up to an appealing golden brown. The street by the store would be crowded as young bachelors from the surrounding area came to eye Georgie’s birds and dream of home- cooked feasts.

Of course they planned to do a little visiting with Geordie’s daughters, too, the girls being quite attractive in their own way. Seasoned cooks sorting through the poultry would wink at each other as some young blade let it be known, in forlorn tones, that he had no plans for a Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone knew the girls were allowed to invite guests — but no more than a dozen! — for the day.

The MacLellan girls were reputed to be as good cooks as their mother. And the MacLellan men liked to eat. An invitation to join Geordie’s family for a holiday meal was the ticket to a day in gourmet glory. Young men made sure they got to town very early that day to do their shopping.

So now you know, too, why parking spaces were hard to find on Main Street in Haggleburg on the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving.

I really went to town with Fandango’s prompt today: PARKING

Coffee Quip

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today: COFFEE

Such an easy-to-work-with prompt and a delightful thought for most of us, I can’t let the day slip by without adding my response to the many already lined up. And GoodReads offered me this gem:

 

“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”
Dave Barry

Coffee drinker

Pixabay