Month: November 2009

Thanksgiving Redux

POSTED BY ON FRI, NOV 20, 2009 AT 8:09 AM

As I prepare to make not one, but two turkeys this upcoming week, I think back to a column I wrote in 2003 about Thanksgiving in Lingo Yarns, once upon a time when I was editor of this fine rag.
As I read through it now, I reminisce about my girl spawn who was so innocent and young six years ago. My how time flies. Perhaps I’ll have an update on Squanto from her next week.

Here is the 2003 column for your pleasure…
When you sit down at the dinner table over this next week, first eating the big turkey, then the myriad of secondary dishes made from the leftovers, it might be food for thought to contemplate these Thanksgiving facts and myths.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November as established by the United States Congress in 1941. This was a compromise between tradition and a non-binding presidential declaration. Two years before, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared that turkey day should be celebrated on the next to last Thursday of November rather than the last Thursday of the month—to lengthen the period of time for the Christmas shopping season. In those years, you see, it was uncool to shop for Christmas until after Thanksgiving but coming out of the depression the middle-class merchants needed all the help they could get. Today, big corporate stores start setting up after Halloween and holiday catalogs begin arriving just after we’ve thrown out all the back-to-school catalogs. “Oh come, all ye faithful…”
Before Roosevelt’s declaration in support of America’s merchants, Thanksgiving had been recognized for only 76 years as an annual event. In 1863 president Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November in an effort to help forge a national identity during the tumultuous divisions between Americans resulting from the Civil War. It was also a way to welcome the huge influx of immigrants coming to America by involving them in a common, American holiday.
Several other presidents had proclaimed days of thanksgiving. James Madison declared the holiday twice in 1815. John Adams proclaimed it in 1798 and 1799 and George Washington in 1789 and 1795. The only thing was, none of these days of Thanksgiving were in the fall. George Washington, while leading the revolutionary forces declared a day of Thanksgiving in December, 1777, but it was a victory celebration for beating the British at Saratoga.
Prior to that, communities would hold Thanksgivings which were primarily glorified harvest festivals. There was no particular day, differing from colony to colony and in unfavorable harvest years some celebrated with a fast. Algonkian tribes in the area held six thanksgiving festivals during the year. The first pilgrim’s Thanksgiving was actually the local tribe’s fifth celebration of the year.
We can thank the American Public School system for teaching us that in 1621, the Wampanoag Indians and the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth celebrated their friendship through a fall feast, which actually was a three-day event. We are taught that the Wampanoags tutored the Pilgrims how to grow foods, how to harvest the native flora and fauna and various survival tactics. It took the Pilgrims two years to get it right because it wasn’t until 1623 that they had enough food to hold another feast.
Today, the USDA estimates that 269 million turkeys were raised in 2003, with a good portion allocated to the annual gorge fest. Most families enjoy turkey, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, yams or sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and for desert, pumpkin pie. These, most Americans believe (like they believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11), were the dishes served to the Pilgrims by the Indians. Historians believe that turkey was probably not served at the first Thanksgiving. Nor was corn on the cob, mashed potatoes or pumpkins in any form. What they agree on is that cranberries were most likely served in some fashion, as well as venison, other fowl like geese and ducks and probably some kind of squash and breads made from ground corn, but not on the cob.
I asked my daughter, age seven, what she knew about Thanksgiving.
“I know about when they first celebrated it, they celebrated it with Indians. They were celebrating thanks to people for helping them,” she said.
“What did they eat?” I asked her.
“They ate turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberries, cider, fruit, cider sauce…” she said.
Her eyes lit up when I asked about Squanto. She told me this tale.
“Squanto, um, he was hunting for food and then he saw this place with the pilgrims and they were talking and then they became friends. And then, um, Squanto came back and brought another friend and that other friend was very nice and he taught them other stuff too. And then Squanto came back with a bunch of Indians and then his second friend, um, he came and told them stuff that he needs to know. He needed to know how the Indians were doing.”


A good story

POSTED BY ON TUE, NOV 17, 2009 AT 8:10 AM

My significant girlfriend said this morning, “You’re the most ridiculous person I know… redonculouso!”
That may be true, but she was denouncing my parenting attitudes. And in this case, I believe I am at least partially right, if not totally correct.

“Bad kids need a good whipping and if that doesn’t work they should be sent to military school to straighten them out,” I countered.

“You’re so f***ing wrong. Oh My God,” she continued to harp. At this point all I began to hear were the muted sounds of a trumpet like the parents in Charlie Brown holiday special.

I admit, while I’m most certainly, almost perfectly right, I may also be wrong, or at least a behind-the-times-once-correct-but-now-not-correct kind of wrong.

Let me start from the beginning. Once upon a time I, too, was a kid. I know it’s hard to believe but I started out as two zygotes, merging to become the lump of flesh, bone, sinew and partially functioning nerve tissue I am today.

While being reared, I challenged authoritay just like any red-blooded American youth to assert my independence. I occasionally encountered old-fashioned parenting attitudes that I thought were wrong. This occasionally led to being grounded and even the occasional ass-beating. The ass-beatings brought new meaning to the phrase “being reared”, unlike the modern prison definition of “being reared.” It was a time when you could beat your children without Wal-Mart security cameras watching your every move. Ahhh, the good old days.

On one particular occasion the old-fashioned attitudes reared their ugly head. When my father had mistakenly thought I was mouthing off at him while working in the corn field, he threw a shovel at me. For the record, I may have been mouthing off but that part of my memory could have had some selective censoring and I don’t recall those details. The next few seconds, however, are burned into my brain.

I watched the shovel woosh-woosh like a helicopter blade towards me in slow motion. I had plenty of time as he hammer-threw it from about 75 yards away. As it neared, I timed my jump to avoid it as I believed it would fall short. Time seemed to slow down even more as it got closer and as I jumped, the handle whacked me in the shin. My lack of ability to jump high (another story for another time) had allowed the shovel to hit me. But had I not jumped, I may not have had the opportunity to make zygotes of my own and spawn to this very day.

While it didn’t break my leg, I still can feel the dent it left in my shin. It is a reminder that no matter what I had done to deserve (or not deserve) my punishment and suffer the wrath of an angry dad, sometimes you got to… crap, I don’t know. What lesson is there in this? Don’t mouth off to someone with a shovel? Sometimes you got to jump to avoid a ball-severing blow? Maybe I should have ran to one side or the other? Long ago child abuse laws were more lax? Or how about sometimes you need to create dramatic situations to have a good story to tell later.

Everyone’s big in Texas

POSTED BY ON FRI, NOV 13, 2009 AT 4:51 PM

I just returned from a short trip to Texas to see old friends and my pop. I had missed the food. Tex-Mex, BBQ, fried everything from the sea… I love food like that. I think I gained ten pounds.
Here were my meals…

Tuna/Tamarind ceviche, queso with Hatch green chiles, chips, fresh guacamole, four margaritas.

Amber’s Vegetarian Shepard’s pie and a couple Shiner Bocks.

Roasted potatoes & eggs

BBQ brisket at the Buckhorn in San Antonio with a Big Red to warsh it down.

More fresh guacamole (not as good as the first one we had), Cabrito (baby goat) & some Tuna Margaritas (Tunas are the name for the prickly pear fruit) at Acenar on the River Walk.

A nightcap at the Menger Hotel where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders. A herd of older Marines on Harleys with some killer colors had taken over the bar… some modern Rough Riders.

Chilquiles and coffee at the San Antonio market.

More BBQ at Bill Miller’s in Pleasanton with another Big Red. I bought a coconut cream pie to take my dad.

All-u-can-eat Chinese buffet at the China “A” in Rockport with pop.

Some bacon wrapped scallops and crab stuffed Jalepenos at Pop’s (not my pop, but a place near my pop’s house. We washed them down with a couple of beers.

Two hours later we return with my own pop to Pop’s and I enjoy an all-u-can-eat fried oysters, with another couple of beers.

We enjoyed a couple home cooked meals at my pop’s place (my real pop’s place not Pop’s Place down the road). Big fat pancakes for breakfast, deep fried shrimp and red snapper for supper. Sweet Iced Tea to wash it down.

On the drive back to Austin we made one more stop at a BBQ place in Lockhart.

I’m stuffed.