Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Do You Mean--No Turkey?

The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days and contrary to popular belief, there was no turkey present. Man oh man, I hate being the one to dispel this long-held myth--but hey, it's time the truth be told.

So here's the REAL story. The fifty-six pilgrims who had managed to stay alive through the first terrible winter in the new country and the ninety-one Indians who had helped them survive, all sat down to celebrate autumn's bountiful harvest.

Now here's where the story gets strange. They mostly ate with their hands for they had no forks. Every last bite of food was set on a long table and people ate only what sat in front of them. Nothing was passed around the table. The best food was put in front of the most important people and guess who waited on everyone? The kids. How's that for a shocker?

No children at the first Thanksgiving table. Not even a little table stuck under some lone tree a short distance away. Most of you know what I'm talking about. What kid hasn't lived through that scenario?

So what do you suppose those pilgrims ate if there was no turkey? History records they consumed fish, seafood, goose, duck, partridge, venison, Indian corn, barley, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, plums, and other wild fruits, walnuts, chestnuts, and peas, squash, and beans. Seasonings consisted of onion, and assorted wild plants with strange names. Not the things in my spice rack, that's for sure.

If I had faced near starvation, I would have been grateful for that food and eaten every morsel. Yet somewhere down through history, obviously when times got better, somebody tweaked the menu. Good thing too. Otherwise we'd be calling the last Thursday in November "Duck Day" or "Fish Day" or "Goose Day." Doesn't have the same ring as Turkey Day. Right?

When it came to desserts, the Pilgrims had two choices: aeppel or pompion. Oops. Sorry. I used the names the early settlers would have used. You know what else? There were NO pies of any kind at the first Thanksgiving because there were no ovens to bake them in.

The only native trees sporting apples were crab apples, and nearly everyone knows you can't make a pie from something the size of a quarter. As for the pumpkin, the only thing the Pilgrims knew to do was hollow it out, fill it with milk, honey, and spices and set it in the hot ashes to cook.

So where did our traditional apple and pumpkin pies originate? I hate to dispel the long-held myth, but it sure it wasn't at the first Thanksgiving. Nope, they came around about fifty years later and ever since then they've held the place of honor at our Thanksgiving table. I don't know where the tradition of piling whipped cream atop the pumpkin pie came from nor the slathering of ice cream atop the apple. That's another whole story and I'm just too lazy to figure it out.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving.

My love to you all,


"O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come."

Psalms 71: 17,18

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thoughts On Halloween

Today I was wondering when it was that Halloween became so scary. I think what brought it to my mind is the plethora of bloody, gory, terrifying, cover my eyes with my hands shows that are on television right now. Everyone and everything is either dripping blood or drinking blood or drawing blood or carrying around a weapon that will bring forth blood.

As I channel surf I'm disgusted to find even the Food Channel has gotten into the theme. Who can make the most frightening pumpkin face or the most hideous cake monster. The movie channels are full of aliens and monsters and creatures from Black Lagoons. The sit-coms are just as bad, though not quite as frightening to watch.

Now I have to say that I've always hated it when people would say to me, "Well, back in my day...." But as I was searching in vain for something to watch while I knitted and drank steaming hot cocoa, I began to think the same thing. Back in my day.....

My sisters and I didn't dress up like monsters or aliens or ghosts or anything else. We went trick or treating in our regular clothes, as did every other kid we knew. We didn't even wear masks. Halloween was simply the day we got free candy without having to beg mom, who was always under the impression that candy would rot our teeth. There were only two times of the year my sisters and I could eat candy and that was Halloween and Christmas. And it wasn't mom who bought it. We got it from the good-hearted folks around town.

On Halloween night, right after dishes were done, we'd grab a coat and a brown lunch bag and head out. The end of October is chilly in MN, so we went prepared. House to house to house, trudging along with a bunch of our friends, knocking on doors till our brown bag was at least half full. Then my sister and I headed back home where we dumped our treasure onto our beds and began the process of sorting and eating.

We had before us a veritable treasure trove of fresh apples, home made brownies and/or cookies, sometimes home made fudge or caramel, maybe an orange or two, and candy, not always individually wrapped. Mom always said the same thing every year: "Don't eat it all tonight." We seldom followed her advice. The forbidden candy went first, lest mom discover it and confiscate it for our teeth's sake. Then we'd start in on the home made stuff, especially the fudge. Next came the cookies and brownies. We left the fresh fruit till last because we were positive mom wouldn't toss it in the garbage. She hated wasting food.

By the time I had kids in school, the children dressed as ballerinas and clowns and even those who dressed as witches or ghosts or Frankensteins weren't scary. Most carried little plastic pumpkins to put candy in. My kids walked the neighborhood with small brown lunch bags, just as I had. I didn't even go with them. I knew all my neighbors for two streets over. I didn't worry while they were out gathering up goodies enough to give them a stomach ache.

The year my kids decided they were too old for trick or treating I was a happy camper. By now mothers were having to go through every goody bag with a fine tooth comb, looking for hidden needles or razor blades or candy obviously unwrapped and then wrapped again. Those who came to my door were beginning to look monster-like and a few times I hesitated to even open the door. To make things worse, they now carried pillow cases for their candy haul.

The last year I opened my door to trick or treaters was three years ago. By then it wasn't only kids coming around with supposed knives stuck into their skulls or an axe protruding from their chest or green slime running out of their mouth and onto their costume. It was adults. And when I questioned as to why grown ups were trick or treating, the answer I received was "Why not?"

I also noticed something else: those who knocked on my door had become greedy. I could no longer hold out the bowl of candy lest one kid grab it by the handfulls. So I began passing out the candy myself, one piece to each pillowcase. Most kids/adults would say thanks. But more than a few teenagers looked into their bag, looked at me, and asked, "Is that all?"

I think there is something in each of us that likes to be a little bit scared. Personally, I love the Alien movies. I love them because they are science fiction. But dress an adult or tall teenager like Freddie or Mike Meyers or any other truly scary image and knock on someone's door late at night, and I tell you true, your heart can nearly stop beating. I know that because that's what happened to me.

It was the last year I opened the door on Halloween night. All the other trick or treaters were long gone and Jim and I had settled in for the evening. Somewhere around ten o'clock, a knock came at my door. I looked out the peephole and nearly had a heart attack. A lone man, dressed as a fiendish killer, stood on my porch. I pushed the curtain aside so I could look through the window and when I did that, the kid removed his mask and smiled at me. He was the last trick or treater who ever got candy at this house.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Autumn Showoffs

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came;
The ashes, oaks, and maples;
And those of every name.
.........George Cooper

Every year a spectacular color-show blazes through the deciduous woodlands as the trees prepare for winter. 

The science behind the leaves' color changes is complicated and involves words like chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthrocyanins. Who really cares? 

What I do understand is that as daylight hours shorten and night temperatures fall, the leaves become gaudy showoffs, flittering on the winds, somersaulting on the slightest breeze, dancing throughout the forest in gowns of red and gold and yellow.

It's an extravagant farewell to summer. Lucky us. Everyone gets a ticket. And they are always free.

"Behold, the glory of the God of Israel
came from the way of the east. His
voice was like the sound of many
waters; and the earth shown
with His glory."   Ezekiel 43:1