Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why Turkey?

Heap high the board with plenteous cheer and gather to the feast,
And toast the sturdy Pilgrim band whose courage never ceased.
Alice W. Brotherton

Did you ever wonder why we eat Turkey on Thanksgiving.  Was it served on the first Thanksgiving feast?

From my reading, there were two writings on the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth in the autumn of 1621.  The first was written by Edward Winslow writing in Mourt's Relation.

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

He suggests that wild turkeys were stored, along with corn and fish.  In fact, they stored more wild turkeys in the autumn.  But, he did not say that they were served at the first Thanksgiving feast.  One interesting thing that I noted in my research is that the pilgrims called all wild fowl "turkey".

The second account of the first Thanksgiving was written by William Bradford in Of Plymouth Plantation.

our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want,  that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Beside deer, the Governor sent "four men on fowling".  There is no evidence to show that he meant hunting for turkeys.

Some believe that Benjamin Franklin's desire to have the turkey declared the national symbol of the United States of America may have contributed to serving turkey on Thanksgiving..  In a letter to his daughter, he wrote:

Others to the bald eagle as looking too much like a dindon, or turkey. For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly; …
I am, on this account, not displeased that the figure is not known as a bald eagle, but looks more like a turkey. For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours; the first of the species seen in Europe, being brought to France by the Jesuits from Canada, and served up at the wedding table of Charles the Ninth. He is, besides, (though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that,) a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.

A couple of facts:

  • Turkeys were and still are abundant in the United States.  Just ask my friends who live in the country.
  • The turkey is native to the northern Mexico and the eastern United States.  It was not brought to Europe until the 16th century.
  • For feasts, people like to serve big fowl to feed many guests, thus, a turkey.

In summary, no one exactly knows why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Interesting Information

Fresh, frozen, or wild turkey?  What's the difference?

In my blog Turkeys - Happy Thanksgiving, I talked about the physical differences between wild and domesticated turkeys.  In this blog, I'll talk about the "taste" difference.  Yes, Mandie, they taste differently.
  • Fresh turkey is very chewy, almost tough, but it does have a lot of flavor.
  • Frozen turkey is what we are most used to and what we compare other turkeys to.  It is very tasty and just the right texture.
  • Wild Turkey, from what I read, is very lean, and has little breast fat and big thighs.  Many say that the white and dark meat alike are very tender, but it has a more intense turkey flavor, with a game taste.
So, when deciding what kind of turkey to buy, consider the above in making your choice.  And, if you are skeptical, like Mandie, try one that you have never tasted before, and taste the difference.

Gobble Gobble,
Aunt Janet

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The key to wisdom is this -
constant and frequent questioning.
For by doubting, we are led to question;
and by questioning, we arrive at the truth.
Peter Abelard

As a child, I was encouraged to question.  There were no stupid questions, but, at times, the answers were evaded.  Not necessarily because my parents did not want to answer, but because sometimes there was no explanation, or there were multiple answers to one question.  A discussion would proceed, allowing us to think, debate, concede, and /or acknowledge the truth, if there was one.

By questioning, I gained knowledge, learning not to take anything as the truth until all the facts were gathered. 

In my current occupation, I had little technical education when I first started.  At the time I went to college, computers took up rooms, and we mostly communicated to the computers through punch cards.  I learned to number the punch cards because, as in my own experience, they come shooting out of the card reader, I could put them back together in the order they were suppose to be.  In fact, my degree has nothing to do with computers and my present occupation.

When I began my venture into a computer occupation, personal computers were few, and the internet was almost non-existent.  I learned how to solve problems by asking the right people, reviewing the manuals, reading books, and trying.  Yes, I did take a couple of classes, but it was the questions I asked that solved the problems I faced.

Questioning is a search for the truth.  I find others sometimes questioning the existence of God.  In my mind, they are on a search for the truth, and the Truth will come in its own time.  Each one of us have different experiences that led us to the Truth, for, without the questioning, is it really the Truth felt inside the heart, or just a vague understanding of what is?  Maybe my parents' urging to question is why my deep faith goes back so far, as a child with many questions.

Grandpa's Stories

Now, please remember that my dad was sometimes blunt, and had a great sense of humor.  He would say: "If you assume, you make an ass out of you and me."  Think, question, and never assume, because, what you believe to be the truth, may end up being false and lead you astray.

Money Making

Once again, the holiday is upon us.  If you do on-line shopping, please help a friend (me) and shop from my blog.  I make money when anyone goes to a store from my blog - not much, but pennies add up.  I'm going to try to update the links so that you can take advantage of the many sales going on now.  (Is it me, or does everyone think that they're advertising earlier this year?)

Aunt Janet's Famous Sayings

"Remember when..."  It was a time of complete devastation for my niece and nephew.  One arm around my small niece on one side, and the other around my little nephew on the other, I held them as they sobbed with all their heart.  Then, suddenly, my niece's hair became entangled in my dangling earring, and the sobbing stopped, and the laughing began.  We could not get her hair out of the earring.  When questioned if God is listening, I remind them by starting "Remember when..."  They remember, and, in their heart, they know only God could have turned their sorrow into laughter.

Learning by questioning,
Aunt Janet
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