The Southern Humorists Present ...

November 2004 is Piggin' Out Month!

It's the time of year for food and in true Southern form, the Southern Humorists have deep fried yarns about turkey that'll bless your belly and soul. Have a safe Thanksgiving holiday and thanks for readin', y'all!

The Southern Humorists Discuss Fried Turkey | Thank Goodness for Thanksgiving! | A Turkey of a Recipe | Cletus Loves Thanksgiven | The Fried Turkey Tale | Gertie Talks About Thanksgiving | Turkey, Duck! | Rowena vs. Dinner | Blitz | For Whom the Horn Blows | Let us always be thankful, and never forget... | The Hysterical History of Thanksgiving | How to Cook a Turkey | Take This Bird and Stuff It |

The Southern Humorists Talk Fried Turkey
By: Southern Humorists © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Danny: This weekend, I'm going to visit my good buddy in Dallas who asked if I'd like to go to the Texas State Fair, which is the mother of state fairs. Our fair could kick your state fair's butt and toss it a couple of quarters to call someone who cares. I'm going to eat as much fried things as my stomach can hold until it can't hold it anymore. I'm literally going to eat fried Twinkies, fried oreos, fried pickles, fried Twix bars, fried Dove bars, fried Heath bars, fried Snickers bars, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fried macaroni, fried ice cream, fried cheesecake, fried truffles, fried Melba toast, fried Red Man tobacco and fried Doritos coated with mayonnaise until I have to throw up.

Ben: People from outside God's Country come down here and stop in local restaurants. They're interested in eating "local food."

Sheila: Ben, I saved this and am just now reading it. I just gotta comment. My mother used to cook everything with fatback. She fried it to have fresh grease to season with. I remember begging for the fatback skins to eat as a snack as a kid. When we moved up north and she would try to buy fatback, they looked at her like she was an alien. Guess, she was, in a manner of speaking. It was also hard to find self-rising cornmeal, another southern thang. My grandmother fried sliced fatback in an iron skillet and would put fried fatback on the table for breakfast instead of bacon. My grandfather loved it. He died of a heart attack eventually, come to think of it. We thought he just died of meanness. I've heard of a deep fried turkey. I wouldn't mind to try one if I had a deep cooker big enough. Give us the recipe and I'll put it on the website. If anyone has tried deep frying a turkey, let me know how it was.

Pamela: Sheila, they sell them at Walmart, now especially, but pretty much year round. I think I have even seen displays with the oil and cookers side by side.

Carrie: Simply the best- most delicious- most fattening- bestest way to eat a turkey. They are also starting to make deep fat fryers for turkeys, chickens, etc. for inside use. I do like the turkey a bit more when it has been injected with marinade but some prefer it without.

Ben: Here's how:

  1. Acquire a turkey. Yes, this is a crucial step.
  2. Make sure turkey is dead. Live turkeys object to being cooked.
  3. Make sure turkey is prepared for cooking. This means removing feathers, internal organs, head, etc. Feet may be left attached as this provides a good handle for dipping the turkey into hot grease and later removing it.
  4. Get lots of peanut oil. THIS IS WHERE MOST PEOPLE SCREW UP. Seriously. Peanut oil. Peanut oil will cook without burning at 500 degrees. Use vegetable, corn, canola or rapeseed oil and you have messed up at 500 degrees. Peanut oil is very expensive, which is why many skip this step.
  5. Heat oil in large large large pot to 500 degrees on fish cooker. This is the ONLY way to do this. A stove won't get hot enough and maintain constant temp. Check oil temp with turkey cooking or candy thermometer.
  6. When oil is 500 degrees, cook turkey - 1 to 1.5 minutes per pound. Seriously. A large turkey cooks in 30 minutes. A turkey breast in less than 10 minutes. Seriously. But you GOTTA USE PEANUT OIL and cook at 500 degrees.
  7. In the case of large families and big reunions, have one turkey cooked and on table 10 minutes before benediction. Begin cooking 2nd turkey immediately on removing 1st. By the time everyone is ready for seconds, second turkey will be ready.
  8. Fatback may be fried in the spaces around the turkey as an appetizer.

Barbara: I don't mean to put a damper on all this talk about turkey frying, BUT ... When preparing to fry a turkey, make sure the container to be used is large enough for both the turkey AND the oil. You must allow for oil displacement because serious burns can result if hot oil spills over while placing the turkey in the preheated oil. Also, small children should not be allowed anywhere in the cooking area. You must be prepared to stay with the bird and NEVER leave it untended. As delicious as fried turkey is, frying one is serious business! Finally, this is an outdoor activity. Never attempt frying a whole turkey indoors.

Ben: Barbara is right. Shelia, make sure to add her stuff to the recipe. Frying turkeys has, literally, burned down houses around the South when things got out of hand. I am not kidding. If you fry turkey, do it in the middle of the yard if you are a novice.

Phil: "...when things get out of hand...". Translation: "...when the chef starts throwing beers down his neck and getting distracted by the ballgame..." There's a reason why wives, not husbands, traditionally cook the bird. It's a miracle us guys can even see straight enough to slice the bird up.

Pamela: OMG, that reminds me of the time I nearly set a friend's house afire while frying up a big kettle full of potato chunks and purple onions. We were having a summer do at her place and I offered to make this dish. I had already chunked the potatoes and onions and brought my own oil and pot. Alas, I miscalculated the amount of oil - her fault for leaving the wine bottle next to me - and when it was good and hot just dumped in all the potatoes and onions, causing the oil to foam up and bubble over the top of the pot and all over the electric stove top. Panic then ensued and flames as well. I shut off the stove - fat lot of good that does with electric - and removed the pot. Then started blotting up spilled oil with everything absorbent I could find. Folks were partying just a few feet away on the deck outside the kitchen but they never realized what was going on inside. I finally got it all cleaned up and bailed out the pot a bit so I could finish cooking the stuff in batches Funny, I was never asked to make this particular Dragon specialty again....

Frank: The one thing you didn't mention is: Don't do it like beer-butt chicken. Unless you want hair, teeth, eyeballs, beer cans and hot oil scattered for miles.

Mark Motz: Good advice. In addition to using the correct amount of oil, make sure the temperature is not set to high. I used to test various types of machine oils in a test lab, and one of the tests was for 'flash point'. Flash point is the temperature that oil will burst into flames. For corn or peanut oil, it is somewhere around 400-450 degrees F. If oil is below its flashpoint temperature, it will not burn. So use the right amount of oil, and keep the temp in the correct range.

Sheila: Shucks, I had planned to fry it in the garage out of the rain and let the kids watch it while I fix the rest of the meal. You have to spoil everything! Wonder how you get one of those buggers out of the hot oil? I can't even lift one out of the oven when hot. I'd need a pully or a crane. Southern cooking sure is complicated.

Mark Motz: Try usin' the same method I used to use when my wedding ring would slip off my finger and fall into a beer can...tip it over to drain it, and use your teeth to rip it open....

Asa: My son-in-law just had to have fried turkey one Thanksgiving when I was visiting them in Austin. It was quite wonderful but a mammoth 20 lb. hassle. He has never deep-fried since. I'd love to be there if he tries again. By the way, you can get deep-fried turkey legs for $5.00 each at Epcot. A bargain with airfare at only $300.00, admission at $60.00, and one night in a Disney hotel $200.00.

~*~*~

Thank Goodness for Thanksgiving!
By: Angela Gillaspie © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Stuck right before Christmas and right after Halloween is Thanksgiving. Halloween screams at you: Buy candy! Buy candy! Buy MORE candy! Buy stuff to put the candy in! Poor Christmas twinkles and glitters you to death by urging you to have a Coke and a smile and buy Granny a box of chocolate covered cherries. The retailers hardly notice Thanksgiving because they are too busy taking down the pumpkins, ghosts, and candy corn and putting up the reindeer, Christmas trees, and fake snow. Perhaps this is a good thing; we should not be told how to celebrate this holiday by the media, but celebrate it as tradition and need dictate to us.

Of course, there are few retailers that try advertising Thanksgiving with the cliché smiling families gathered around a large golden bird. When I think to my past Thanksgiving holidays, there are plenty of golden birds, but we never stood around and gawked at it, we were too busy whining about how hungry we were. Why didn't Daddy get off the phone and carve the daggum bird? Also, you might see Pilgrims and Indians adorning the windows of some stores. And I don't know about you, but there aren't too many Indians and Pilgrims around my house during this holiday. If there were, I'd probably call the police and hope to be on the season opener of COPS.

I consider myself blessed with wonderful memories of Thanksgiving. During many of the Thanksgiving holidays of my youth, I remember going to the shed to get some potatoes and onions that just a few months earlier were growing in the warm soil of our large garden. My sisters and I would wash the vegetables as the blare of a football game crept from the living room with the occasional sounds of Daddy snapping pole beans. Both laughter and protests came from the kitchen as the potatoes lost their skins and the dressing got tasted for the umpteenth time. Momma was sure the dressing was "just right" so she smacked our hands, and chased us out of the house.

Being forced from the house wasn't too upsetting for me because there were piles and piles of crisp oak leaves that dotted our large yard. I would roll and jump in them until I was covered in sweat and my face hurt from giggling so much. In November, the sky was always the color of gunmetal against the naked trees. The cool air had the subtle smell of bonfires and I could hear the buzz of chain saws rattling in the distance.

Our garden was in the last stages of death with grass reaching up to three feet high. The grass surrounded everything except the turnips that were ready for picking. If Thanksgiving supper was a while off, I would pull up a fat turnip, wash it off, and eat it like an apple. On the long grass stalks, there would be an occasional dead or almost-dead locust available for me to pluck and play with. The yellowed grass made a great pretend burrow for me to play in while I waited on Momma to yell for supper.

When Momma did finally yell, it was for me to get the cats out of the house. I would enter the house and the warm thick smells of dressing, potatoes, turkey, green beans, and fresh rolls cooking would practically knock me back outside the door -- no wonder the cats ran inside! On my way out with a cat under each arm, I encountered relatives that were dropping by to share firewood and anecdotes about other relatives. I always wondered if the relatives were really sharing firewood or if they were brought in (like the cats were) by the smell of Momma's cooking.

When we all (both invited and uninvited family members) did finally gather around the table, we had a healthy appetite and full hearts. We would take turns telling what we were thankful for while giggling at what the other family members were thankful for. We kids were always thankful for stuff like chocolate, and having an older friend who just got her driver's license, and that Daddy didn't pray as long for normal meals as he did for the Thanksgiving meal. Later in life, it dawned on me why my parents always said that they were thankful for family. Chocolate and cars are nice to have, but your family stays with you for life.

After doling out the plates and surviving our arms going to sleep from holding hands through Daddy's lengthy blessing, our Meme would always joke that she only wanted some slaw and dressing. It's been a couple of decades since Meme left us, but to this day, one of us will mention at the end of the blessing, "Boy, I could make a meal outta this here drassin' n' slaw!"

I'm glad that the Thanksgiving holiday isn't as widely advertised as Christmas and Halloween. Each person should be able to define their own giving of thanks. I can't imagine how else I could experience Thanksgiving except by the celebration of family and food. The turkey and all the trimmings mixed with relatives, sprinkled with laughter and a few arguments, and the leaf piles are Thanksgiving to me. Now how would you advertise that? You couldn't, and this is great because the next thing you know, the entire country would be collecting dead locusts, eating raw turnips, making mashed potatoes from scratch, and just old plain being thankful at this time of year.

For yummy Thanksgiving recipes, visit Angela's Thanksgiving Recipes Page. And click here to subscribe to Angela's newsletter! - It's free!

~*~*~

A Turkey of a Recipe
By: Mike Bay © 2004 All Rights Reserved

As the calendar turns, around once again comes Thanksgiving. An annual holiday event, though probably as misunderstood from its origins as Spam is. Not that I've tried to understand the origins of Spam, but I digress.

Of course, it's not only the season of Thanksgiving: it's football, hockey and basketball season. It's the beginning of the Christmas decorating and shopping season. Among certain animations, it's wabbit or duck season. And we have the benefit of a couple of smoldering shooting wars in the Middle East, which is good live-fire practice for anyone planning to engage in the shopping end of Christmas.

However, for my purposes I'll stick with the Thanksgiving theme, and something near and kind of dear to my heart and gastrointestinals: bachelor recipes.

Being a bachelor -- not to mention having to work the traditional holiday this year -- I'll be missing out on the standard Thanksgiving family gathering, sporting the usual Thanksgiving fare: turkey, dressing, potatoes, salads, pies, breads, veggies, antacids. That means I'm left to my own devices this year, and from previous references to my acumen in the kitchen, you know that mine tends to resemble a terrorist stronghold after a US air attack.

However, this year I've come up with something different, to give me the festive spirit of Thanksgiving, the culinary feel of same, and probably a few dozen other things in the aftermath I've not yet considered as consequences (it's fortunate I know a guy who deals in environmental disaster clean up, but I digress). My very own, just invented and unique 'turkey' recipe, created in my guise of bachelor chef and culinary barbarian implosionaire:

Culinary Barbarian Turkey Surprise

First, collect the following ingredients:
- 2 Cans of Turkey Spam
- 2 Chicken drumsticks
- 1 (ample) portion of cornbread stuffing
- 1 can of chicken or turkey broth (whichever you can find)
- 1 cup diced onions
- 1 cup diced turnip greens
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 egg
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- First Aid kit (pays to be prepared)
- 1 teaspoon of Crisco oil or fresh bacon grease
- assorted seasonings for desired taste
- 1 fire extinguisher (see previous parenthesi)

Next comes the preparation:
- scrape off the gelatin residue from the Spam and set it aside for the gravy
- mix Spam, stuffing, diced onions/turnip greens, egg, Crisco/bacon grease, can of broth and seasonings in mixing bowl, shaping into equivalent shape of a turkey
- add drumsticks (secure to turkey with toothpicks, staples, rivets, barbed wire, whatever works)
- preheat oven to 375 degrees
- place culinarily barbarianed turkey in roasting pan, cover with aluminum foil
- cross yourself for luck (unless you're atheist, then just run with it)
- bake for at least 95 minutes

For the gravy:
- disconnect smoke detectors
- mix gelatin, flour and milk in frying pan on low heat
- stir occasionally
- if it starts to smoke enough to cover a re-enactment of the 82nd Airborne's Waal River assault crossing at Nijmegen in WW II, stir frequently
- if on fire, stir furiously

After removing faux turkey from oven:
- pour gravy residue (or at least that still in liquid form) over finished turkey
- place in hermetically-sealed bag, and throw out the whole thing, roasting pan and what's left of oven included
- call the nearest Cracker Barrel/Denny's* restaurant for reservations, delivery or derisive verbal abuse ("ya dun what? Ya danged fool!")

Disclaimer: the aforementioned recipe is not approved or recommended by Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, the USDA, EPA, US Army Department of WMD or any other recognized chef, living or petrified after having read the above. If you do try this at home, you'll keep that to yourself if you're smart; on the other hand, if you tried this at home, you've already debunked the notion you had any smarts, and can disregard it. Feeding residue to pets will likely get you in deep kimshi with the ASPCA, PETA, and The Anti-Spam Defamation League. Burying it will likewise involve you with the EPA, The Sierra Club, or the salamanders that suddenly morph into Swamp Thangs.

* other regional choices include but not limited to Bob Evans, Shoney's, Village Inn -- and if you're a real twit -- White Castles.

~*~*~

cletus loves thanksgiven

~*~*~

The Fried Turkey Tale
© 2004 Sheila Moss HumorColumnist.com

Dear Mom,

I hope you and dad are having a Happy Thanksgiving. This year we decided to do something a bit different and fry our turkey whole. I am in a newsgroup on the Internet that just could not say enough about how great they taste fried. I even got a recipe from one of the members. It went something like this:

1 turkey plucked and gutted - leave feet for holding turkey
5 gal bucket peanut oil
1 extra large deep fryer heated to 500 degrees

That didn't sound too complicated, and even though I've had several kitchen disasters in the past, I thought this would be a festive way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Besides, we could do the deed outside on our wooden deck to avoid making a big mess in the kitchen. What could go wrong?

I couldn't find a turkey with feet at the grocery store. The butcher thought I was crazy and suggested I try one of the nice frozen one that was on sale. I figured a meat man should know, so I got one. Have you ever tried to thaw out a frozen turkey? It's a weeklong job. I figured the hot grease would do the trick anyhow, so why worry.

Have you priced peanut oil lately? I decided some of the other stuff would work just as good. After all, cooking oil is cooking oil. I managed to get the oil in the pot just fine. Heating it was a bit tricky as it kept smoking and bubbling. But since we were outside, I thought the smoke wouldn't hurt anything. Now this is the part you won't believe! I threw that sucker in the pot and when the thing thawed out the oil boiled over on the wooden deck and caught the deck on fire! We got the garden hose to put it out. Who would know not to put water on a grease fire?

It didn't really matter anyhow. In all the excitement I forgot to watch the cooking thermometer and the grease must have become too hot. I was inside the house looking for the fire extinguisher when I heard the explosion. Have you ever seen a mushroom cloud? It was incredible!

After the fire department left, we decided to eat dinner out next year. Not only was our Thanksgiving dinner ruined, but the deck burned down and took half the garage with it. The dog will be just fine when his fur grows back. We've always wanted a Mexican Hairless dog anyhow.

The fire department told us they make a lot of house calls about this time of the year from people frying turkeys who don't know what they are doing. Like, is it my fault that the grease was cheap and the stupid turkey wouldn't thaw out? They need to put consumer-warning labels on turkeys!

Speaking of the turkey, we are still looking for it. I think it may have blown to bits as we've looked all over the neighborhood. If you see a turkey shaped cloud of ash circling the earth, that's probably it.

By the way, you may see us on the evening news on TV. A lot of people thought it was a terrorist attack. I only hope we have not been reported to the FBI.

Anyhow, I just want to let you know that we are all fine. I don't think the house will be fixed for a while since there is a lot of smoke damage. We are moving to a motel. Do you think we could come to your house for Christmas this year?

You were not planning on frying a turkey, were you?

Sheila Moss - Humor Columnist
http://www.humorcolumnist.com

Thanks to Ben Baker for the turkey recipe and to my friends at Southern Humorists for warning me about the hazards of turkey frying.

For more funny turkey stuff, try: http://www.humorcolumnist.com/turkey.htm

~*~*~

Deep Fried
By: Ben Baker © 2004 All Rights Deep Fried and Reserved

People from outside God's Country come down here and stop in local restaurants. They're interested in eating "local food."

Many of these people also have no idea what they are getting into, especially when it comes to the Southern favorite deep fried. According to my dad, Soup Lindsey, long since gone to that great squirrel-with-the-head-on and rice supper in the sky, would eat anything fried.

"You could fry a corn cob and Soup would eat it," Dad told me one day as we sat down at the shop for one of the Saturday night fish fry, adult poker game and kids hide in the dark and run into farm equipment while getting chased game.

It's particularly funny to me to watch people sit down for the Blue Plate special and ask "What is white side meat? Invariably the waitress says "Fried fatback." Nearly all the customers grimace. About half ask "what's fatback?" Catherine tells me it's called "back bacon" in Canada.

Eventually the customers come around to the understanding that "fatback" is thick (compared to bacon), mostly with a strip of skin attached, heavy on fat, light on meat, often extremely salty strips of deceased pig. Mostly it's deep fried fat slices.

If you need to excuse yourself to go fry some fatback, I'll understand. Most of the customers roll their eyes and order hamburger steak at this point. Those of us who knew what was coming, grin and return to our own fatback and cornbread.

It's a Southern Thang. We don't care if you understand, but we'll share anyway.

Being a native Georgian, I have dined at Varsity in the Big Peach. The Varsity is the Mecca, Jerusalem, Calcutta and so forth of the fried food world. If you insisted, I'm sure they'd deep fry your Coke.

Some years back I read in L.M. Boyd's column about deep fried dill pickles. I thought that was as far as it could go. Then, I went on a writer's conference and came back with a recipe for whole deep fried turkey.

Not quite believing it, I ran the recipe in the newspaper I worked for at the time. That week, fish cookers with hug pots and 10 gallons of peanut oil fired up around town. Turkeys were fried in about 30 minutes. The next year I sample a fried turkey and have never looked back.

A caveat - Peanut oil. A second caveat - Never leave the cooking turkey alone. A third caveat - Cook the bird in the yard, not in the house. I'm not responsible if you ignore these warnings and burn your house down. Come to think of it, I'm not responsible at all, Marty Beckerman.

Then, I read the news story about carnivals taking Snickers bars, jamming 'em on a stick, dipping it in batter and frying this. Egad. Paradise you can hold with one hand. Presumably you can also do this with a Mounds, Zero, Payday, Baby Ruth or whatever your favorite is.

Give a Southerner a fish cooker, some grease and he'll fry anything you can hand him. Once again, I thought, (oh foolish me) Snickers was the ultimate in fried food. Not so.

Deep Fried Twinkies.

As Judge Thomas sometimes sings in church "Oh glory, glory glory!"

Excuse me while my arteries get so hard a diamond couldn't cut them. Fellow humorista Cindy Lamb tells me Interstate Bakeries Corp., which makes Twinkies, has filed for bankruptcy. She and the company blame it on Atkins and the low-carb craze which has bodyslammed Interstate Bakeries's Wonder Bread division harder than Shawn Michaels nailing Bill Goldberg with a flying drop kick for a 10 count.

Before I get to sample a deep fried Twinkie, the company may go out of business. That golden creme-filled goodness so packed with preservatives and artificial ingredients when the cockroaches finally take over, Twinkies made last week will be around to harden the roaches' arteries. But, I won't get one.

I blame Bill Clinton.

~*~*~

Gertie Talks About Thanksgiving ...
By: Gertrude Butterbean © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Have any questions about Thanksgiving? Don't know what exactly that bag o'guts is for? Need another idea for a centerpiece besides road kill? Forget how to cook turnips? How to get rid of uninvited guests? Well, then read on!

Hidy and happy holidays, Gert! What is the big deal with having turkey for Thanksgiving? I think it is a tough and dry bird. Could I fix chicken or will the Thanksgiving police come and fine me? How do you fix it to make it not so dry? Thanks, Traci in Tupelo

Dear Traci, for the first Thanksgiving, back in 1621, those folks ate (not drank) wild turkey, fish, venison, and miscellaneous waterfowl. In 1941, our Congress declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. Now, I theorize the fascination with turkey on Thanksgiving is due to two reasons:

  1. Since our Grandmomma's Grandmomma's Grandmomma made turkey on Thanksgiving, then we should.
  2. Since turkeys gave this great American holiday to us, the American public pays homage to that early Congress by eating turkey on this national holiday.

I'm sure you have a deep reverence for your Grandmomma and for Congress, but I doubt the Turkey Police will be after you if you bake a chicken instead.

How to prepare a turkey so that it isn't dry? Don't overcook it! Try either

  1. Soaking your bird in a brine overnight. For every gallon of water use a 1/2 cup of salt plus your favorite spices (garlic, peppercorns, cold beer, etc.), or
  2. You could try mixing together spices (salt, pepper, and minced garlic) with some margarine and rubbing it between the skin and the meat before putting the turkey on to cook. Basting wastes time, in my opinion and it lowers the temperature of your oven every time you open the oven door.

Dear Gertie, what exactly are those things that are rolled up inside the turkey? I usually cook them inside the turkey, but those parts are really tough and the paper sticks to our teeth. Sherri in Trussville

Dear Sherri, those things are the guts of the turkey. The longish hard yellow-looking thing is the neck, and the other things are giblets. Giblets are the organ meats including liver, gizzard and heart. The heart is a deep burgundy to reddish brown with varying amounts of light colored fat. The gizzard is reddish brown with varying amounts of light colored fat. The liver is a smooth, reddish brown, and there are sometimes several pieces or lobes. I suggest removing the pack-o-guts from the bird before cooking. In a sauce pot, simmer the guts (and neck too) with about a quart of water, salt, and pepper for an hour. Strain liquid, putting cooked guts in a separate container. Mix together six tablespoons of flour with a small amount of cold water, enough to make a slurry. Reheat liquid until boiling and add flour mixture. Chop up the guts - not the neck and a couple of boiled eggs if ya like (I don't - yuck) and stir them in the liquid. If you don't want to make giblet gravy, cut up the cooked giblets and mix them in with your dressing/stuffing.

Hi Gertie, what kind of centerpiece could I use for my table? I'm tired of using Uncle Oscar's stuffed possum, one of the glass eyes popped out and the fur has rubbed off on its hind side. Dee in Dalton

Dear Dee, you definitely need to try something new this year. Take that avocado seed that you've been trying to sprout and put it in the center of your table. Next, gild those leftover strings and nubs from stringing beans with gold spray paint and scatter them around the avocado seed. Pine cones and clippings from the boxwood bush will give your centerpiece a woodsy look.

Dear Gertie, my mother-in-law makes dressing that has too many onions in it and it gives me gas. For the past twenty years, I've endured the heartburn and flatulence as silently as I could. How can I turn down her dressing without hurting her feelings or angering my wife? Paul in Alabaster

Dear Paul, twenty years, you say? Since you've been faking it this long, you might as well pack the antacids and Gas-X and enjoy your meal. If you just can't take it any longer, put a very small amount on your plate, mash it up to make it look like you've eaten more, and leave it be. If she asks you about it, fart loudly. I promise she'll question you no more.

Dear Gertrude, is it appropriate to ask the guests to bring something to my house for Thanksgiving dinner? I cook every year, (well, except last year) and I always end up cooking, cleaning, packing *to go* plates for family and friends, yadda, yadda, yadda. My mom usually brings a pie, but no one else brings anything. Is it OK to suggest/ask them to bring something, ya know, like paper plates or a can of cranberry sauce? Flubbered in Florida

Dear Flubbered, inform your guests that this year it's gonna be BYOSD - bring yer own side dish. You supply the turkey and the dressing, and everyone else should bring a veggie or a dessert. If you really feel funny about asking, then try this: visit your local Krystal the day before Thanksgiving and order 25 to 50 gut bombs (amount depending on your guests' appetites), and 25 to 50 gut bombs with cheese. Refrigerate. On Thanksgiving day, reheat the Krystal burgers in the oven for 15 minutes or so until warm. If you don't have a Krystal nearby, make cold cheese sammages for everyone. Tell 'em, "Momma's tard, if y'all wanna eat, then y'all can cook."

Dear Gertie, how exactly do you cook stuffing in the bird? Teresa in Tarrant

Dear Teresa, the safest way to cook the stuffing is outside of the bird. However, if you want to cook it in the bird, the stuffing should be moist since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a wet environment. Stuff the bird loosely (about three-fourths of a cup of stuffing per pound of turkey) just before putting it in an oven preheated to at least 325º. Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness. The center of the stuffing must reach at least 165º and the innermost part of the thigh should be at least 180º. Don't be cheap - buy a meat thermometer! Well, unless you have some guests that you don't want to come back next year.

Dear Gertie, my mother-in-law is coming from out-of-town and she wants to take us out to lunch or dinner on Thanksgiving. I've never eaten out on this holiday and it sounds so depressing! The local hotel is $40 per person and is way too expensive. The place must appeal to my 5-year-old. Any suggestions? Or, any suggestions for a take-out turkey meal, in case she'd go for that. Thanks. Sarah in Opp

Dear Sarah, obviously, you are a newlywed and mama-in-law is afraid of your cooking. If you are afraid of your cooking also, call ahead to your local grocery store's deli department and order a turkey and some dressing, and while you're there, get a frozen apple pie. Before mom-in-law arrives, transfer the turkey and dressing into your dishes and dispose of the grocery store evidence. Pop the already-cooked bird and dressing in the oven. Simmer some carrots (use frozen if you don't know how to peel a carrot) in one pot, and canned green beans in another pot. Open a can of the jiggly cranberry stuff, warm some rolls and you're done! If she still complains, that's OK. That's her job.

Dear Gertie, should I make homemade napkin rings for my Thanksgiving table? Eva from Palm Beach

Hidy Eva, try collecting toilet paper roll holders. Cut them into rings, hot glue on some purty colored buttons and VOILA! Napkin rings!

Hi Gert, my kids drive me nuts while I cook Thanksgiving dinner. What can I do? Kathleen in Sevierville

Hi Kathleen! Try these games:

  • Bird, Beast, or Fish. Everyone sits facing the leader. The leader points to one of the players and says either "BIRD," "BEAST," or "FISH." The chosen player must come up with the name of an animal that fits the category before the leader counts to ten. No repeating! If the player does not respond in time, she is out. The game continues until only one player remains. As you can guess, after a few rounds it can be hard to think of an animal that has not already been mentioned! Imitating relatives is OK too.
  • Corn Pitching. You will need a big bowl and 6 kernels of corn (the kind used in bird feeders works better than popcorn). Each player takes turns pitching the corn kernels, one at a time, into the bowl from a set distance. Keep score of how many kernels end up in the bowl. The winner is the one with the highest score after three rounds, and pelting other players with the kernels is NOT allowed.
  • Turkey Hunt. On a dozen or so index cards, draw or paste a picture of a turkey. To play, everyone leaves the room except the leader. The leader hides the cards around the room. The hunters come back in to begin the hunt. As each turkey is found, it is brought back to the leader who corrals them in a separate pile for each hunter. When all the turkeys have been found, the hunter with the most turkeys is the winner and becomes the leader for the next round. Using old photos of family members or presidential candidates is OK too.

Dear Gertie, I have a ton of turnips in my garden, how do you cook turnips? Shannon in Sandestin

Dear Shannon, turnips are so versatile! You can peel them and eat them raw, you can cut them up, cook them and use them as filler for pancakes, casseroles, mashed potatoes, dressing, and even with apple dishes. You can carve the larger turnips into whimsical reproductions of family members or throw them at unwanted relatives that always show up around suppertime.

Dear Gertie, Thanksgiving is upon us again and I'm still a little shell shocked from last year's family get together. We went to my cousin's house in Arkansas and were promised a big turkey dinner with all the fixings. My cousin's husband Leroy lost his job a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving so I was a little hesitant to accept the invitation. We didn't want to put too much on them, but after they insisted, we packed up the kids, the family dog and headed out. We arrived on the eve of Thanksgiving ... that night, Barky (our dog) disappeared and after riding around in the car at night, we finally gave up and hoped for the best. Our hopes were dashed when we saw Leroy setting the platter on the table. He insisted he bought it at a "special gourmet store" but I'm still not convinced to this day. We're invited out there for Thanksgiving this year too. Leroy is employed again but should we tell Grandma that we can't take her with us - just in case? Signed, Wincing in Wyoming

Dear Wincing, I understand where you're coming from. Some folks go all out for Thanksgiving, trying to make the best impression they can. Since Leroy's out of work again, why don't you insist that they visit you for Thanksgiving? And to be on the safe side, make up t-shirts for your guests that say, "I survived Thanksgiving 2000!" or "Turkey 2000" and especially for granny: "I'm a tough old bird."

Got a question about Thanksgiving? Email Gertie at BoogaRay at Bellsouth dot net!

~*~*~

Turkey, Duck!
By: Mike Bay © 2004 All Rights Reserved

It started out as simply an innocent observation in an email response to a column written by Kristen Twedt, an accomplished newspaper and internet columnist for The Hattiesburg (MS) American (www.kristentwedt.com and www.hattiesburgamerican.com). It wound up as true confessions, and one more case of me demonstrating that I am, oft times, my own best/worst source of ludicrous humor material.

In early 1970, my family lived in rural Iowa, along a highway that was frequented by flatbed semis bearing loads of poultry, likely enroute for KFC or Butterball conversion. On one day where Fate's smile was especially obtuse, a young turkey somehow escaped the confines of the cage upon a particular flatbed, and jumped off the truck into the roadside ditch, not 50 feet from where my brother was skulking about, dreaming of doing something spectacular on an otherwise dull spring day. With the dream springing into his midst, he decided this escapee needed succor, so he rounded up the bird and presented it to Ma as an exile seeking political sanctuary from culinary persecution.

He really didn't present it that quite that way, but it sounds good to the politically correct in the audience.

My brother fancied he'd caught himself a pet: we did live on a farm, after all. My folks fancied another notion, involving fattening up the bird for a Thanksgiving reckoning, months hence (so much for succor from culinary persecution). The rest of us just considered the bird as one more chore (feeding, watering, etc.). At any rate, the turkey rated his/her own pen, under the shade of an orchard apple tree, at the NW corner of the yard.

This was, as I recall, in February. Now advance to April, same year. My father was a sheriff's deputy for the local county, and had recently acquired what was and is known as a 'back up gun': a .22 magnum semi-automatic pistol. On one fine Sunday, he decided to take the gun out and test fire it. Being 13 at the time, I tagged along hoping to ge the chance to cross the Rubicon, and fire my first non-BB gun firearm, under the trained guidance of Pop.

Using our trash burning barrel as a backstop, he attached a silhouette target to it and stepped back about 30 ft, placing a few accurate holes in the target. Taking it all in with the image of John Wayne in mind, I was more than ready for when it would be my turn.

After a brief lecture on firearm safety and handling, I was allowed to hold the firearm with the safety on. He directed me in holding and aiming the weapon, and setting up on the target. His last comment to me, before graduating Firearms 101, was the totally absurd-sounding admonition, "Now don't shoot the turkey".

"Dad!" was my semi-indignant response: the turkey was in a pen, 15 yards further on and to the right of my intended target. I was almost insulted. I carefully sighted in, closed one eye, and squeezed the trigger: BLAM!

Almost instantly, the turkey started flopping about its pen, mortally wounded.

Pop -- straight-faced with bitten lip to keep from laughing -- quietly removed the gun from my hand, and withheld my diploma. The subsequent autopsy, conducted by Ma, revealed the turkey had died from one bullet hitting it dead-center through the middle of its neck, just below the head.

I couldn't have made that shot with a scoped rifle.

Initially, it seemed I'd committed two beginning shooter's faux pas: I failed to anticipate the recoil of the pistol, and I jerked when I pulled the trigger. To pull the shot that far right, well, I couldn't explain then, let alone now. I just know that at turkey dinner that night, while my folks and other siblings twittered and giggled at me, my brother sat there, glaring. Far as he was concerned, I'd murdered his pet.

Good thing I was older and bigger.

I've had to relive that episode at a number of family Thanksgivings, ever since ("Yo, Big/Little Brother, did you accidentally shoot this one, too?"), but it's also allowed me to conclude one critical and overlooked element that significantly contributed to the premature demise of that particular turkey. My brother doesn't buy it, but it's my story and I'll cling to it to my dying day.

The turkey forgot to duck.

~*~*~

Rowena vs Dinner
By S. D. Youngren
Copyright © 2004

Rowena set the bowl of potatoes on the table. "We're going to have to decide where to go for Thanksgiving," she told Sammy. "Maybe we can go to your mom's place for dinner and mine for dessert, or vice versa. Or maybe--"

"Anything you want to do is fine with me," Sammy said. "If we visit--"

He was interrupted by the telephone. With a groan, Rowena went to answer it.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Rowena; this is your mother. We have to plan Thanksgiving."

"Sammy and I were just talking about that. We--"

"You were? Oh, Rowena, that's perfect."

Rowena took a breath. "What's perfect?" she asked warily.

"Your first Thanksgiving! I'm so proud of you!"

Rowena looked over at Sammy, who of course could hear only her end of the conversation. "Mother?" Rowena said.

"It'll be such a good way to impress your future mother-in-law." Rowena and Sammy were not actually engaged. "I'm proud of you already. Let's see; we'll invite your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and Sammy's mother and aunts and uncles and cousins and--"

"You're telling me you want me to cook Thanksgiving dinner? Mother, it's already Tuesday. That's just two days before--"

"Oh, Rowena. It's just a few simple dishes. And you're such a good cook. It won't be much bother."

"Mom--"

"I'm so excited!" her mother said. "I have to go and start the invitations. Goodbye, dear." And she rang off.

Rowena hung up the phone. A roast bird, a small ham, some potatoes, vegetable, salad. Cranberry sauce. Stuffing. A couple of pies, baked the day before. Maybe three pies. A few bags of chips. She could certainly do that, even with so little warning. She went to her place at the table and sat down.

"Well," she told Sammy, "we've solved the problem of where to have Thanksgiving."

 @>--->---   @>--->---   @>--->--- 

Rowena had to visit two separate supermarkets to find everything on her shopping list. She had to steer two balky shopping carts, navigate two sets of aisles, and go through two checkout lines, but finally she had everything she had set out to get. She dumped the second load of purchases on the table and was putting the things away when the phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Rowena; this is your mother."

Rowena put the cranberries down on the counter, then put her hand there too. She braced herself. "Hi, Mom."

"Listen, Rowena, I've been thinking." Uh-oh. "You remember those coconut macaroons your Aunt Dottie used to make?"

"The ones that made Uncle Harry ill?"

"Well, he doesn't have to eat them, does he?"

"Mother. I've done all my shopping already, and I don't have any coconut. And I don't want to have to go back to the store to buy some."

"Of course you have to buy some, if you want to make macaroons."

"I don't want to make macaroons. I'm already making the pies and--"

"The macaroons aren't for dessert. You put them out beforehand. You know, for nibbling."

"I've got cheese, crackers, pickles, olives, raw vegetables, dip--"

"That sounds wonderful."

"--nuts, chocolates, chocolate-coated nuts, pretzels--"

"Oh, that sounds good."

"--lemon drops, root beer drops, cinnamon drops, brownies, and those little nut cookies covered in powdered sugar."

"Sounds like you've thought of everything. Except macaroons."

"I really don't think I need macaroons. I've got so much stuff as it is, and so much to do, and I don't have the coconut or the recipe--"

"I'll read you the recipe. Your Aunt Dottie is going to be so proud. She was afraid that recipe was just going to perish with her, and after all the work she did perfecting it." Rowena closed her eyes. Her mother said, "Do you have a piece of paper?"

It was no use, Rowena thought, fetching the pen and paper. It was never any use.

 @>--->---   @>--->---   @>--->--- 

On Wednesday evening, Rowena began her cooking by baking three pies. Sammy washed dishes, sliced apples, and did what he could; though he was very helpful, she still went to bed late. Thanksgiving morning she got up and began her preparations, only to be sent back to the store when her mother called to remind her that she needed to provide low-fat salad dressing and dietetic cookies; she got to the store just as it was closing for the holiday, and Rowena had to talk her way in. She grabbed the things she'd come for, paid, and left, literally out of breath. But by afternoon it looked as though Rowena, bustling in her fragrant kitchen, was going to survive after all; and not only survive but triumph. She was busy, and she was keeping Sammy busy; but she was also keeping to her schedule. Turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rolls . . . plus the three pies and all those cookies, all baked and ready. Stuffing . . . and cranberry sauce; she mustn't forget that.

And another phone call from her mother.

"Mom, really, I'm right in the middle--"

"I just had to call and let you know to expect another guest. My Cousin Tab--you remember Cousin Tab?--well, she didn't have anywhere else to go, and it was just so sad, on Thanksgiving--"

"Okay," Rowena said. "We'll make room."

"Oh, thank you, Rowena; it'll mean so much to poor Tab. I'll let her know she can come. And you'll have the wild rice stuffing and the risotto for her." It was a statement.

Rowena took a deep breath. "What wild rice stuffing and risotto?"

"Well, Tab is allergic to wheat, so she has to have rice. I thought a rice pudding also, but Tab says she'll just eat the pie filling and leave the crust; isn't that thoughtful of her? Saving you the work?"

"Mom, I don't have time for risotto! I don't even have the right kind of rice! It's Thanksgiving Day; the stores are all closed. Even if we had time to go shopping, which we don't. And wild rice--Mother, why do you--"

"Rowena! Think of poor Tab!"

"--at the last minute! Mother, people are going to be arriving in--" Rowena craned around to see the clock.

"Oh, thank you for reminding me; I have to do my hair. Goodness, I hope I have time! Thank you, Rowena; I'm sure everything will be lovely." And her mother hung up.

Rowena hung up as well, then just stood where she was, staring at the wall. "Doomed," she said.

"What's she done this time?" Sammy asked.

"She's invited some cousin of hers whom I don't think I've ever even met, and who can't eat wheat." She turned at last to face him; he was still slicing tomatoes. "So now I'm expected to make wild rice stuffing and risotto. I don't have any converted rice; I don't even have another saucepan. Or a burner. And that poor woman . . . What am I going to do? This is--"

"You're going to do the one thing you can do," Sammy said. "Call my mother." He dumped the tomatoes into the salad and reached for the onion.

"Your mother? The one I'm supposed to be impressing with my efficiency and perfection?" Sammy laughed.

"My mother," he said. "The one who already likes you and will be very glad to help."

Rowena glanced again at the clock. "What can she do, at this point?"

"Call her," Sammy said.

 @>--->---   @>--->---   @>--->--- 

What Sammy's mother did was to show up ten minutes early, with one restaurant container full of wild rice stuffing, another full of risotto--and a folding chair.

"Oh, Rosemary." Rowena gave her a hug. "Thank you."

"You're very welcome," Rosemary said. "Thank Cynthia, down at Raphael's. They don't usually do carryouts, but I called her up and she had this waiting for me all ready by the time I arrived."

"You're a lifesaver," Rowena said. "You and Cynthia both."

And by the time Aunt Dottie turned up--let alone Rowena's parents and the strapping-but-delicate Cousin Tab--the appetizers were all set out and Rowena was working in the kitchen alone.

 @>--->---   @>--->---   @>--->--- 

"And she never let on," Rowena told her friend Terese. It was the day after; Sammy, home now doing the dishes, had sent Rowena off to Terese's to relax. "Cousin Tab complimented me on the risotto and Rosemary said, `Rowena's quite a cook, isn't she?' My mom's convinced she's got an ally in this get-Rowena-and-Sammy-hitched thing. As if Rosemary's going to push anybody to do anything."

"It sounds to me as if you already had her as impressed as she needed to be. So the only question remaining is: Did you impress your mother to the point where she can consider you an actual adult?"

"She thinks I single-handedly cooked an umpteen-course holiday meal for twenty people, with the last-minute risotto and wild rice stuffing, and kept everybody entertained and off each other's throats, and made Aunt Dottie's day with those stupid macaroons, and she really believes I did it all myself." Rowena picked up her glass of water. "What do you think?"

"That you've got Rosemary thinking you're strong and capable and mature enough to trust her to help, and that your mother thinks you did it all yourself and are still a child."

"Got it in one."

S. D. Youngren is the author of the humorous short story web site Rowena's Page and the paperback Rowena Gets a Life, which is comprised of stories from the site. Rowena vs Dinner is adapted from Rowena Gives Thanks, part of the second volume of stories. The author was born and raised in San José, California, and now lives with her husband in Los Angeles, where she almost never gets to cook holiday family meals.

~*~*~

Blitz
By: Zakary Age 5 © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Blitz is orange
Blitz is round
Blitz is small
My pumpkin Blitz
Rolled in a ditch
My pumpkin Blitz

By: Zakary
Winner Most Original Poem for Kindergarten as published in the Nolensville Dispatch

~*~*~

For Whom the Horn Blows
By: Angela Gillaspie © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Several years ago, on our way to Georgia from Alabama, my oldest son, Josh's flag football game, our newly paid off minivan's transmission died. With my hubby Paul pushing, we got the minivan over to the side of the road.

After waiting on the roadside for two pleasurable hours of family togetherness, a friend rescued us. The next day, Paul rented a new minivan complete with all the bells and whistles.

Dropping my younger son Nick off at preschool the following Monday, I was in awe at the dual climate controls, bucket seats and all those glorious buttons. Man, what a machine! I could press a button on the key ring and lock all the doors, plus I could press another button to unlock the doors before all my kids could whine about how long it took me to unlock the car. There was even a panic button that I could use to embarrass the kids in public!

Our old minivan wasn't going to be ready in time for us to make the four-hour jaunt over to Georgia to visit my parents for Thanksgiving, so we rented the new minivan for another week and drove it to Georgia.

We were making great time, only having to stop once. We got a burger for Paul, took all the kids to the bathroom and then gassed up the minivan. That's when things got ugly. Paul began pumping the gas while the kids argued over the pronunciation of the word 'three.'

"Thhh-reee!"

"F-f-frrreee!"

"Thhh-reee, dufus."

"F-f-frrreee!"

A station wagon over-flowing with tattooed and pierced teenagers pulled up beside us and I locked the doors. Paul reached over to open the locked door and the lights began flashing and the horn blew. I unlocked the doors and grabbed the keys out of the ignition, and pushed buttons. Finally, I pressed the panic button twice and the blaring horn and flashing lights stopped. I looked up at the hotel across the street and saw a gorilla-sized man peering out of a window with his hands on his hips.

Paul paid for the gas, walked back to the car and when he opened the door, the alarm went off again. I pressed the panic twice again, shutting off the alarm. The kids were helpful as usual . . .

"Make it stop!"

"It went off cuz you farted!"

"I did not, it went off cuz you are so stupid!"

"Momma, she called me stupid!"

"Y'all hush and don't say 'fart'," Paul grunted in agreement as he gulped down his cheeseburger.

He finished and then tried to start the minivan; it died while the horn blasted and the lights flashed. I clawed at the glove compartment looking for the owner's manual and found several insurance papers and a chewed straw. So there we were, trapped in a rental minivan with three arguing kids in the middle of Gadsden, Alabama and no owner's manual in sight.

Gorilla Man looked as if he would burst through his third story window and whip our collective butts. I thought of parading my defenseless (yeah right) children in front of our minivan, hoping that he might feel sorry for our unfortunate family of five trapped at a Chevron in 30-degree weather (plus I hoped it might deter him from killing us all).

The alarm went off and Gorilla Man appeared in his steamed up hotel window every time we opened a door or tried to start the car. Paul called the emergency roadside service, and I got out of the car and paced. Paul cupped his hand over the phone, "This guy wants to tow it ten miles away to a Chrysler dealership!"

Oh now there was a good idea. We could just bundle the kids up and hitchhike to Chattanooga - hopefully Gorilla Man wouldn't run us over.

Paul continued the search for someone that could guide him how to shut off the alarm. Eventually after twenty minutes or so of the car going off, Gorilla Man glaring at us and heartfelt prayers for Jesus to deliver us from the bonds of this rental minivan, Paul received some instructions on how to shut that daggum alarm off.

He slid the key in the passenger side door and turned the key several different ways and the noise stopped! He started the car and there were no horns! Glorious silence - well, except for the kids.

We still don't know what we did to set the alarm off, but I had to sign a form promising to never lock the doors while Paul is pumping gas again.

Next week, I'll be getting my old minivan back and I'm looking forward to having no fancy buttons, whistles and especially bells. Matter of fact, I might just see what the trade in would be on a nice OLDER non-fancy truck.

~*~*~

Let us always be thankful, and never forget...
By: Mark Berryman © 2004 All Rights Reserved

It's Thanksgiving and as the name suggests, we all need to sit back and reflect on what we are thankful for. Believe it or not, I do pause occasionally and take stock of the things I am thankful for. I could probably be the same as everyone else and say my parents, my job, health, another year...yadda...yadda...yadda.

While I AM truly thankful for those, I came up with a list of other things that I am thankful for and want to share them with you.

I am thankful for expiration dates on milk. I know that like weathermen, they are sometimes wrong. OK, nothing is wrong more often than the weatherman. Milk will sometimes last way past the date, and other times it doesn't quite make it. But to me, nothing is worse than taking a big gulp of sour tasting chunky milk, a hazzard you would face more often without them.

Yes, I am thankful for milk expiration dates.

I am thankful for aglets. You know, aglets. That's the name for those little plastic ends on shoestrings. Yes, believe it or not, they have a name. I sometimes wonder who invented the aglet. I also wonder who invented the little pull thingy on the Hershey's Kiss. By the way, they call that pull-thingy a flag. Everything has a name I suppose. Anyone who has tried to lace a shoe after the aglet comes off and the end starts freying and you can only get part of the lace through and you pull and pull and are late for school and...and... shares my thankfulness for the lowly aglet.

I am thankful for spam. Of course, now we have a delimma. Those who frequently use a computer immediately think I am talking about junk email. Those who are not so computer savvy think of the canned meat product. So which is it? Both.

Without the meat product, we would not have great spam jokes, spamburgers, the spam key (I still think the Spam key is one of the greatest inventions of man) or that great name for junk email. Without junk email, we would never have known that our body parts are too small, that I too can meet gorgeous affection-starved females from the Siberian desert, or that if I forward an email to 10 people within 10 minutes my wish will come true. I wonder if I can wish for larger body parts or affection-starved Georgia women? Yes, we should all be thankful for at least one type of spam.

I am thankful that Atilla hasn't read the column and beaten me about the head with one of those ancient brick sized cell phones while uttering, "Ooga Ooga, my ....!"

Last but not least, I am thankful that you did NOT call or write the paper asking that this column be cancelled. It's truly theraputic to be able to write a little bit of humor to go along with the news and sports. Some of you are probably puzzled by that last remark, saying to yourself, "Self, did he just say there was humor in this column?" Yes, I am thankful for those people as well. I hope you have as much to be thankful for as I do.

~*~*~

The Hysterical History of Thanksgiving
By: Sheila Moss © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Once upon a time, there were some Puritans that moved from England to Holland to have religious freedom. After a while, the Puritans decided they didn't much like their kids speaking Dutch, because they could only understand English. Also they really hated going Dutch treat. Besides that, wooden shoes gave them blisters, and they preferred black leather shoes with buckles to match their hats and purses.

They called AAA Travel and booked a cruise for 40 to the New World. Unfortunately the Niña, Piñta and Santa María, had already sailed and all that was left was the Mayflower. The cruise line was lousy and the Puritans didn't like the bar and casino, so they were pretty grumpy by the time they arrived at their destination.

Although they had sailed all the way across the Atlantic, they were too seasick to go on to Virginia. Probably it was the seafood. They made a compact with the other passengers to boycott eating fish, a revolutionary new idea, which gave them the idea of calling themselves Pilgrims.

When the Pilgrims found Plymouth Rock, they liked its name much better than Cape Cod, which sounded too fishy, and so they decided to all get off there and settle down. They forgot that Plymouth Rock was pretty chilly in winter, however, and they hadn't packed any insulated underwear. Naturally they didn't like to ski or drink hot buttered rum either.

Thank goodness, the New World had invented baseball and the Indians were playing that season. The Indians felt sorry for the Puritans, because they didn't understand how to play ball. One of the Indians was named Squanto. He knew all the cruse line directors and had traveled to England where he learned to "speaka the English" with only a slight accent. Squanto took a special interest in the newcomers, seeing as how the ball team was always looking for rookies to recruit.

Squanto taught the Puritans how to hunt, so they would be able to find their seats in the stadium when it was built, and to grow food like pumpkins so they could make jack-o-lanterns. Squanto also taught them how to make maple syrup -- we don't know why since they had no flour for pancakes. Probably they just used the syrup for making popcorn balls since Squanto had taught them to grow corn. If it had not been for this sort of help from the friendly Indians, the Pilgrims would never have made it in the New World

The Pilgrims were so happy they decided to have a big bash to celebrate, and they invited all the Indians to come. Since they didn't have any hot dogs, they ate roasted fowl and venison and pretended it was ballpark franks. They washed it down with cranberry juice cocktail. Actually, this was more of a harvest celebration than anything else.

The next year the Indians didn't make it to the playoffs and the Pilgrims forgot all about celebrating for several years until another winning team came along. Since, like most fans, they had been praying for a winning team, they were very thankful and decided it might be a good idea to celebrate again. Unfortunately, the Indians had moved to Cleveland and were beginning to be a little aggravated at the Pilgrims for building houses on the good land instead of building them that new stadium.

The Pilgrims decided they would just become New England Patriot fans and watch football for their celebration instead. They liked the combination of turkey and football so well that they did it every year, and it soon became a tradition. Finally, the Continental Congress passed a law that all 13 colonies would celebrate the holiday, and then promptly adjourned to go to the big game.

Nobody really took Thanksgiving very seriously until some lady wrote about it in Ladies Home Journal and President Lincoln, who frequently took ideas for laws from ladies' magazines, thought it would be a good idea to have a national day of Thanksgiving.

And that is exactly how the Thanksgiving holiday came about. To this very day, we still over indulge on turkey to celebrate and show our gratitude for football. We no longer invite the Indians; however, since the World Series is over for the year and they wouldn't come anyhow.

Sheila is a free-lance columnist from Nashville, TN. She apologizes for sleeping through History class and hopes you will not be offended.

How to Cook a Turkey
By: Susan Reinhardt © 2004 All Rights Reserved

How in the world does a person cook a turkey? As they say in the hills, there are many ways to skin a cat.

The turkey cooking technique was a question a couple of teachers at Jones Elementary School in Asheville asked their classes. The students' answers were posted outside the classroom as part of a writing assignment, and if you read on, you'll see just how the young mind works when it comes to cooking and sharing recipes.

Anne Tsiros, a first-grade teacher, and Brenda Davidson, who teaches kindergarten, say they've had some doozies in their many years of this particular assignment.

"I had one who said after they pluck the feathers off, which was grandma's job, then they put it in the washtub with Clorox, soap and detergent."

Here is how other children think a turkey should be handled.

"I would drive after the turkey and jump out of the truck to grab it. I would put it in the truck with the windows up so it won't get out. I would take it home and fry it. With the feathers off." ~ Devonte Richardson

"I will put it in a pan with pineapples, salsa and pepperoni and cook a 67 pound turkey or 7 days." ~ Quentin Williams

"Get a turkey from the farm. Chop off its head with an ax. Then I pull off the feathers. My mom washes it. She is a good washer. Put it in a dish and add chopped carrots and no salt. Put it in the oven for 15 minutes. Serve with cake" ~ Kevin Ye

"Get a big turkey for all my family. Bake it with the plastic on. It makes it taste better." ~ Kayon Rogers

"Shoot turkey that lives by the river. Put it in the sink and get the blood off. Put in the stove for 12 minutes. Then you invite your friends over to eat it." ~ Devon Harvin

"I will put a 30 pound turkey in a pan. It should cook for 20 hours." ~ Sydney Davidson

"Go to the woods and shoot a turkey. Take it home and pull the feathers. Then you put it in the oven for 8 minutes." ~ Jahquese Fair

"Get a turkey from the turkey place. You can bake it in the oven for a few minutes and then take it out." ~ Tarica Lordman

"Put it in the oven. Bake it for 5 minutes at 15 degrees. Fix some carrots and apples and lettuce." ~ Farrah Morgan

"I will put hot sauce and bologna and cheese on it." ~ Clinton Lilly

"My pappy will shoot a turkey and wash it in the sink. My granny boils it for 5 minutes. We chop it and put salt on eat. We eat French fries, pickles and some rice with our turkey." ~ Alexia Moseley

"Get a large turkey from Ingles. Take off the plastic and wash the turkey. Put salt. Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 30 degrees." ~ Tarina Jackson

"I will get a 500 pound turkey, put ketchup on it and cook it for about 3 minutes. I will call grandma and say, "Time to Eat!" ~ Shamauri

Take This Bird and Stuff It
By: Melissa Baumann © 2004 All Rights Reserved

November, marks that time of year when I don my apron shield, put a basting tool in my hip holster and I prepare to do battle with the nefarious Tom Turkey. He is the ultimate foe. I have often smelled success only to have it slip through my grasp. Just once, I'd like to cook a turkey without having a calamity befall me. Disaster has struck so many times, I've caught my kids negotiating with my husband for the video camera, so that they could record the yearly disaster for posterity.

The first turkey I ever cooked as an adult was a beautiful golden brown bird that oozed juice and smelled divine. It also held an overlooked packet of giblets under the neck skin fold. It was the only place I hadn't looked for them. I did everything to that bird short of inserting a speculum and after an hour of earnest excavation I decided that the giblets had fallen to the factory floor and proceeded to bake the bird. Now, I don't know a lot about plastic bags, but I suspect their intended usage does not include slow roasting inside a turkey for four hours. Not being willing to ingest the results of a time-released chemical spill I let my friends at Swanson's Frozen Foods feed me that year. I should have seen it as an omen and given up the idea of cooking a turkey, but every year I insist on making a valiant attempt. It's a badge of honor I wish to wear; instead I end up wearing battle scars and the defeated smile of someone who has yet to taste victory.

I remember the year I had researched the family stuffing recipe, carefully calculated the size of the bird necessary to feed my little family of three, and taped the Butterball Crisis Hotline number to the refrigerator. I had new hot pads, a roasting pan from an uber-fancy gourmet shop, and a shopping list that had been checked twice. I was armed. I was ready. I was doomed. I seriously miscalculated the amount of time it takes to prep a turkey and make stuffing so I was a good two hours behind schedule right off the top. The little red button guaranteed to signal me when my turkey was done was so clogged with my fresh herbs and butter that it never popped. Dinner was served about 2 hours after my toddler fell asleep on the couch. Of course, he'd already had a big helping of holiday beanie-weenies.

In my post-traumatic stress flashbacks I can recall the year I dropped the turkey on the floor and the year I forgot to stuff it. The time I bought a bird so big that it no longer fit in the oven (I had to break it's ribs to get it into the roasting pan), and the time I accidentally knocked the temperature up so high the fat in the pan caught fire. That last disaster actually had a silver lining. I threw flour in the roasting pan to douse the flames and stumbled on the best way to make gravy. Go figure. I wonder if that's how my mother learned?

There was one year I managed to cook a fairly nice, appropriately stuffed, plastic free turkey. Unfortunately, that was the year the Teflon flaked off the pan and into the mashed potatoes so I have a hard time counting that year as a success.

I could always give up on the roaster altogether and try one of those nifty turkey fryers - but I worry that therein lies the path to disaster. The "simple instructions" include warnings about "not cooking on a flammable surface or a wooden deck" - so I'm cooking this bird, where? The surface of the moon? Prepping the bird includes the use of a basting injection device; which looks remarkably like a prop out of a Wes Craven film. Apparently, you just jam this 12- inch syringe, multiple times and varied angles mind you, into your bird and voila! You will either create a very juicy meal or a big bird junkie trying to score a dime bag of butter. Plus, picture my house " Hey, kids! Mommy's decided that our super fattening, artery clogging holiday meal isn't sending us to our graves fast enough so this year I'm going to give the turkey a hot oil Jacuzzi."

If not for my stubborn desire to serve a Rockwell-esque feast; I suspect this year we'd be saying our prayers of thankfulness over a Heavenly Ham.

"If we don't stand for something, we will surely fall for everything." --Peter Marshall

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