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Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Meet the New Black Friday (Same as the Old Black Friday), and Other News

November 28, 2014 | by

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

  • The mystery novelist P. D. James is dead at ninety-four. “‘When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall,’ she was fond of saying, ‘I immediately wondered: Did he fall — or was he pushed?’ ” (James was interviewed for The Paris Review’s Art of Fiction series in 1995.)
  • Black Friday is hell. But now there is a new hell, for there is a New Black Friday. (It involves Walmart and money.)
  • “In recent years, not just in novels but in movies, television, poetry, video games and the visual arts, drones have taken on a life of their own. As a character, they are menacing, melancholy or gallant; beastly, blind, snub-nosed, noisy and fast—Predators and Reapers in real life, ‘Helicarriers’ in Hollywood. They are the oversize hook at the end of a joystick, a militarized, antiseptic video game characterized by precision; or they are a weapon system proliferating at a breathtaking rate, and leaving a trail of destruction behind. They show off the military talent of their users, or they are an expression of unbridled hubris. They represent protection or extermination—and they carry out both things at once.”
  • In 1948, an eleven-year-old girl named Sally Horner was abducted—and the details of the case bear more than a passing resemblance to Lolita.
  • Something to ponder over leftovers: the literature of Thanksgiving. (From Mark Twain: “In the island of Fiji they do not use turkeys; they use plumbers. It does not become you and me to sneer at Fiji.”)

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William Meredith’s “Parents”

November 26, 2014 | by

James Vaughan, via Flickr

INTERVIEWER

Some of the poems in The Cheer revolve around a single, central, and somewhat mysterious idea. I’m thinking of poems like “Parents”…

MEREDITH

I’d love to tell you the story about “Parents” because it occurred one time after I’d gone to a Thanksgiving dinner where a couple I’m very fond of had three surviving parents. The three parents seemed to me valid, charming, interesting people, about my own age, and to their children they seemed, as parents normally do, embarrassing, stupid, tedious, albeit lovable. I saw my friends suffering and I remembered such suffering. The poem says essentially, “It is in the nature of things that one’s own parents are tacky, and this should give you compassion because your children will find you tacky.” The poem came out of that particular experience.

—William Meredith, the Art of Poetry No. 34, 1985

What it must be like to be an angel
or a squirrel, we can imagine sooner.

The last time we go to bed good,
they are there, lying about darkness.

They dandle us once too often,
these friends who become our enemies.

Suddenly one day, their juniors
are as old as we yearn to be.

They get wrinkles where it is better
smooth, odd coughs, and smells.

It is grotesque how they go on
loving us, we go on loving them

The effrontery, barely imaginable,
of having caused us. And of how.

Their lives: surely
we can do better than that.

This goes on for a long time. Everything
they do is wrong, and the worst thing,

they all do it, is to die,
taking with them the last explanation,

how we came out of the wet sea
or wherever they got us from,

taking the last link
of that chain with them.

Father, mother, we cry, wrinkling,
to our uncomprehending children and grandchildren.

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Dressing

November 26, 2014 | by

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“Boys, I feel I’m going to a change of climate.” A vintage Thanksgiving card.

As fans of holiday ephemera know, there are several primary genres of weird, old-timey Thanksgiving cards. There is the Greedy Child. There is the Doomed Turkey. There is the Turkey in Vehicle, which is sometimes a corncob car. There is the Anthropomorphic Root Vegetable. It hardly needs saying that Thanksgiving pinups are a thing unto themselves. Sexy Pilgrims, under-dressed squaws, and women cooking in lingerie and filmy cocktail aprons are all fairly ubiquitous. 

By far, my favorite subgenre is that of the Urbane Turkey. This foppish specimen is usually in evening dress, so as to indicate his couth. Needless to say, he sports a top hat. Sometimes a monocle or a cigarette. All in all, he has the trappings of a big-screen, rich nincompoop, which I suppose added a certain glee to his consumption. 

The Urbane Turkey is not always complacent. Sometimes he’s a sharp. He’s in the know. This Urbane Turkey is the turkey who knows where to find the best feed and the keenest peahens. As befits his man-of-the-world air, he smokes a cigar; and his citified duds are less Union Club than pool hall. This tom doesn’t take any wooden nickels; he sees the way the wind’s blowing and he’ll be out on the next train, before the axe is even sharpened. He doesn’t need pardoning; he makes his own luck

You don’t need me to point out how alienated we are from our food sources, to general detriment. Certainly, there couldn’t be anything less urbane than the case of shrink-wrapped butterballs (or even free-range heritage birds) that greets us come late November. I guess it would be easy to say that as a result, we have less respect for our food. But on the other hand, we also don’t dress it in outfits and mock it. 

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All the President’s Turkeys

November 24, 2014 | by

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Horace Vose with a turkey for President McKinley. Vose secured presidential turkeys for more than thirty-five years.

From Turkeys, all varieties: Their care and management. Mating, rearing, exhibiting and judging turkeys; explanation of score-card judging, with complete instructions, published jointly by the Reliable Poultry Journal Publishing Company and the American Poultry Publishing Company in 1909.

A turkey boiled
Is a turkey spoiled,
A turkey roast
Is a nation’s boast,
But for turkey braized
The Lord be praised.

The most famous grower of turkeys in the United States is Horace Vose, of Westerly, Rhode Island. Mr. Vose last year followed his annual custom of sending a Thanksgiving turkey to the President of the United States, a custom which he began in Gen. Grant’s first term. He has autographed letters of thanks from all the presidents since then. Mr. Vose goes to a great deal of trouble to get the President’s Thanksgiving dinner. Besides growing turkeys he deals in them, and after the chicks have been hatched a month or two he makes a tour of the farms for miles around. If he sees a particularly fine chick he secures an option on it, and directs that it be given special care. He makes other visits later in the season and bids for every fine turkey that he sees. When Thanksgiving approaches the Rhode Islander has control of practically all the finest birds for miles around. He is the largest shipper of turkeys for the New York market. This is Mr. Vose’s philosophy:

“The object of fattening a turkey is to produce firm, finely flavored, luscious flesh. Therefore it should be fattened on whole corn—not meal—as the corn gives a firmer consistency to the flesh. It should never be stuffed artificially or confined in close quarters. If sweet apples are available they may be fed, as nothing will give a nicer flavor to the flesh.”

[…] The London Board of Agriculture reports great success in fattening turkeys with a cramming machine. A mash of equal parts of ground barley, corn and oats, with a small amount of melted fat and linseed meal was used, enough skim milk being added to make it the consistency of cream. At first there was difficulty in feeding the turkeys, owing to their size and strength, but the operator finally overcame this by placing the fowls on a low stand so that their heads were on a level with the nozzle of the cramming machine. It is stated that “after a day or two the turkeys became accustomed to this manner of feeding, and when meal times came they showed much eagerness to mount the stand and receive their share of the food.”

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Sleep of the Just

November 24, 2014 | by

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Illustration by Randolph Caldecott.

You know how J. M. W. Turner tried to exhibit his work at the Royal Academy and the Royal Academy was all, Wow, your work is way too innovative and interesting and we can’t show it because it would threaten all our hidebound, bourgeois ideas and force us to reevaluate everything and make important societal changes? Yeah, well, I totally see their point. Once a year, anyway.

Because every November, all the food magazines and blogs start trying to bully us into to reinventing the wheel. Don’t be a fogey! they scream. What, you’re still eating turkey? HAHAHA. Well, if you insist on being a “traditionalist,” stuff that turkey with linguica and kale! Baste it with ramen! Douse it in pomegranate molasses! (All this is said in a vaguely threatening, SportsCenter-style cadence.) This isn’t your mom’s green bean casserole! You’re not even seeing those losers, are you, with their stupid political views and opinions about your love life? Surely you’re having some awesome no-strings Friendsgiving celebrating the new family you’ve chosen! Right? RIGHT?! SRIRACHA. SRIRACHA. SRIRACHA. 

Look. I get the market demands of the newsstand. You can’t just recycle the same stuff year after year. Nor do I mean to advocate a slavish adherence to tradition. In my family’s case, that would mean cleaning the dining room table off in a panic at the last minute, barring entrance to the rooms where we’ve stuck all the mess, then watching my mother stand in front of the digital meat thermometer with tears rolling down her cheeks.  Read More »

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Thomas Ken’s “Old Hundredth”

March 20, 2014 | by

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The New England Butt’ry Shelf Cookbook, written in 1969 by Mary Mason Campbell, is one of the most perfect works of nostalgia ever published. Ms. Campbell runs through the year’s calendar, remembering her New Hampshire family’s idyllic holiday celebrations: Fourth of July picnics on the river, Valentine’s Day children’s parties, Hallowe’en revels, all accompanied by lots of homemade food and liberally supplemented with stores from the eponymous buttery, or pantry.

As a child, I was understandably obsessed with this book. From the vantage point of my own chaotic household, the order and tradition of the year Campbell described seemed indescribably appealing. For some reason, one vignette made a particular impression on me. The author describes how, every Thanksgiving, her grandfather (who had a good baritone) would summon all the guests to table by booming out “The Doxology.” Read More »

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