Saturday, November 28, 2015

Now That Thanksgiving Is Over…

I forgot to write my blog for today.  Well, not exactly.  Obviously I wrote one because here it is.  The problem is that I didn't write it ahead of time as I usually do.  I try to get my blog posted by noon (or shortly after) each Saturday. Right now it's Saturday at 11:15AM Central time and I'm just starting to write without having anything firmly in my mind beyond a general concept.

How did this happen?  That's a good question.  And the answer is—Long Holiday Weekend.  Instead of having extra time available due to a holiday, I have confusion due to the fact that today is the third Sunday this week and there's still one more Sunday to go before things return to normal (or as normal as things get for a writer).

Last Wednesday seemed like Saturday because it was preparation for the next day's Thanksgiving holiday—out-of-town relatives visiting, grocery shopping the day before Thanksgiving (talk about a major mistake I always swear will never happen again!), preparing my assigned dish to take to my brother's house for the large gathering and feast.  Which, of course, made the next day seem like Sunday even though it was only Thursday.  Then yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving and in reality only Friday, naturally seemed like Sunday.  And since today isn't Monday, it must be Sunday…again.  Are you noticing a pattern here?  :)

And there's still tomorrow, the fourth Sunday this week—the real Sunday—before things finally return to normal on Monday.

If you are the one who had all the friends and family to your house for Thanksgiving turkey with all the traditional trimmings, you've probably been eating leftovers for two days and by now you don't want to see another turkey sandwich for a while.

I can't speak for anyone else, but recovering from a holiday weekend always feels to me as if I'm learning a set routine all over from scratch.  After tomorrow's fourth Sunday in one week, I need to get my head into Monday again.  I really don't want to deal with a fifth consecutive Sunday in one week.  :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Turkey Trivia…Just In Time For Thanksgiving

It's that time of year again…the Thanksgiving season. This year the fourth Thursday in November falls on November 26th, the day of celebration in the U.S.  Americans cook approximately 45 million turkeys each year for that Thanksgiving dinner.  So, in honor of the holiday, here are a dozen known and not so well known bits of trivia about turkeys.

1)  All turkeys do not taste the same.  The taste has to do with their age.  An older male is preferable to a younger male (the younger tom is stringy).  And the younger female hens are preferable to the older ones.  Hmmm…that older man and younger woman thing again.  I wonder if there's such a thing as a female cougar turkey.  :)

2)  A turkey less than 16 weeks old is called a fryer and a turkey 5 to 7 months of age is known as a roaster.

3)  Turkeys are a type of pheasant and are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.

4)  Wild turkeys are able to fly for short durations attaining speeds up to 55mph.  Domesticated turkeys raised on farms for food are too fat and meaty to achieve flight.

5)  We've all heard that Benjamin Franklin argued in favor of the turkey as the national symbol of America rather than the Bald Eagle (see last week's blog—Eagle Vs. Turkey).

6)  The first turkeys to be domesticated were in Mexico and Central America.

7)  The male turkey makes the gobble sound and the female clucks.

8)  A mature turkey has about 3,500 feathers, which is a lot of plucking before it can be cooked.

9)  The most turkeys produced annually come from Minnesota and North Carolina.

10)  The skin that hangs from a turkey's neck is called a wattle.  The fleshy growth on the base of the beak is the snood.

11)  Each year 90 percent of Americans have turkey for Thanksgiving compared to 50 percent on Christmas.

12)  The most turkey consumed per capita are not eaten by Americans.  Israel holds that honor.

One thing that's marvelous about the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is all the terrific leftovers!  Anyone out there having something other than the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving dinner?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Eagle Vs. Turkey: America's National Symbol

We all know that the bald eagle is America's National Symbol…a proud and majestic bird.  And turkey is what we serve every year at Thanksgiving dinner…a tasty bird made all the more appetizing when accompanied by dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy.

But did you know that if Benjamin Franklin had gotten his way, the turkey would have been our national symbol?

In 1776, right after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress appointed a special committee to select a design for an official national seal.  This committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.  They each had their own ideas, none of which included the bald eagle.  They finally came to agreement on a drawing of a woman holding a shield to represent the states.  However, the design did nothing to inspire the members of Congress.

So Congress consulted a Philadelphia artist named William Barton who created a new design that included a golden eagle.  At the time we were still at war with England and the fierce looking bird was deemed an appropriate symbol…with one small change.  The golden eagle also flew over Europe so the federal lawmakers declared that the bird in the seal had to be an American bald eagle.

On June 20, 1782, they approved the design that we recognize today.

From the start, the eagle had been a controversial choice.  Benjamin Franklin was quite vocal in his objection to the selection of the eagle.  He considered it a bird of "bad moral character."  A year after the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war with Great Britain, Franklin argued that the turkey would have been a more appropriate symbol.  "A much more respected bird and a true native of America."

Unfortunately for Franklin, Congress was not convinced and the bald eagle remained our national symbol.

Whereas both the bald eagle and the turkey are native to America, we can't lay exclusive claim to either species since both traditionally ranged in Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S.

And all of this leads us to one important question.  If the turkey had been chosen as our national symbol, what would we serve as our traditional Thanksgiving dinner?  Somehow roast eagle just doesn't have the same appeal as the turkey.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

10 Bits of Historical Trivia or Where Did Those Expressions Come From?

Ever wonder about those interesting expressions that have been handed down through the centuries?  Phrases that we all use without giving any thought to where they came from or their original meaning?  Here's a list of ten such expressions a friend emailed to me.  Let's take a look at the historical origin of these expressions.

1)  God willing and the Creeks don't rise
This expression was originally in reference to the Native American Creek tribe and not a body of water and is attributable to Benjamin Hawkins, a late 18th century politician.  While in the south, he was requested by the President to return to Washington.  In his response, he wrote, God willing and the Creeks don't rise.  Since he capitalized the word Creeks, it was assumed he was referring to the Indian tribe rather than water.

2)  It cost an arm and a leg
Since there weren't any cameras in George Washington's day, the only way to portray someone's image was either through sculpture or painting.  Some paintings of Washington show him standing behind his desk with one arm behind his back while others show both arms and legs.  Prices charged by artists were often calculated according to how many arms and legs were being painted rather than the number of people in the painting.  Therefore, if the subject wanted both arms and legs in the painting, they were told, "Okay, but it will cost an arm and a leg."

3)  Here comes the big wig
As ludicrous as it sounds today, back then men and women took baths only twice a year (usually May after the cold winter and October after a hot summer). Women covered their hair and men shaved their heads and wore wigs. The wealthy could afford good wigs made of wool. Since the wool wigs couldn't be washed, they would hollow out a loaf of bread and put the wig in the shell, then bake it for half an hour.  The heat made the wigs big and fluffy, thus the term big wig.  Today we use the expression when someone appears to be powerful and wealthy.

4)  Chairman of the Board
Many houses in the late 1700s consisted of a large room with only one chair.  A long wide board folded down from the wall and was used for dining.  The head of the household always sat in the chair while everyone else sat on the floor while eating.  To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge and that person was referred to as the chair man.  Today in business, we use the expression Chairman of the Board.

5)  Crack a smile and other related phrases
One result of the lack of personal hygiene back then was that many men and women developed acne scars by adulthood.  Women would spread bee's wax over their faces to smooth out their complexions. If a woman began to stare at another woman's face, she was told to mind your own bee's wax.  If a woman smiled, the wax would crack, hence the term crack a smile.  And when a woman sat too close to the fire the wax would melt, giving us the expression losing face.

6)  Straight laced
Ladies wore corsets which laced up the front.  A proper and dignified woman wore a tightly tied corset and was said to be straight laced.

7)  Not playing with a full deck
Back in the day, a common form of entertainment was playing cards.  When a tax was levied on the cards, it was applicable only to the ace of spades.  To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards and ignore the ace of spades.  Since most card games require all 52 cards, those people were thought to be stupid because they were not playing with a full deck.

8)  Gossip
Long ago, before the creation of mass communication such as phones, radio, and television (and certainly the internet), politicians sent their assistants to local taverns to get feedback from the public and determine which issues people considered important.  They were told to go sip some ale and listen to people's conversations.  The two words go sip were eventually combined into one word, gossip, when referring to the local opinion.

9)  Minding your P's and Q's
In the local taverns, people drank from pint and quart sized containers.  One of the bar maid's jobs was to keep track of which customers were drinking from pints and which from quarts, hence the phrase minding your P's and Q's.

And finally an expression that has often been misinterpreted…

10)  Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey
Back in the day when sailing ships ruled the waves, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons that fired iron cannon balls.  It was necessary to keep a supply of cannon balls near the cannon while at the same time preventing them from rolling around the deck.  The best storage method was a square-based pyramid with one ball perched on four balls resting on nine which sat on sixteen providing a supply of thirty cannon balls stacked in a small area next to the cannon.  There was a problem, though—how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding out from under the others.  The solution was a metal plate called a monkey with sixteen round indentations.  But again, there was a problem.  If the plate was made from iron, the iron cannon balls would quickly rust to it, especially in the damp ocean air.  The solution to the rusting problem was to make brass monkeys.  But still a problem…brass contracts much more and much quicker than iron when it's chilled.  So, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey which means it was literally cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.  Not what you were expecting?  :)