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Let's Talk Turkey!

October 13, 2014

Have you ever wondered the origins of the phrase, 'Let's talk turkey'? I'm always curious about the minutiae, no matter how inane it might seem. According to legend, a settler and a Native American went hunting for turkey and buzzards together. They both had caught one of each but when it came time to share the game, the settler took the two turkey and gave the native the two buzzards. The native, justifiably annoyed, said, 'Stop talking birds, let's talk turkey'! The saying has since come to mean, 'lelt's dispense with the nonsense and talk about what's really important'. Well, TURKEY is important, particularly when it's Thanksgiving!

 

Today is Thanksgiving here in Canada, which has been observed on the second Monday in October since it was proclaimed by Canadian Parliament in 1957. Prior to that, Thanksgiving fell on different dates, most notably being on the Monday of the week in which Armsitice Day fell. However, that didn't always coincide with the basic premise of Thanksgiving as a celebration to mark the harvest. The first known Thanksgiving Feast actually dates back to the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher of England in search of the Northwest Passage, at the time a hypothetical sea route north and west around North America. Colonial powers from Europe dispatched explorers in an attempt to find an alternativie to sailing around Cape Horn, Chile. Cape Horn, although not the southern most point in South America, is the southern headland and the waters surrounding it are particularly hazardous making it notorious as a sailors' graveyard. However, the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean had it's own perils, being plagued with ice and freak storms which at times scattered Frobisher's fleet. On meeting together at their anchorage in Frobisher Bay, Mayster Wolfall, minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankful to God for the 'strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous of places', hence giving rise to the first known Thanksgiving in Canada.

 

In the U.S., Thanksgiving is held on the last Thursday in November and commenmorates the 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present day Massachuesettes between the pilgrims and the natives that was prompted by a particularly good harvest. However, Thanksgiving actually is an English tradition brought forth to the New World by English settlers. It is a tradition that was born of the Protestant Reformation. In English tradition, days of thanksgiving and special thanksgiving religious services became important during the English Reformation in the reign of Henvy VIII, in reaction to the large number of religious holidays on the Catholic Calendar.

 

Regardless of it's origin, Thanksgiving is an annual celebration giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. It's perhaps due to the early onset of cold weather and subsequently early harvest, that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October, as opposed to the November date it's celebrated in the U.S.  While all of that history is well and good, let's talk turkey, or dispense with the nonsense and talk about what truly is important when it comes to Thanksgiving, which for me is two things: the people in my life who I am trully grateful for and, well, TURKEY!

 

Thanksgiving for me is a time to reflect on all of my blessings. I have so many people in my life to be thankful for that I truly wake up every morning feeling blessed. I believe that true wealth is not measured by the house you live in, the vehicles in your driveway, or the bobbles dripping from your ears, neck and fingers. True wealth is measured by our relationships. To be loved, unconditionally and completely, for just being 'me' is my greatest good fortune because, let's face it, I'm a little quirky and intense, and life with me is more akin to a roller coaster ride than a walk in the park. That having been said, I want to give special thanks to the people who love me completely and unconditionally, and who perhaps, every now and then, are grateful for me too! There's no pecking order here because I love and I am grateful for each of them equally: Mackenzie, Kylie, Stephen, Dad, Mom, my siblings Geri and Michael, my cousins Trudy, Ree, Patricia, Roger and Michael, and my bestest buddy in the world, Siobhan....I am eternally grateful for your constant love, support and encouragement and in my books, I am one weatlhy gal!  As the saying goes, 'The best things in life aren't things'.

 

With all of the warm and fuzzies out of the way, let's really talk turkey! I would have to say that Roast Turkey Dinner is the ultimate comfort food for me. It soothes my soul and satisfies my belly more than anything else I can think of. I get so excited when Thanksgiving is approaching because I can`t wait to cook a turkey, smell the aroma of it roasting in my oven, with it`s glorious crispy golden brown skin. To see it on the dinner plate, nuzzled up to my Cranberry Orange Sauce with Triple Sec, topped with Savory Dressing, alongside carrots, turnip and potato, all blanketed in warm, sikly gravy, just sets my heart aflutter! 

 

 

A Traditional Newfoundland Roast Turkey Dinner would most likely also include a chunk of salt beef cooked in with the vegetables and perhaps even a Blueberry Duff in a pudding bag in there too! I`m a bit of an anomaly when it comes to Newfoundland fare, tending to stay away from the salt meat because, well, of the salt. As for the Blueberry Duff, I didn`t have enough fresh blueberries on hand and by the time I realized it this morning, the stores were all closed for the statutory holiday.  Hopefully, no one will notice it`s absence, fingers crossed. Another Newfoundland tradition, though, is stuffing the turkey with a Savory Stuffing, which I did manage to have all of the ingredients for. Any other place that I have had a roast turkey dinner with stuffing, the stuffing contained a variety of dried fruits, particularly currants or cranberries, leeks, mushrooms or any other variety of ingredients. But in Newfoundland, we simply combine dry bread crumbs with diced onion, savory, a little salt and pepper, and perhaps a drizzle of melted butter to hold it together. There are no berries, mushrooms or other vegetables...just bread, onion and savory...and it`s DELICIOUS!

 

 

My father is partial to a Mashed Potato Dressing, which is mashed potato instead of the dry bread crumbs, combined with diced onion and savory. Although it no doubt goes without saying, I made a batch of that as well!

 

 

We all love cranberry sauce with our roast turkey dinner, so last evening I made a batch of Cranberry Orange Sauce with Triple Sec, just to kick it up a notch!  I combined a 1/2 cup water with the juice of one large orange, 2 Tbsp of fresh orange zest, finely chopped, 3/4 cup of sugar and a 1/4 tsp of salt in a medium size saucepan. Bringing that mixture to boil over medium high heat, I then added in a 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries and added 2 Tbsp of Triple Sec orange flavoured liqueur. Once the sauce came back up to a boil, I reduced the heat and let it simmer and reduce in volume until it was the consistency of a jam. I then removed it from the heat and when the sauce had completely cooled, I stored it in an airtight conatiner in the refrigerator until I was ready to serve at Thanksgiving dinner.

 

Traditionally, we always have pumpkin pie for dessert on Thanksgiving. My dad had mentioned to me several times about a pumpkin pie his mother use to make when he was small, in which the pumpkin was actually sliced as apples would be for an apple pie as opposed to being pureed, which seems to be the most popular method for pumpkin pie.  I was dubious what the texture of a sliced jack-o-lantern pie would be like but nonetheless, I set out to research recipes for sliced pumpkin pie. Much to my chagrin, no such recipes could be found. But I did discover that for making pumpkin pie, you don't use the garden variety jack-o-lantern, you use 'pie pumpkin', also known as 'sugar pumpkin'. Where in God's name would I find such a thing? I had never heard of it, let alone seen it anywhere! But, lo and hehold, upon walking into my local grocery store, there in a bin right at the front of the store, was a display of 'pie pumpkin'! Who knew? I still didn't have a recipe, but I was planning on making an apple pie at my mom's request, so I figured I'd slice up the pie pumpkin in the same manner as I would the apples, use the same ingredients, and see how it went. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? The only change I made between the Sliced Pumpkin Pie and the Homemade Apple Pie was that I made a lattice top crust for the apple pie and a full crust for the pumpkin, thinking the pumpkin would need to steam more than the apples. The result was two phenomenal pies most befitting of our Thanksgiving Feast! 

 

 

 

 

Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy our Thanksgiving Feast and the only question that arose was, 'What are your plans for the leftovers?'.  They probably shouldn't have asked me that question because the only thing that gets me more excited than a Roast Turkey Dinner is all of the wonderful things I can make from the leftovers, and so, sounding very much like Bubba Blue from Forrest Gump, I began to prattle on about my twist on turkey pot pie, homemade turkey, vegetable and barley soup, hot turkey sandwiches with homefries made in my T-Fal Actifry all smothered in low fat, lump free gravy, not to mention cold turkey sandwiches and toasted turkey sandwiches topped with cranberry, baby cucumbers, grilled sweet potato and a garlic aioli!  It's going to be a week of turkey and I sure hope my family is up to it because I certainly am! Turkey, how do I love thee, let me count the ways......

 

Roast Turkey Dinner with Savory Stuffing and Cranberry Orange Sauce with Triple Sec, and a choice of Homemade Apple Pie or Sliced Pumpkin Pie for dessert....easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND oh so delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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