I'm addicted to the Seven Quick Takes post now, so I'm going to post one even though I'ma little late. (I started this one yesterday.) Go see Jen for more!
I cooked a 21 lb. turkey for Thanksgiving. It was the biggest turkey I have ever seen. We didn't need a 21 lb. turkey -- there were only 10 of us, our 8 plus Grandma and Grandpa -- but we bought our turkey fresh from a local farm, and that was what they had. Enormous turkeys. I actually bought a roaster this year because I knew the turkey was going to be big, but the lid still wouldn't close. I baked the turkey in an oven bag inside the roaster with no lid instead. Please don't tell me about all the carcinogens with which I infected my pastured turkey. I am blissful in my ignorance.
Next year we have decided to raise our own turkeys. We just have no clue how to do this.
Turkeys, I hear, are a lot more skittish than chickens. Also, it appears that they may be less intelligent than chickens. (How an animal could be less intelligent than a chicken, I have no idea.) There are not as many varieties of turkey to choose from as there are chickens, largely because factory farming has selected for ONE breed -- the Broad-breasted White -- which has white feathers for easy plucking and cannot mate because it is soooo heavy. We'd prefer to conserve one of the few other remaining breeds, but which one? The Bourbon Red? The Naragansett? The Royal Palm? It seems that mail order turkeys have a 15 minimum order. Do we really need 15 turkeys? Where would we put them? Would we try establish a breeding flock? Are we going to need an extra freezer?
Thanksgiving suddenly seems a lot more complicated.
Sweet Potato Souffle is the absolute best way to eat sweet potatoes. Just remember to call it a "souffle" and not "pie filling."
Andy took the big kids and his parents to our local used book store on Wednesday, while I stayed home with the little ones (and Farmerboy, who was sick.) He brought home a book called Malabar Farm. Malabar Farm is now a state park in Ohio, to which Lehman's apparently donates a portion of their proceeds, but it began life as an organic farm (sort of a commune, actually) back in the 1930s and 40's. Andy read me an interesting passage from it last night, linking various social problems to the depletion of the soil, because poor soil produces "sick and stunted specimens". What was most interesting about the passage came in this line:
"Education comes third because it is useless to attempt education with people sick physically and mentally from deficiencies of vital minerals. It is no good trying to solve the problem by taxes, WPA, charity and relief, although these may be necessary in times of acute crisis."
He also read me a descriptive passage about one of their lunches on the farm, for 14 people:
Reba is off for the week end in Mt. Vernon so Tom and Nancy cooked lunch aided by bits of advice, some corn-husking and potato-paring by the rest of the family. And a good lunch it was -- young White Rock broilers, mashed potatoes, gravy, cauliflower and sweetcorn fresh from the garden, quantities of fresh butter churned Thursday, tomatoes like beefsteak and the first limestone lettuce, newly made peach butter and freshly made pickles put up by Nanny and Jenny Oaks, ice-cold cantaloupe watermelon, big bunches of Niagara and Concord grapes and fresh peaches, ice-cold glasses of Guernsey milk or fresh buttermilk with little globules of butter still floating in it. Everything on the table was produced on the place.
To which I replied, "Good grief, that was lunch???"
Thanksgiving has, I think, become more meaningful to us as we have attempted to put more of our own food on the table. This year we had our own sweet corn, Gareth's green beans, our onions, and our potatoes. One of our own eggs went into the sweet potato souffle. (Ahem.) We had a local turkey, local garlic flavoring the turkey, local sweet potatoes, blueberries picked from a local farm in a blueberry-cranberry sauce. During the week we had pumpkin bread made from our pumpkins and yellow squash bread made from our squash. We had whipped cream made from fresh local cream on our pumpkin pie.
It was a meal that tied us to our place, a thanksgiving for our harvest, and the harvest of other farmers in the area... a harvest which is keeping those farms afloat in difficult times. Raising that food was a lot of hard work, for us and for others. It was a lot of dirt and weeds and bugs, and chickens messing up the front steps. Was it worth it? Well... yes, yes, it was. Yes, it is.
The night nurse who took care of me and the twins when they were born dubbed one of them "The Complainer", because he fussed A LOT. He didn't cry for hours on end; he just "complained". Now that he is three he throws from 1-6+ fits a day over anything which is impossible. For instance, the other day right before his nap we were reading a book that had pictures of strawberries in it.
"I like strawberries," he said.
"Me, too," I replied. "We'll eat strawberries again in the spring."
"I want to eat strawberries RIGHT NOW!!!"
0 to temper tantrum in 5 seconds. But as long as you remember that he will throw a fit about anything as long as it is impossible, this particular behavioral trait of his becomes an amusing quirk and not a source of endless frustration. Last night he was complaining about something and my husband looked him in the eye and said, "We can't go to Mars."
(You see where this is headed, don't you?)
Immediately he stopped complaining about whatever it was and switched gears. "I want to go to Mars!" he sobbed, throwing himself backwards on the couch.
There's a stack of catalogs on my dining room table right now. I've weeded through them and thrown away most of them already, but still the stack is a big one, reminding that 'tis the season to remember that I can't go to Mars either. There's not room for a 3-stage booster rocket in my house.