Thanksgiving on the Internet

If we were having coffee today I’d be talking about Thanksgiving.  Here’s a little rerun for you, I’ve posted it a couple of times on another blog.  In fact, I used to post this every year.  It was a classic long before the Internet but it became one of the earliest most shared posts back in the early days.  I hope you enjoy it.
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In olden times, long before the wide wide world of webs became popular, the ancient computer tribes followed something called USENET Newsgroups.  I’m not kidding.  Really, they did.
Newsgroups WERE the internet for the lucky few who could spell internet and if you were on-line, you could email and you could follow newsgroups and that was pretty much it.  Look up USENET on wikipedia sometime … it was quite a ride and it worked amazingly well considering it was a mishmash of random computer systems world-wide.
Anyway, I mention that because I was a small part of it for a number of years, helping to moderate one of the newsgroups called rec.food.recipes.  Food and cooking had a pretty good sized niche in USENET.  A moderated newsgroup meant that posts had to be approved before being unleashed, which kept things on-topic. In a general purpose newsgroup, things could get pretty crazy.  The terms FLAMEWAR and GODWIN’S LAW are still in use and they were both associated with the craziness that was part of the general newsgroups.
The moderated recipes newsgroup was fairly sedate.  People posted recipes they liked and made requests for recipes they had lost or just wanted … as in “anybody have a recipe for key lime pie?”
While I was a moderator, every year about this time of year, people would start requesting a legendary turkey recipe known as Black Turkey.  This is one of those things that used to get mimeographed or photocopied and sent around in offices — we’re talking pre-computer days.  In fact, it was one of the first really cool things I ever found on the internet, way back in late 1980-something.  Our newsgroup used to post it every year because we knew someone would eventually request it if we didn’t.
The copy below is the same one I used to post years ago.  It is attributed to author Morton Thompson, by way of an unidentified author, referenced by another author, Robert Benchley.
It is a fun read and believe it or not, when I posted it, people said they actually tried it and it was good, but reviews were mixed and I always thought that perhaps it might not be so good as to be worth all the trouble.  It’s a fun read, though.
Ah, but this is 2015, probably a good 17-18 years since I last posted it.  I did something I never thought about before … I researched it and found more information … two links are listed after the recipe … one is yet another rendering, this one attributed to Canadian humorist Pierre Berton, and the other, a blog post from a Craig Smith reads like an academic treatise and includes several renderings along with quite a bit of insight.  Doesn’t mention Pierre though.
Who knew Black Turkey could be so controversial?
Anyway, here, for your amusement, is the famous Black Turkey Recipe with additions.
——————-Black Turkey, circa 1963————————–
For about a dozen years, at the approach of turkey-eating season, I have 
been trumpeting to all who would listen, and to a good many who would 
rather not, that there is only one way to cook a turkey. This turkey is 
not my turkey. It is the creation of the late Morton Thompson, who wrote 
“Not as a Stranger” and other books.
This recipe was first contained in the manuscript of a book called “The 
Countess” which was given to the late Robert Benchley, who had eaten 
the turkey and was so moved as to write an introduction to the book. 
Benchley then lost the manuscript. He kept hoping it would turn up– 
although not as much, perhaps, as Thompson did, but somehow it vanished, 
irretrievably. Thompson did not have the heart to write it over. He did, 
however, later put his turkey rule in another book. Not a cookbook, but a 
collection of very funny pieces called “Joe, the Wounded Tennis Player”.
THE ONLY WAY TO COOK A TURKEY!!!!!!!
This turkey is work… it requires more attention than an average 
six-month-old baby. There are no shortcuts, as you will see.
Get a HUGE turkey– I don’t mean just a big, big bird, but one that looks 
as though it gave the farmer a hard time when he did it in. It ought to 
weigh between 16 and 30 pounds. Have the poultryman, or butcher, cut its 
head off at the end of the neck, peel back the skin, and remove the neck 
close to the body, leaving the tube. You will want this for stuffing. 
Also , he should leave all the fat on the bird.
When you are ready to cook your bird, rub it inside and out with salt and 
pepper. Give it a friendly pat and set it aside. Chop the heart, gizzard, 
and liver and put them, with the neck, into a stewpan with a clove of
garlic, a large bay leaf, 1/2 tsp coriander, and some salt. I don’t know
how much salt– whatever you think. Cover this with about 5 cups of water 
and put on the stove to simmer. This will be the basting fluid a little 
later.
About this time I generally have my first drink of the day, usually a 
RAMOS FIZZ. I concoct it by taking the whites of four eggs, an equal 
amount of cream, juice of half a lemon (less 1 tsp.), 1/2 tsp. 
confectioner’s sugar, an appropriate amount of gin, and blending with a 
few ice cubes. Pour about two tablespoons of club soda in a chimney glass, 
add the mix, with ice cubes if you prefer. Save your egg yolks, plus 
1 tsp. of lemon — you’ll need them later. Have a good sip! (Add 1 dash
of Orange Flower Water to the drink, not the egg yolks)
Get a huge bowl. Throw into it one diced apple, one diced orange, a 
large can of crushed pineapple, the grated rind of a lemon, and three 
tablespoons of chopped preserved ginger (If you like ginger, double 
this -REB). Add 2 cans of drained Chinese water chestnuts.
Mix this altogether, and have another sip of your drink. Get a second, 
somewhat smaller, bowl. Into this, measuring by teaspoons, put: 
2 hot dry mustard 
2 caraway seed 
2 celery seed 
2 poppy seed 
1 black pepper 
2 1/2 oregano 
1/2 mace 
1/2 turmeric 
1/2 marjoram 
1/2 savory 
3/4 sage 
3/4 thyme 1/4 basil 
1/2 chili powder
In the same bowl, add: 
1 Tbl. poultry seasoning 
4 Tbl parsley 
1Tbl salt 
4 headless crushed cloves 
1 well crushed bay leaf 
4 large chopped onions 
6 good dashes Tabasco 
5 crushed garlic cloves 
6 large chopped celery
Wipe your brow, refocus your eyes, get yet another drink–and a third 
bowl. Put in three packages of unseasoned bread crumbs (or two loaves of 
toast or bread crumbs), 3/4 lb. ground veal, 1/2 lb. ground fresh pork, 
1/4 lb. butter, and all the fat you have been able to pull out of the 
bird.
About now it seems advisable to switch drinks. Martinis or stingers are 
recommended (Do this at your own risk – we always did! -REB). Get a 
fourth bowl, an enormous one. Take a sip for a few minutes, wash your 
hands, and mix the contents of all the other bowls. Mix it well. Stuff 
the bird and skewer it. Put the leftover stuffing into the neck tube.
Turn your oven to 500 degrees F and get out a fifth small bowl. Make a 
paste consisting of those four egg yolks and lemon juice left from the 
Ramos Fizz. Add 1 tsp hot dry mustard, a crushed clove of garlic, 1 Tbl 
onion juice, and enough flour to make a stiff paste. When the oven is
red hot, put the bird in, down on the rack. Sip on your drink 
until the bird has begin to brown all over, then take it out and paint 
the bird all over with paste. Put it back in and turn the oven down to
350 degrees F. Let the paste set, then pull the bird out and paint again. 
Keep doing this until the paste is used up.
Add a quart of cider or white wine to the stuff that’s been simmering on 
the stove, This is your basting fluid. The turkey must be basted every 
15 minutes. Don’t argue. Set your timer and keep it up. (When confronted 
with the choice “do I baste from the juice under the bird or do I baste 
with the juice from the pot on the stove?” make certain that the juice 
under the bird neither dries out and burns, nor becomes so thin that 
gravy is weak. When you run out of baste, use cheap red wine. This 
critter makes incredible gravy! -REB) The bird should cook about 12 
minutes per pound, basting every 15 minutes. Enlist the aid of your 
friends and family.
As the bird cooks, it will first get a light brown, then a dark brown, 
then darker and darker. After about 2 hours you will think I’m crazy. The 
bird will be turning black. (Newcomers to black turkey will think you are 
demented and drunk on your butt, which, if you’ve followed instructions, 
you are -REB) In fact, by the time it is finished, it will look as though 
we have ruined it. Take a fork and poke at the black cindery crust.
Beneath, the bird will be a gorgeous mahogany, reminding one of those 
golden-browns found in a precious Rembrandt. Stick the fork too deep, and 
the juice will gush to the ceiling. When you take it out, ready to carve 
it, you will find that you do not need a knife. A loud sound will cause
the bird to fall apart like the walls of that famed biblical city. The 
moist flesh will drive you crazy, and the stuffing–well, there is 
nothing like it on this earth. You will make the gravy just like it as 
always done, adding the giblets and what is left of the basting fluid.
Sometime during the meal, use a moment to give thanks to Morton Thompson. 
There is seldom, if ever, leftover turkey when this recipe is used. If 
there is, you’ll find that the fowl retains its moisture for a few days. 
That’s all there is to it. It’s work, hard work— but it’s worth it.
(What follows is not part of the recipe, but is an ingredients list to 
aid in shopping for this monster, or for checking your spice cabinet -REB)
Ingredients List:
1 turkey 
salt 
garlic 
4 eggs 
1 apple 
1 orange 
1 large can crushed pineapple 
1 lemon 
4 large onions 
6 celery stalks 
buncha preserved ginger 
2 cans water chestnuts 
3 packages unseasoned bread crumbs 
3/4 pounds ground veal 
1/2 pounds ground pork 
1/4 pounds 
butter 
onion juice 
1 quart apple cider
Spice List:

basil 
bay leaf 
caraway seed 
celery seed 
chili powder 
cloves 
ground coriander 
mace 
marjoram 
dry mustard 
oregano 
parsley 
pepper, black 
poultry seasoning 
poppy seed 
sage 
savory 
Tabasco 
thyme

turmeric
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Now, as promised,  two more links, just to complete your holiday excursion … enjoy
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Running Afowl …

If we were having coffee today I’d be in a confessional mood.  Yes, I’d admit, I’ve been feeding the neighbor’s chickens.  There is a hole in the fence and for quite a while a few chickens and guinea fowl have been getting out.  They wander into our yard all the time.

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Pepe

I’ve never had much experience with chickens.  A couple of them had been lurking really close to the house and a couple of months ago I decided to haphazardly throw out some birdseed.  Big mistake. The primary culprit is a big Rhode Island Red rooster we call Pepe.  If I go outside or if I talk to somebody outside or if I return in the car, I can expect Pepe to come running; really, he RUNS.  He knows ME.   He usually has a couple of his girlfriends in tow, we call them Beatrice and Henrietta.

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Pepe and Beatrice

For quite a while it was just Pepe and Beatrice.  Then Henrietta started hanging around.  I ran out of birdseed.  I went to a local feed store and inquired about buying some chicken feed.  The conversation went like this:

“What kind?” I was asked.

“I have no idea,” I answered.

“You don’t know what kind of chicken feed you need?”

The clerk looked at me like I was insane.  Maybe I am.  I bought the smallest bag of feed I could, twenty-five pounds.  It’s filled in pretty good.  Some days we have had as many as four or five chickens and maybe a stray guinea.

Okay, yesterday, Pepe was outside when we left for a doctor appointment.  We were running late.  He flapped his wings and crowed.  “No dice, Pepe,” I told him, “we’re in a hurry.”
I could see him in my rear-view mirror, standing in the driveway and plotting.

When we returned a couple of hours later we could see them.  Yes, them.  Pepe had been talking and the word was obviously out.  My neighbor’s side yard was full of ducks.  They were lounging near his carport,  some were roosting on his carport roof and even the roof of the house.  Now understand, we see his ducks from time to time. Mother ducks often come waddling through our yard, cute ducklings in tow on some sort of field trip. Never have we seen anything like this.  And the second I pulled up the driveway they started moving into our yard.

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note: just the first wave

When I first saw them all in total and saw them begin to move, the opening bars of the Ride of the Valkyries started rolling through my mind.  I wish I had a video of it because the music would have been a perfect backdrop, especially when the ducks started soaring off the roofs.  And yes, from some unseen corner, here came Pepe and the girls too, sprinting over as usual.  When all of them finally made the long waddle I counted twenty-two ducks, plus the chickens.

Obviously, we have bitten off more than we can chew.  I mean, we don’t feed them a lot.  It’s not a meal by any means, more of a snack.  My neighbor doesn’t care.  They eat bugs in our yard too. I usually pick up a tick or two every month but I haven’t had a tick all summer.

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I guess this isn’t the worst of it.  Others are waiting in the wings …

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Kindle versions of his novels THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP are ON SALE 9/28 and 9/29.  http://thefensk.com/spec.html
There are no birds in the novels.

Pining for the Fjords

fiordIf we were having coffee today I’d tell you a little something about pining for the fjords.  You’ve probably heard that expression before.  It’s from one of my favorite Monty Python routines … The Parrot.  I think of that every time I catch sight of a pet gazing off into space, I say they are pining for the fjords.

I happened to catch this photo the other day.  It’s our dog, Daisy, pining for the fjords.  It was a hard picture to capture because every time she did this and I grabbed my phone and tried to get up and get into position her attention was diverted and I lost the moment.  Danged beagle in her, I guess.

Ah, but not long after I got this shot  (at high magnification)  I had to go out to the car and … well, I saw the rest of the story.  She wasn’t pining for the fjords at all.

chi

She was thinking “let’s have chicken tonight!”

This was what was going on directly outside that window.  The neighbors have a lot of chickens and they can’t seem to contain them.  Not just chickens. Guinea Fowl too.  Every trip outside is a new adventure for both of us. I’m sure she aspires to embrace these birds but let me tell you, that is ONE BIG ROOSTER.  You don’t want to go there, Daisy.  Believe me.

Sigh, at least our tick populations are way down.


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
http://thefensk.com

Ahhh! Spiders!

spider2If we were having coffee today I’d hope I didn’t gross you out but I want to talk about spiders.  Well, to be honest, I just want to tell you about finding spiders.  It’s really no big deal.  One of the coolest things I learned in the Girl Scouts was finding spiders.  (Yeah, that’s right, Girl Scouts, I was a Girl Scout, but that’s another story).

I was reminded of this recently when I found one of those clip-on-the-brim-of-your-hat flashlights.  It’s great for taking out the dog at night.  As she was sniffing around trying to find that one, special, ideal little spot for, well, you know … I was looking around.  I saw these little lights shining back at me.  Tiny little lights.  One here, two there, another one over yonder.  And I thought back to learning this trick in the Girl Scouts.  [Okay, when my daughter was a Brownie I was a troop leader for camping trips and we had to attend troop leader camp training.  If you are a troop leader, you are a Girl Scout, okay?]

Anyway, if you hold a bright flashlight right between your eyes and shine it out six to fifteen feet away, slowly sweeping the beam, you will soon be aware of these tiny little bright lights peering back at you.  Sometimes you might hit a dewdrop reflection but the brighter more distinctive lights are spiders.  Or to be more accurate spider eyes. These spiders are actually saying, “here’s looking at you, kid.”

Their retinas reflect light like a cat’s eye, but they’re a little different in that they direct it directly back at the source.  During the Apollo missions, they deployed laser reflectors on the surface of the moon that do the same thing. If a laser is pointed at the right coordinates, the light will bounce back right to the source (moon landing hoaxers forget about this simple proof we were there).

Anyway, the hat brim light is in the perfect place to do this same trick.  Actually, it’s ideal because it is stable and very bright.  The little lights can quickly disappear if the spider turns away but the coolest thing is when they are on the move and you see that little light dancing over the uneven ground of the backyard as they make their way through the grass.  It’s a fun trick to show kids (which is why they showed us this in Scout camp training). If for some reason you don’t believe me, you can hone in and get close and you’ll see it.  Even a very tiny spider causes a profound reflection.

WARNING: If you are deathly afraid of spiders never do this!  You will never go outside again!  Ever!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Find info about him and his books at http://thefensk.com

#Weekendcoffeeshare Return

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today I’d apologize and lament my several month’s absence.  I’m not quite sure what happened.  The WeekendCoffeeShare is sometimes a bit like a meandering river, changing course with little to no notice.  Plus, I was fairly diverted through the second half of 2017.  The major events were my dog dying in July and my mom passing away in October.  At some point I expected I would do a post about the latter (I think I did in fact post about the former), but I never felt quite ready.  I still don’t.

Then after a deep sip, I’d go into more recent events.

I had a nasty case of this awful flu that is going around.  My lovely bride got it much much worse than me.  I hardly ever get sick.  I had the flu once in the early eighties.  I remember that mostly because of my cat.  At some point I had dragged my sorry carcass out of bed to let her in and she came in  limping on three legs and bleeding.  I remember taking her to the vet and the doctor asking which one was the patient.  I must have looked awful.  That’s the last time I remember catching the flu.

Oh, there have been other things. I had pertussis in 1999.  That’s right.  Whooping Cough.  I’ll take a bad case of the flu over that.  I have no idea where I got it.  Luckily, somehow, nobody else in the house got it.  It was not confirmed.  I went to the doctor with a bad cough.  No tests.  Got a prescription.  But at some point I read up on the symptoms and more than that, heard audio of the resulting coughing spells.  THAT is what I had, I have no doubt.  Drop to the floor, piss all over yourself, almost suffocate, making that gawd-awful whooping sound as you gag for air … yep.

Had a bout of pneumonia in 2013 too.  No cough, no fever, I just couldn’t breath.  I work in a 24/7 industry and was working with a team on a worldwide conference call. It was as scheduled software installation project at 2 AM one Sunday.  We were behind schedule because a developer was uploading a last minute revised program for me to install on a series of servers.  I had felt a little off that day, but with no real symptoms.  I felt about the same when I joined the call.  Then, while waiting, I simply could not catch my breath.  I didn’t have chest pains but that was the first thing I thought of.  I went downstairs from my home office and took a full-strength aspirin.  I struggled to get back up the stairs and sent the project manager a quick note: “I have to leave.”

“What?”

I quickly explained the situation.  Protocol usually means I need to find my own replacement or call my supervisor.  She would have none of that and said, “we’ll cancel and reschedule …. go wake up your wife right this minute and go to the hospital.”

When we got to the ER, they put me on a heart monitor but the ER doctor pretty quickly decided on a chest X-Ray.  They were going to give me an aspirin too.  I told them I already took one.  “A baby aspirin isn’t going to do it, you need a full aspirin.”

“I took a full aspirin!”

The doctor was impressed.  I remember thinking, “what, they think they’re playing with kids?”

The X-Ray showed a pretty significant chest blockage, confirming pneumonia.  I responded pretty well to whatever antibiotics they gave me and went home the next day.  After waiting all day to take a treadmill test (they just wouldn’t let up on the heart thing).  That was the first time I had stayed overnight in the hospital since … well, I remember the premier of Bewitched was on TV the last time. Seriously.

Anyway, we are both on the mend … and I’m happy to be back.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. http://thefensk.com

The Kindle version of his debut novel, THE FEVER, is on sale this week … 25% off.  This would be a great time for you to Catch The Fever.

WeekEnd Coffee Snow

img_6284If we were having coffee today, well, we’d probably be doing it by phone or Skype or something … it’s snowing hard out there.  It’s pretty and it’s nice and it’s a pain.
I grew up in Houston, Texas and I think I saw snow maybe twice in the first twenty years of my life.  In looking at Houston history blogs it’s funny when they talk about snow … they’ll talk about this snow and that snow … basically a counting on the hands sort of thing.  And although I haven’t lived in Houston since 1978 I know most of the earlier events they are talking about!

I’ve lived in North Carolina for almost thirty years.  We don’t get a lot of snow here either, but we can expect at least one event a year.  Some years more, some years less.  We sometimes go two years with any.  We also get significant ice storms every few years.  I hate ice storms.   You can expect days without power and I don’t care where you’re from, nobody is used to driving on ice.  Don’t do it.

Now, don’t get all Yankee on me about driving in snow.  It can be done, but you have to understand the fact that here, there just isn’t much snow removal capacity.  Oh, they brine the roads beforehand … that always seems to me to be more like priming the pump.  And sure, there is some snowplow activity, but the plowing appears to be more like they are using a Zamboni to prepare the ice rink. It amounts to scraping, scraping down to the point where they compact whatever ice is left onto the surface.  We end up with a sheet of ice.  If we are lucky and it gets sunny at some point, usually in the spring, the road clears pretty quickly.  No word yet on when the sun will be restarted.

So, no matter what part of Maine or Minnesota or Chicago you are from, you’d probably be one of the people I really fear on the roads out here … zipping along with too much confidence and likely to slide and run into me.

Several times in my life I’ve had to drive long distances in snow and ice.  Once, I was on a business trip, driving from central Virginia to Atlanta.  I neglected to check the weather for my entire route.  It was fine when I left.  In NC I hit some flurries.  As I went south, it got worse and worse.  I just stayed in the wagon ruts and kept going hoping some overconfident Yankee didn’t run into me.  Oh, I’m just joshing … it is the SUV drivers you have to worry about, really.  I lost count of the number of SUVs I saw flipped, run into walls, or stranded dozens of yards out into fields by the side of the interstate.  It was quite a trip.  The entire state of South Carolina at twenty-five miles an hour … the only way to go.

There is a section in my novel THE FEVER where the hero gets stuck on the highway in such a situation … it was a compilation of some of those trips.  One fan told me that was her favorite part but that she had to stop reading at some point and go put a sweater on.

So let’s sip our coffee and chat quietly and pray that the power doesn’t go out.

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Author Thomas Fenske is currently hosting a paperback book giveaway in partnership with the TomeTender Book Blog.  For more information:  http://tometender.blogspot.com/2017/01/thomas-fenske-presents-traces-of.html
More information on his books can be found at:  http://www.thefensk.com