To love your food is to know your food. And I’ll bet there are a few things you didn’t know about the feast served in late-November each year.
Leave it to the politicians
President Franklin Roosevelt, between 1939-41, pushed Thanksgiving back a week to boost the economy. It turned into a quite a cluster-gobble, since several states decided to observe on the last Thursday in November; and Texas celebrated both weeks.
Congress ultimately stepped in to fix the whole ordeal and, after some debate, compromised on the fourth Thursday of November as the official Thanksgiving in the U.S. Unfortunately, the turkey featured on the official U.S. Thanksgiving website was bullied for being the face of such a hot topic.
It might flush out kidney stones but…
An 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice contains more sugar than your average (12-ounce) can of soda. Why? Because the fruit is so tart that juice companies have to water it down and add sugar. If you’re drinking it to go more easily, consider the encapsulated version instead. As for Thanksgiving dinner, you’re fine eating a helping or two of cranberry ‘sauce’— so long as you don’t let it touch your gravy!
Did you know? Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin dined on — you guessed it — turkey and the traditional trimmings as the first meal eaten on the moon by astronauts.
If it’s so good…
About 9 in 10 Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving. But Thanksgiving is not the only turkey day in America. More than 20 million of the big birds are served for Christmas dinner. Still, turkey is not as popular as its cold-blooded counterpart. My proof — Ever hear of Kentucky Fried Turkey?
So, who invented the crust?
It’s fairly common knowledge that there was no pumpkin pie in the days of buckle boots and cheesy black shirts with white ruffs. But the pilgrims had their own version, according to numerous culinary historians. They added milk, honey, eggs and some spices to the cavity of a pumpkin and tossed it in the flames. Pumpkin custard was born, but so too was the idea of burning suspected witches at the stake.
Then what is November?
June is National Turkey Lovers’ Month. Seriously.
Stuffing for thought
While most people argue about calling it ‘stuffing’ or ‘dressing,’ I’m in deep thought about all of the other stuff that we ‘stuff’ for our pleasure. We stuff pasta, seafood, corn tortillas, pastries, pork chops, cabbage, bell peppers and Halloween candy bags. Can we get some love for the other stuff, people?
Did you know? You could be eating cranberries from the same vines that fed President Lincoln. Cranberry plants live quite some time. Some plants still produce fruit at 150-years-old.
Not even as ‘lucky’ as the male praying mantis
Is it better to have loved and lost? Don’t bother asking your average tom turkey, because he’s likely never experienced the hibbity-dibbity. Not even once. And it’s all because the hens’ breasts are too big.
Really, turkey celibacy is due to the human desire for white meat — the breast. Producers have bred and bred until they finally achieved turkey breasts so big that even Dolly Parton would blush. More importantly, it makes the whole natural reproduction process physically impossible.
So, how do we get baby turkeys? The stork brings them, of course!
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There’s a little restaurant on ‘lower’ Greenville Avenue in Dallas called The Grape. It’s been around since 1972, having hosted a number of celebrity employees, including Julian Schnabel (award-winning film director), Frank Bailey (brother of former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison) and noted restaurateur Alberto Lombardi. Texas Monthly magazine touts the The Grape hamburgers as being the best in Texas (that’s a big deal), but it’s the Cream of Mushroom Soup that makes this a legendary restaurant.
I still remember my first mushroom experience. My father was making a homemade pizza and I told him to leave the mushrooms off mine. He asked me why I didn’t like them and I responded in truth — I’d never tasted them. A few seconds later, my tastebuds were changed forever. Mushrooms are among the few ingredients that can make any dish better. I’ve had my fair share of mushroom soups and the version from The Grape tops them all.
Cream of Mushroom Soup — The Grape
2 ½ lbs – White mushrooms, washed and diced
1 – Medium white onion, chopped
2 – Garlic cloves, minced
1 – Bay leaf
1 – Fresh Thyme sprig
1/4 cup – Dry Sherry
1/2 lb – Unsalted butter
1 cup – All-Purpose flour
3 qts – Beef stock
2 cups – Heavy Cream
1/2 tsp – Ground Nutmeg
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste.
In a heavy bottomed 6-8 qt stock or soup pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme, and cook until translucent.
Add the chopped mushrooms and cook until most of the water comes out of them. Add the sherry and reduce by half.
Add the flour and stir well to avoid lumps.
Slowly whisk in the stock and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir regularly to avoid scorching. When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Finish by adding the heavy cream and nutmeg, and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the thyme and bay leaf, and puree the soup either in a blender, or with a hand-held blender.
Serves 5 with enough leftovers to freeze for another meal.