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22 November 2008

That Time Is Here Again

The turkey rules supreme.

The newspapers are replete with supermarket ads for turkey specials; culinary arts columns are waxing ecstatic over recipes built around the Thanksgiving bird; the holiday geist is moving briskly on all fronts.

But I’m growing increasingly sullen, hour by hour.

Not that I have anything against the feast day established by our Pilgrim forefathers. On the contrary: I am, as they were, deeply grateful for the bounty lavished on me and my loved ones by The Higher Power, and you won’t hear me grumping over my lot, no siree.

But why couldn’t our Pilgrim forefathers have shown their gratitude by roasting a side of beef? Or whomping up a mess of spaghetti? Or even a plate of eggs, over light with a side of home fries? Why turkey, for cat’s sake?

As you might have guessed by now, I’m not all that crazy about turkey. To me, it’s heavy and oily and leaves an after-taste reminiscent of the pots-and-pans area of old Army mess halls. Yet now that the season’s upon us, there seems to be nothing else to eat. Every meat market, every deli, every fast food take-out eatery, every hotel restaurant menu is dominated by the turkey. Roast turkey. Baked turkey. Turkey soup, turkey pizza, turkey sandwiches, turkey pot pie, turkey salad, turkey stew — I wouldn’t be surprised to see turkey ice cream pop up somewhere.

And it’s all so unnecessary, really, because the turkey tradition rests on a shaky base, all-in-all. As proof, I offer a letter describing the original Thanksgiving, written on Dec. 11, 1621, by Edward Winslow, a Pilgrim PR type:

Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl [emphasis mine] as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week [emphasis mine].

At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. And they went out and killed five deer [emphasis mine] which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our Governor and upon the Captain and others.

I’ve put my own emphasis into Winslow’s copy so as to underscore certain little-appreciated truths:

(1) The reference is to fowl in general, not turkey alone, and so it’s conceivable that the feast included at least a few Southern-fried chickens, or maybe chicken and dumplings, or even pheasant under glass and duck kabob.

(2) The Pilgrims’ bash went nearly a week, and it’s hard to believe that all those inventive, hardy frontier folk would eat nothing but turkey — even turkey hash — for that length of time.

(3) With five deer in the kitchen, everybody’s going to dine exclusively on turkey? No way.

So why am I expected to eat so much turkey for the next month or so? That’s right. A month or so. Because Christmas is coming up, and tradition has it that turkey will reign supreme then, too.

Paraphrasing the lament of my dear old Uncle Nick, who shared my impatience with such glut: “No wonder they call a turkey a turkey. Diet-wise, it’s a real turkey.”

* * *

The first reviews of my new novel, The Ace, are in, and, predictably, one appears in the St. Augustine Record, my hometown newspaper. At first blush, it would seem that getting a review in one’s hometown paper wouldn’t be all that difficult, but in this case the achievement is significant, in that the reviewer, Peter Guinta, is a combat vet and author who served a bunch of time in Viet Nam and is a hardnosed critic of all literature given to military subjects. To see what he had to say, click on this link.

In addition, CompuServe's Books & Authors Community posted a review by Alex Krislov.

The buzz is starting!


[Note from Jonni: On the front page of the same issue, Mr. Guinta wrote an article about Hunter the novelist.]

Copyright © 2008 by Jack D. Hunter.  All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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