Sunday, November 24, 2019

Turkey Trivia…Just In Time For Thanksgiving

It's that time of year again…the Thanksgiving season. This year the fourth Thursday in November falls on November 28th, the day of celebration in the U.S.  Americans cook approximately 45 million turkeys each year for that Thanksgiving dinner.  So, in honor of the holiday, here are a dozen known and not so well known bits of trivia about turkeys.

1)  All turkeys do not taste the same.  The taste has to do with their age.  An older male is preferable to a younger male (the younger tom is stringy).  And the younger female hens are preferable to the older ones.  Hmmm…that older man and younger woman thing again.  I wonder if there's such a thing as a female cougar turkey.  :)

2)  A turkey less than 16 weeks old is called a fryer and a turkey 5 to 7 months of age is known as a roaster.

3)  Turkeys are a type of pheasant and are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.
4)  Wild turkeys are able to fly for short durations attaining speeds up to 55mph.  Domesticated turkeys raised on farms for food are too fat and meaty to achieve flight.

5)  Benjamin Franklin argued in favor of the turkey as the national symbol of America rather than the Bald Eagle.

6)  The first turkeys to be domesticated were in Mexico and Central America.
7)  The male turkey makes the gobble sound and the female clucks.

8)  A mature turkey has about 3,500 feathers, which is a lot of plucking before it can be cooked.

9)  The most turkeys produced annually come from Minnesota and North Carolina.

10)  The skin that hangs from a turkey's neck is called a wattle.  The fleshy growth on the base of the beak is the snood.

11)  Each year 90 percent of Americans have turkey for Thanksgiving compared to 50 percent on Christmas.
12)  The most turkey consumed per capita is not eaten by Americans.  Israel holds that honor.

One thing that's marvelous about the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is all the terrific leftovers!  Anyone out there having something other than the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving dinner?

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Those Naughty Pilgrims

With Thanksgiving comes stories of the Pilgrims taking up residence in the new world, landing at Plymouth Rock in what is now the state of Massachusetts.  The pious Pilgrims certainly have a reputation for being a rigid, hard-working, and humorless group.  But there are a few surprises to be found.  Even though drunkenness was discouraged, beer was accepted as a drink for men, women, and also children.  The daily ration on the Mayflower was a gallon a day for each individual.  It took 66 days for them to sail from England to their landing place of Plymouth Rock.  Hmmm…66 days times 1 gallon per person times the number of people on the ship.  It seems that a lot of room on board the ship was devoted to storing the beer ration.

Even sex was not taboo under the right circumstances.  They had a matter-of-fact attitude about sex as long as it was between a married couple.  It's when sex strayed from being the exclusive right between a married couple that the stories get interesting.

Studies by a group of anthropologists at the University of Virginia found that the Pilgrims spent a great deal of time thinking about how to punish those with impure thoughts and actions.  Studies also discovered that in 11% of the marriages at Plymouth Colony the bride was already pregnant.  The same study estimates that as many as 50% of the Pilgrims engaged in premarital sex.  Definitely not an image that fits the stereotype of the staid Pilgrims.

But what about the actions and activities of those naughty Pilgrims?  As with so much in life, there's the façade then there's the underlying reality.

Although not liberal in their thinking or lifestyle, the Pilgrims were not as uptight as history would have us believe and apparently not as uptight as their cousins, the Puritans.  Both the Pilgrims and the Puritans were English Protestants who believed that the Church of England was in need of reform.  Although both groups were strict Calvinists, they differed in their approach to how the Church of England should be reformed.  The Pilgrims were more inclined to separate from the church (therefore known as separatists), while the Puritans wanted to reform the church from within.  The Pilgrims were the first group to seek religious freedom in the New World (thus separating from the church).  As strict Calvinists, members of both groups believed in original sin, predestination, and the literal interpretation of the Bible as God's word.
The Pilgrims tried to create a strict religious society, but had an understanding and mercy unusual for their time in history.  As time passed, however, intolerance grew and was reflected in their laws and clearly demonstrated by the notorious Salem witch trials.  Innocent people were convicted and put to death on evidence that later even the Pilgrims declared to be inadmissible—I saw it in a dream, the spirit of my dead grandmother came to me and said…

According to the Mayflower Compact, the colony was to establish laws based on Biblical teachings "for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith."  The Old Testament book of Leviticus was the basis for most of their laws, a biblical source that definitely predated the New Testament and Christianity's teachings of love and forgiveness rather than reflecting those Old Testament teachings.  Adultery?  Death.  A man has sex with his daughter-in-law?  Death.  Sodomy?  Death.  Bestiality?  Death.  Are you beginning to see a pattern?  :)

But interestingly, the Pilgrims did not typically enforce the death penalty for sex offenses.  There is only one known case in which the convicted offender was actually put to death for sex crimes.  It was the case of Thomas Graunger, a teenage boy apparently at the peak of his raging hormones who sought satisfaction from any and all sources available to him…those sources being the farm animals.

According to Plymouth Governor William Bradford, "He was this year detected of buggery, and indicted for the same, with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey."

Even though Thomas was the only one executed for a sex crime, punishments were routinely severe even with far lesser sex crimes and usually meant whippings, being put into the stocks, and fines.

Men were not the only offenders in Plymouth colony.  The prim women weren't always so pious either.  Women were often caught since the evidence of their dalliances were babies.  The records of the times are filled with one out-of-wedlock child after another.  Babies showing up just a few months after marriage were also evidence of wrong doing.  Pre-marital sex was severely punished.  Fines were levied even for making passes, for appearing to have a lascivious carriage in public, or partying in mixed company at an unseemly time of night.

Sex outside marriage, even between two unmarried consenting adults, usually meant a whipping and fines.  If the woman became pregnant, the man had to either marry her or pay for the child's upbringing.  The man was usually placed in the stocks and whipped while the woman was made to watch.  Sometimes mercy was granted as in the case of a servant, Jane Powell.  Following years of hard servitude, she was destitute and had agreed to having sex in the hopes of marrying the man.  Apparently the court found her plea convincing and she went unpunished.

Even though the Pilgrims imposed strict punishment for crimes, they also understood human temptations.  In 1656, Katheren Aines and William Paule were sentenced for committing adultery.  William was whipped and forced to pay the costs of his imprisonment.  Katheren was whipped, imprisoned and forced to wear a letter on her shoulder designating her as an adulteress.  (Calling Nathaniel Hawthorne!)  However, Katheren's husband, Alexander, was also punished.  Alexander had left his family for some time and treated her badly during their marriage.  The Pilgrims viewed him as guilty of "exposing his wife to such temptations."  Alexander was required to pay for his wife's imprisonment, and sit in the stocks while William and Katheren were whipped.

This Thanksgiving as you sit down to your turkey dinner, it might be a good idea to take a moment to be thankful that you aren't a Pilgrim.  :)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Thanksgiving—Canada vs. U.S.

Even though Canada was first to celebrate Thanksgiving, decades before the Pilgrims arrived in what is now the United States, the holiday in the U.S. and its northern neighbor have much in common.

For those of us in the United States, imagine the Thanksgiving holiday a month and a half earlier. There's plenty of pumpkin pie but not a Pilgrim in sight. For 37 million Canadians, that's reality for the second Monday in October. Many of the trappings of Canadian Thanksgiving are similar to those of its U.S. counterpart, but the Canadian tradition belongs to the 16th century, more than four decades before the historic 17th century gathering in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621 that is the genesis of the American Thanksgiving holiday.

The original Canadian Thanksgiving feast in 1578 consisted of biscuits, salt beef, and mushy peas. That's when Sir Martin Frobisher sailed from England in search of the Northwest Passage. After his crew arrived in what is now Nunavut (newly created April 1, 1999, formerly part of the Northwest Territories), Frobisher's men took part in a Church of England service of thanksgiving.

Both Native Americans and Indigenous Canadians had long celebrated the fall harvest. European settlers attempted to follow suit as they settled on the Canadian mainland. Early attempts at French settlement along Canada's Atlantic coast had been disastrous, and ended in 1604 with a scurvy epidemic that took place after French settlers ignored warnings that winter ice would trap them on Île-Ste.-Croix, an island in the Bay of Fundy. They ended up isolated on the island for months. Half of the group died of scurvy before being rescued by Indigenous Canadians.

Those who survived moved to Port Royal in what is now Nova Scotia, where Samuel de Champlain mandated a series of feasts designed to keep the settlers' spirits up. The feasts kicked off in 1616 with a Thanksgiving-like November event that included the Mi'kmaq people.

As in the U.S., Canada observed occasional Thanksgivings to celebrate important events such as the end of the War of 1812. And like the U.S., Canada's first thanksgivings tended to be religious events. The two countries also celebrated similarly thanks to pro-British Loyalists who moved to Canada during and after the Revolutionary War. New England staples like turkey and pumpkin were introduced to the Canadian celebration.

Thanksgiving became a national celebration in Canada starting in 1859, again beating the United States to the holiday. Abraham Lincoln set the precedent for the annual holiday in the U.S. after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, when he set the date at the last Thursday of November.

Unlike American Thanksgiving, Canada's national Thanksgiving date took decades to become standardized and annual. In 1957, Canada's parliament set the date as the second Monday in October. By then, the United States was officially celebrating their Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November.

Though plenty of Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, it's not a public holiday in three of the country's provinces: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. In Quebec, which has strong Catholic roots, the holiday has historically been downplayed. And Canadian Thanksgiving isn't the major travel and shopping event it has become in the United States. The holiday may have come earlier to Canada, but its southern cousin is much more invested in celebrating it.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

14 Facts That Sound Fake But Are True

There are certain facts that are so strange they sound completely made up. For example, there was Mike the headless chicken who lived without a head for 18 months in the mid-1940s and was a carnival/side show attraction. I saw a segment on a documentary type television show about the headless chicken including film footage.

I came across such a list recently (I have not verified any of these) and want to share it with you. Here is a list of 14 such strange facts in no particular order.
1) There are more tigers in captivity in the U.S. than there are in the wild around the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund, it's estimated that around 3,890 tigers exist in the wild today. According to the U.S. government and conservation groups, around 5,000 to 10,000 tigers are privately owned in the U.S.

2) A typical cumulus cloud weighs about 1.1 million pounds. An average cumulus cloud—the fluffy ones you see on a sunny day—has a water density of half a gram per cubic meter and a volume of one billion cubic meters. When you calculate the cloud's total water content, you end up with about 1.1 million pounds.
3) Pineapples take about two years to grow. Pineapple plants take about 18 to 36 months from the time they are planted before they yield fruit that can be harvested and eaten.

4) Cheetahs can't roar. They can only meow like domestic house cats. Only four big cats can roar—lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. Small cats such as cheetahs can purr continuously, but they cannot roar.

5) Maine is the closest US state to the continent of Africa.

6) Reno, Nevada, is farther west than Los Angeles, California.

7) A woman named Violet Jessop survived the sinking of both the Titanic and its sister ship, the Britannic. Nicknamed Miss Unsinkable, she was a stewardess and nurse on the White Star Line's trio of Olympic-class passenger ships. In addition to surviving the Titanic and Britannic disasters, she was aboard the trio's third sister ship, the Olympic, when it collided with a British warship in 1911.

8) The Holy Roman Empire still existed when the U.S. was founded. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to declare their independence from Great Britain. It wasn't until three decades later, in 1806, that the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved following a military defeat by Napoleon.

9) More time separates Tyrannosaurus rex from Stegosaurus than T-rex from humans today. Stegosaurus roamed Earth about 150 million years ago. Stegosaurus had already been extinct for approximately 80 million years when dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex first appeared about 67 million years ago. 80 million years separated Stegosaurus from T-rex, while 67 million years separate T-rex from us—a difference of 20 million years.

10) Nintendo was founded in 1889. Nintendo actually dates back to the late 19th century. Before becoming the gaming giant it is today, it got its start as a humble Japanese card game company.

11) Nearly the entire continent of South America is located east of Florida. Without looking at a map, you might assume Brazil is located somewhere directly south of Florida. However, almost the entire South American continent is east of Florida.

12) Sharks predate trees. Archaeopteris, the earliest species that scientists can classify as a tree, lived about 350 million years ago. Sharks can be traced back 50 million years earlier than that, appearing in the fossil record 400 million years ago.
13) Cleopatra lived closer in time to the release of the first iPhone than she did to the building of the pyramids of Giza. The pyramids of Giza were built between 2550 B.C. and 2490 B.C., according to estimates. About 2,421 years later, in 69 B.C., Cleopatra was born. She died at the age of 39 in 30 B.C. Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs debuted the first iPhone in 2007, only 2037 years after Cleopatra's death.

14) Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barbara Walters were all born in the same year. Anne Frank was born June 12, 1929. Martin Luther King Jr. was born January 15, 1929. And Barbara Walters was born September 25, 1929.