A Warm Helping Of Frigid Poultry
November 24, 2016
Well…here we are. The time of the giving of thanks is upon us. So have you written your Thanksgiving list? No, not a list of stuff you want from Turkey Claus or the Great Pilgrim (depends on your religious preference). You know, the list of things that you’re thankful for? Of course you haven’t, you ungrateful curs. You’ll stuff yourselves silly, while watching football and leave the family gathering early enough to catch all those Black Friday sales. Where you’ll buy stuff that you don’t need, that you won’t be thankful for again next year. Why pause to give thanks when you can buy STUFF…on sale, at discount prices, with mail-in rebates?
People suck, but it wasn’t always this way. There was a time before shopping when people were thankful just to survive Turkey day. Back in the days before people quit cold turkey.
Most people associate the term “quitting cold turkey” with the abrupt cessation of a substance dependence and the resulting unpleasant experience. Merriam-Webster offers different origins of the phrase, dating back to the early 1800s. Which have nothing to do with substance abuse or flightless fowl. These origins have merit but the phrase is much older and far more literal.
It was November 1623, during the time of the third or perhaps fourth Thanksgiving. People were so much more thankful back then that they may have had an undocumented extra Thanksgiving in May of that year. So it’s hard to be historically accurate on that fact.
In previous years (and perhaps earlier that year for all we know) the Indians had made the short pilgrimage to join the new settlers at their fort for the meal of thanks. So now it was the pilgrims turn to make the indianage to the Native Americans…umm… bunch of teepees place. This presented a problem because after the last Thanksgiving (whenever that was) the Indians had moved away because…well let’s be honest- white folk made for annoying neighbors.
Though the journey itself presented a challenge, due to an early snowfall and freezing temperatures, the real problem was transporting the foodstuffs. Their hosts would provide most of the meal but the settlers were expected to bring pumpkin pies, cranberry sauce, red wine and the turkey. That last presented the biggest problem as the settlers had no readily available way to transport warm food.
After experiments with fire in wooden wagons proved disastrous, the settlers devised an ingenious plan. They would cut up the cooked bird and stuff it into their trousers and shirts and tie it to their bodies. That way their own body heat could keep the meat warm and fresh…well warm anyway.
This idea seemed to have merit as they set out on their journey; on the dawn of the next day not so much. Despite their best efforts of snuggling during the night the turkey had gone cold. Now with no other means brought to transport the meat the settlers were forced to walk with slimy, cold turkey parts in their clothes. To make matters worse the combined smell of man-turkey had attracted predators during the night. Now the group was being stalked and hunted by a pack of ravenous wolves.
Less than a mile from the Indian’s… camp? …village? …teepee place? the wolves attacked. The pilgrims ran for their lives, but soon those weighted down with turkey meat fell behind and fell prey to the carnivorous canines. As the pack closed in on the remaining settlers, one of the men, (whose name history has forgotten) shouted “I’m quitting cold turkey!” and dropped trou. The other pilgrims followed suit and began tossing their turkey laden clothing at the wolves.
While the wolves were preoccupied with the turkey flavored clothing, the naked pilgrims ran the rest of the way to the safety of…where the Indians lived. The Natives welcomed their nude neighbors and gave them warm clothes and moccasins. But they told the pilgrims they’d need those back before they left. This was the origin of the term “Indian giver.”
So the settlers were safe… aside from those who were devoured by wolves. But they had lost all the turkey, which would mean no meat for the thanksgiving feast. Luckily some of the wolves had choked to death on turkey flavored pilgrim socks; so there would be meat on the table after all. The wolf meat was a bit gamey but didn’t taste too bad if you ate if quickly. Thus the term “wolfing it down” was born. So now you know the true story of the third (or perhaps fourth) Thanksgiving and the phrases it created that are still used today. You should also remember that stuffing turkey down your pants is a bad idea.
Next week: A whole different kind of cold turkey as I set out to kick the habit for good — 11/24/16. Smoking that is…I can still put giblets in my britches.
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