I’m sitting in the kitchen on the morning of Thanksgiving, enjoying the various aromas slowly spreading in the room from the range of food I have created. Not created like God creating the World, animals, and people, but like preparing dishes from scratch.
Food is essential to Thanksgiving, and most families enjoy food throughout the day while doing as little as possible. Our family is no exception, and I look forward to cooking food for my loved ones.
The beginning of sacrificing a turkey
On this day, President George Washington proclaimed it “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” Several decades later, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln encouraged Americans to recognize the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving.”
The true origin of Thanksgiving is becoming another topic that the far left and other strange groups are trying to get canceled and labeled as another white supremacist celebration. Granted, there were conflicts between the pilgrims and the native Indians, but the actual harvest meal between the two groups started something.
The Pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower from Plymouth were a group of various religions and came to the promised land to freely follow their beliefs. However, the new World was very different from England’s from a soil and weather perspective. The winters were brutal in New England and Massachusetts compared to England, and the Pilgrims suffered tremendously during the hard and long winters. They had difficulties growing crops, building shelters/houses, and staying warm.
I believe the native Indians sought out the newcomers to learn more and help the Pilgrims where possible, such as by using fish in the soil to make it more fertile for the crops. The native Indians did not see the Pilgrims as enemies and extended their knowledge to help them succeed.
There is little evidence to suggest who initiated the harvest meal gathering, but I’m betting it was the native Indians.
According to some history books, Thanksgiving is the colonial Pilgrims’ harvest meal they shared with Wampanoag Indians in 1621. The second meal was in 1623, skipping 1622 due to a severe drought. Over the coming years, the two groups met annually, and these gatherings spread to more settlements in New England.
The Spirit of Giving
My knucklehead friends and I started a wonderful tradition last year in the true spirit of giving. We cook Thanksgiving meals for local families in need. It is the least we can do.
One of the wives works in the field, where she comes across families in dire need and gets details on the families she has selected. While we want to cook for more families, we have only helped two families last year and again this year.
The families we help have recently lost a family member, experienced prolonged sickness, or have family in the hospital. Basically, families that do not have the time or means to cook a Thanksgiving meal.
I donate a giant turkey that I spatchcock and split in two. Then, I make smoked mac ‘n cheese, homemade gravy, and stuffing as a side. Next, the other knuckleheads prepare roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted potatoes, boiled/glazed carrots, and a few pies.
It is gratifying to help people in need. My old Viking heart melts when we are told that the families cry with happiness when the food gets delivered. Such a small token of support can bring great joy and appreciation.
We need more sharing and caring in this World. Unfortunately, we tend to ignore people in need. Giving and spreading hope is very easy and does not take much effort. You only need to “sacrifice” a couple of hours of preparing food, donate some food, and make another family happy.
A Viking Thanksgiving
We usually eat a turkey from Shoprite (a supermarket chain in the US) and have been pleased with the quality.
Storebought turkeys are ok, but it’s factory-raised turkeys. The meat is likely pumped with strange antibiotics, vitamins, and water. Most of these birds are massive, like tiny dinosaurs, and some will not fit into a standard oven or large grill.
The first year we spent in the US, we purchased a 22lb turkey, and I had difficulties pushing the monster into the oven.
We had turkey for days and weeks, to the point where we grew tired of turkey. That’s the challenge with Thanksgiving, you have more turkey leftovers than expected, and it becomes difficult to come up with new recipes.
This year I bought a farm-raised turkey from a local farm. I had previously visited the farm and purchased a 1/4 cow (named marshmallow), so buying a turkey was logical. The birds had been running on a field in a large enclosure, getting fat on ticks, bird feed, and other interesting bugs.
I had ordered a small bird and received a “small” 12-14lb bird. We are only a family of five, so 12-14lb turkey is sufficient. We will still have plenty of leftovers, especially as we prepare potatoes, Brussels sprouts, gravy, stuffing, and my “famous” pecan bourbon pie.
A farm-raised turkey looks and feels different. The meat is firmer, the skin thicker, and the organs are beautifully colored and healthy. You can instantly tell that the diet is more organic and healthy, meaning the meat will have a more excellent texture and flavor. This is going to be a good turkey roast.
This year, I gave the turkey a 36-hour therapy brine with some quartered oranges and apples. I used some poultry rub I bought in Austin (TX) at the Dai Due restaurant and inserted unsalted butter under the skin.
I spatchcock the turkey to avoid 6-8 hours of roasting time. You cut out the spine, smack the chest bone with a cast iron pan, and squeeze it flat. Preheat the pellet grill, Traeger of course, to 230F.
When the grill is ready, place it on the preheated grill, breast up, and roast it until the internal temperature is 155-160F.
Depending on the size of the bird, it will be slow smoking/roasting for 3-4 hours. Once the bird hits an internal temperature of 155-160F, I increase the grill temperature to 350F and give the bird some warm love for another 30-45 minutes to get the skin crispier.
And that, my friends, is how a Viking grills his Thanksgiving turkey. We know how to create fire, cook meat, and make more food while waiting.
Short Work Week
I decided to take the entire week off work. However, I have to use my PTO days or lose them, so I spent four days from my PTO bank, leaving me with 11 PTO days until 31 December.
Contrary to previous years, my wife has to work Monday to Wednesday, and the kids are in school Monday to Tuesday.
We are blessed with the visit from our grown-up daughter, who came home Tuesday from Florida, where she attends university, and will spend time with us until Sunday.
I only have to prepare a few lunches and dinners, but the Thanksgiving meal will give us plenty of leftovers for the coming week.
I baked artisan bread on the Traeger for school lunch, grilled some chicken for a pasta salad, and baked croissant breakfast roll-ups. Easy and fast lunches.
Dinner is even simpler. My wife is the troop leader for a local Girls Scout troop, and they met at our house for their Thanksgiving dinner. As a result, we got some leftovers, so I didn’t have to prepare dinner.
As the Viking daughter lives in Florida, with little access to proper pizza, we ordered pizza for the family except me.
For a light mid-week dinner, I made dumplings and Vietnamese spring rolls. It is excellent and delicious, but it takes time to make the dumpling dough and meat stuffing and roll up the Vietnamese spring rolls served with a peanut dipping sauce.
Quick and dirty is often good, allowing me to do a lot of DIY since I don’t have to focus on cooking.
|Monday||Pasta salad with grilled chicken and red peppers, garnished with fresh parsley||Pre-Thanksgiving turkey dinner with the girl scout troop (freeloading)|
|Tuesday||Breakfast roll-up with egg, cheese, and roast beef||Pizza and noodles|
|Wednesday||Grinder sandwich on home-baked bread on the Traeger||Dumplings & Vietnamese rolls|
|Thursday||Breakfast roll-up with egg, cheese, and roast beef||Thanksgiving Feast; smoked turkey, smoked pecan pie, sweet potato mash, garlic roasted Brussels sprouts, and small roasted potatoes … with homemade gravy, of course|
|Friday||Caesar salad with grilled chicken||Thanksgiving dinner that keeps giving|
One day, I might get so organized that I will link the meals below to my recipes. We can only live in hope!
Have a fantastic week, my friends. I hope you enjoy these meal plans. It is much easier to make food in advance, although you must invest several hours preparing meals during the weekend.
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