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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin

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Hi Folks!

No matter how much we wish for a reprieve, it seems that winter is pretty much here to stay. It comes to Wisconsin every year, and every year most of us wish it wouldn’t, except that the deer hunters would appreciate a dusting of snow for tracking purposes and the rest of us would like a nice fluffy, sparkly snow (not on the roads, though) for Christmas. Then it can go away. Even many of the die hard snowmobilers are converting to ATVs, because they can enjoy rides on them, snow or no snow.

We’re busy this week preparing for Thanksgiving, whether we will traveling elsewhere, or preparing the family feast in our own homes.

THAT FIRST THANKSGIVING

Think of what it must have taken to prepare that first Thanksgiving feast 391 years ago. To really appreciate how grateful they must have been, we need to think how they must have despaired a year earlier.

Think how those Pilgrims must have felt when they first set foot on the cold and snowy shores of what was to be their new homeland, on Nov. 19, 1620. The Mayflower had intended to land near Jamestown, in the far warmer climate of Virginia, but a series of events, including some unfavorable weather, led them to the shores of Massachusetts and the eventual settlement near what we now call Plymouth Rock.

The 105 passengers plus about 32 crew members aboard that tiny ship had already been in their cramped quarters at sea for more than 60 days when they arrived at the shore of what today is Massachusetts. Historians tell us that each person aboard had approximately the space of a standard single size bed. The ceilings in the cramped sheltered area below decks were so low that anyone over five feet tall could not stand upright.

In addition to humans, cargo on the tiny Mayflower included pigs, goats, and poultry. Some passengers brought family pets such as cats and birds. Peter Browne brought a large bitch mastiff and John Goodman brought his spaniel. No cattle or beasts of draft or burden were brought on the journey.

Despite the crowding, the 137 persons plus their animals were for the most part forced to spend the winter aboard that little ship if they hoped to survive at all.

Approximately half did not survive. Of the 105 heroic souls who left the old world in search of a place where they could freely practice their religions without government interference, only 53 were still alive in March, when they finally disembarked. Half of the passengers and crew had fallen victim to a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis.

We’re told that passengers passed the time by reading by candlelight or playing cards and games like Nine Men’s Morris. Nine Men’s Morris is described as a sort of sophisticated tic tac toe, that originated at least a thousand years before Christ. Some of the ancient celts reportedly considered it sacred.

Meals on board were cooked by the firebox, which was an iron tray with sand in it on which a fire was built. This was risky because it was kept in the waist of the ship. Passengers made their own meals from rations that were issued daily and food was cooked for a group at a time.

Beer was consumed in quantity by all, because the drinking water was seen as unsafe.

Historians differ on whether or not the extra food that enabled any of the group aboard the Mayflower to survive was willingly shared by the Native Americans or if the newcomers pilfered the stores of corn and multi-colored beans stashed in numerous hiding places along the beach. Records do say the grateful settlers did pay the Indians back within six months, as soon as their own harvests started coming in.

Having surviving that horrendous winter and then finding the bounty of a good harvest and an abundance of fish and game in their new land, the Pilgrim Fathers rejoiced and declared a feast of thanksgiving.

Had always thought the terms Pilgrims and Puritans were pretty much synonymous when it came to the first settlers in New England, but it turns out they are not. Both groups disagreed with enforced membership in the Anglican Church - the Church of England - and apparently embarked to the New World to get away from it. However, the Pilgrims were Separatists, who wanted full separation of Church and state as well as separation of their religion from the sanctioned church of their day in Europe, while Puritans mainly wanted to work for reform within the church structure. The Puritans are credited with being forerunners of the Calvinists of today. The two groups even took up residence in separate colonies in their new homeland.

The Puritans are generally portrayed as more straight laced and solemnly religious, and would have probably celebrated Thanksgiving in a purely religious fashion, without the feasting or merrymaking that the Pilgrims enjoyed.

Regardless, the survivors were probably the hardiest of both lots, and both groups left a heritage of Yankee values that benefits America to this day. As Harry Moyle Tippett said of them, The Pilgrims came to America not to accumulate riches but to worship God, and the greatest wealth they left unborn generations was their heroic example of sacrifice that their souls might be free.

MOMENT OF SILENCE

Perhaps we should all pause for a moment of silence in honor of the passing of the late, great company that gave birth to legendary treats like Twinkies, Hostess Cupcakes and more. The parent company was already foundering on the brink of bankruptcy when their highly intelligent union went on strike a week ago. Company management decided simple reorganization wouldn’t work. They would shut down operations and close their doors forever.

That means over 18,000 people directly out of work just before Christmas, plus thousands of delivery route owners who will be left without routes or means to make payments on their vehicles.

Good job!

We’re told that some other company will probably buy up the name rights to the famous Twinkies and start making them again, but somehow doubt they’ll ever be quite as good.

Will our Twinkies now be imported from China?

CHRISTMAS IS COMING

That said, Thanksgiving of 2012 will be history by this time next week, and Christmas preparations will be underway in earnest.

Lots of Deer Widows take advantage of the Friday after Thanksgiving to get a head start on their shopping, but that might be too early. From now until Christmas Eve, in many homes hints about what folks want for Christmas will be dropping faster than snow flakes in a blizzard.

Some make it easy by composing letters to Santa. One lady wrote: Dear Santa, All I want this year is a fat bank account and a skinny body. Please do not mix them up like you did last year!

Amen to that!

GENETICS?

A recent Internet report of a young man who found his doppelganger in a little known 16th century Italian painting by an unknown artist titled Portrait of a Nobleman with Dueling Gauntlet, totally by accident while strolling through the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Nov. 11 with his girl friend. Photos of the two, side by side, show them to be identical, except for the clothes.

It seems to be more than coincidence. The young man involved did some research and found that his grandparents came from the area in Italy where the painting originated. Seems very possible that the nobleman in the 1576 painting is an ancestor.

Generational resemblances are not really rare, but we often don’t get to see them. After all, how many of us have photos or portraits going more than a few generations back? And in truth, how many of us have photos of ourselves that even we wouldn’t recognize. Actually, maybe that’s just because we don’t want to admit we look like that, but that’s another story.

Anyway, while a grandson and I were going through some old family mementos a few years ago, we discovered an old family picture that appears to be from the wedding of my grandparents, his great-great grandparents. And there he was, this same grandson, looking out at us. An identical young man, probably a brother of the bride, from the Paris side of the family. We put that picture next to the grandson’s driver’s license photo and the only difference was that one was in color and the other wasn’t. Even the haircuts were the same!

Most of us today are willing to agree that genetic traits are passed along from generation to generation. So, who would my grandson be if the mother of this family had decided she didn’t want any children, and had every one she conceived aborted? For that matter, who would I be? How much is the world changed by such decisions? Human lives down through the ages are affected by the decisions of our ancestors. We all suffer for the sins of our fathers (and mothers). Let us who are alive today try to make the right decisions to benefit those who will inherit the benefits of our wisdom and the suffering caused by our mistakes!

COOKIN’ TIME

Turkey Day leftovers open up all kinds of opportunities for experimenting, and good cooks everywhere keep coming up with wonderful new ideas. This is a good time to experiment. Hunters coming in from the woods are often so hungry that they’ll welcome almost anything that looks and smells like food, so you can get way with experimenting a bit. Got an idea? Go ahead and try it. You may come up with a real winner that becomes a traditional favorite in your household.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

Butternut Squash Soup is a luscious, smooth soup, delicately seasoned with ginger and nutmeg—perfect for cool autumn soup and sandwich evenings at home or to start your Thanks-giving dinner. This recipe serves six. Takes about 40 minutes to prepare, even less if you make it from leftover Thanks-giving squash.

3 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 butternut squash (2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeded and

cut into 1-inch chunks

1 medium green apple, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon brandy (optional)

1/3 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable Stock

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted, optional

Sour cream, optional

Chopped crystalized ginger, optional

Melt butter in large saucepan on medium-low heat. Add onion; cook and stir three minutes or until slightly softened. Add squash, apple and brandy, if desired. Cook on medium heat one minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in orange juice, ground ginger, nutmeg and stock. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until squash is tender, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly. With center part of cover removed to let steam escape, puree soup in batches in blender on high speed until smooth. Return pureed mixture to saucepan. Stir in heavy cream. Cook until heated through. Ladle into soup bowls. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and chopped crystallized ginger, if desired.

TURKEY BROCCOLI ALFREDO

Another great recipe from the Campbell’s Soup people, and another great way to use leftover turkey. Takes about 10 minutes to put it together and another 20 minutes to cook. Makes four servings. Easy to double if the clan has gathered.

8 ounces linguine or spaghetti

1 C. fresh or frozen broccoli flowerets

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of

Mushroom Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

2 cups cubed cooked turkey

Prepare the linguine according to the package directions in a 3-quart saucepan. Add broccoli during the last 4 minutes of the cooking time. Drain the linguine mixture well in a colander. Return the linguine mixture to the saucepan. Stir in the soup, milk, cheese, black pepper and turkey and cook over medium heat until the mixture is hot and bubbling, stirring occasionally. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with a crisp green salad, preferably with French or other tomato-based dressing.

RECIPE TIPS: Substitute spaghetti for the linguine.

CRANBERRY TURKEY SANDWICHES

This spread uses the delicious dried cranberries that some of us used to know as crancherries. If the cranberries seem a bit too hard, place them in a small bowl barely covered with hot water. Soak for about 2-3 minutes or until softened, and then drain before using.

4 ounces cream cheese

1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped green onion or chives (optional)

1/4 cup walnuts or cashews, chopped

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

ground black pepper, to taste

4 ounces turkey breast, thinly sliced

1 cup baby arugula, endive or spinach leaves

1 loaf sourdough or multi grain bread

Combine cream cheese, dried cranberries, mayonnaise, lemon juice, green onion or chives, pepper and nuts in a bowl. and stir until the cream cheese is smooth. Toast bread or not, your preference. Spread filling on each slice of bread, add a slice of turkey to cover bread on half the slices, and then a thin layer of the salad greens. Put on the second slice of bread and press gently. Cut into halves or quarters to serve.

IOWA STYLE PUMPKIN CAKE

There’s still time to make this easy but luxurious treat for Thanksgiving, or afterwards, if you’re out of Pumpkin pie, but your clan still craves the pumpkin spice flavor, bake this luscious, lavish dessert cake for them. This is very rich and should be taken seriously. Top with vanilla ice cream or real whipped cream and garnish with honey roasted, shelled pumpkin seeds if you wish.

1 canned pumpkin, large can

1 evaporated milk, 1 can

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 box yellow cake mix, dry

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 1/4 cups butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine the canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt and cloves in a large bowl and blend thoroughly. Pour the blended mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Top with the dry cake mix, then the pecans. Finally drizzle with the melted butter and bake for 50-60 minutes until done. Let the cake stand overnight.

Thought for the week: Thanksgiving - a time for feasting, for gatherings with family and friends over food and drink that the Lord has provided - and hopefully, a time for thanking God, who provided all this for us, and a time for us to know that this bounty is not from government, it is not even from the fruits of our labors or the wisdom of our plantings, although that helps. Our groaning tables, the families gathered around them, the winds that blow, the sun that shines upon us are all gifts from the Almighty Creator. Without Him, nothing that is would be. Thank You, God. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may we all find happiness in giving thanks!

(This column is written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by phone at 715-927-5034 or by e-mail at shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

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