Thanksgiving throwdown: smoke vs. grill

Grill and smoke setup

UPDATED BELOW, with “turkey pr0n!”

Thanksgiving day 2010 was clear and very cold–and the sun at this time of the year never reaches into our North-facing backyard.  But Fratguy and Geoff were undeterred–they(respectively) smoked and grilled two 12 or 13-pound turkeys yesterday, and both were delicious.  On my morning run, I saw another family deep-frying a turkey in their driveway.  Parts of our town smelled smoky, although I don’t know if that was due to other grilling or smoking turkeys, or just fireplaces.  It was difficult to sort out the smoke scents.

The grilled turkey was done a lot faster than the smoked turkey, which turned out to be a big plus at 2:45 in the afternoon, when the gang was hungry and all of the sides were ready.  (Smoking stuff when it’s only 27 degrees outside makes it difficult to keep the temperature up.  One can understand why it was the southeastern United States that invented barbecue culture, and not the northern woodlands.)  I was glad to learn of the American turkey’s origins–and, finally, what a “guinea fowl” was, via this informative article by John Bemelmens Marciano!  And if you’re wondering as I did,  yes–he’s the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmens, the creator of the Madeline books. Continue reading

Tribalism, violence, and fasting and feasting in early New England

Detail with woodcut from "The Rebels Reward," (Boston, 1724)

The distinguished historian of early New England David D. Hall has an op-ed in the New York Times today, “Peace, Love, and Puritanism,” that is another rehabilitationist view of the English puritans who founded Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Colonies in the seventeenth century.  I don’t argue with anything he says, as he’s mostly arguing against the joyless, censorious stereotype of puritans most Americans carry around in their heads, thanks to Nathaniel Hawthorne and H. L. Mencken–but I find his discussion of the “first thanksgiving” a little incomplete. 

Hall asks, “Are our present-day values and practices aligned with the historical record, or have they been remade by our consumer culture? Is anything authentic in our own celebrations of Thanksgiving?”  There’s a lot of American history he skips over in the nearly 400 years between 1621 and 2010.  English New Englanders observed both “solemn day[s] of fasting and humiliation” as well as feast days irregularly, not just upon the harvest.  Fasts were usually called for by local clergy to atone for the community’s sins that (according to their communitarian logic) may have resulted in a military loss, and feasts were called to celebrate a military victory over the Indians, or later, the French.  Both fasts and feasts were opportunities to reaffirm tribalism, of a world view of us versus them.  The history of fasting and feasting in the English communities of New England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries should be written in blood–both blood in the sense of kinship ties, and in the sense of the shedding of outsiders’ blood in war. Continue reading

Thanksgiving! Gimme a break! It's making me completely mental.

Here’s a flashback from the 1980s of that upbeat young fella Ed Grimley, a character played by Martin Short on both SCTV and Saturday Night Live.  This excerpt is not just a Thanksgiving skit, but also a takeoff of Rear Window, starring Ed Asner as the murderous neighbor.  (“You’re a dead man,Grimley!”  Oh, Mr. Grant!)

“That’s a pain that’s gonna linger, there’s no question about that!”  Ed Grimley has a lot to teach us about being thankful:  Continue reading

Thanksgiving roundup: greatest hits edition

I’ve had some private requests for more food blogging, now that Thanksgiving is nigh upon us and those of you who haven’t ordered or purchased a turkey yet may be S.O.L. if you don’t get to it soon.  But, quite frankly, I’m a little frazzled this year.  I’m laboring away on an essay that’s (at this point) a week overdue, and will need the rest of this week to make it shine. So this is what would probably be on the Thanksgiving menu at Chez Historiann this year, if I could get ’em.  (There’s probably a mouldy old box down in some forgotten fallout shelter, don’t’cha’think?  It seems like the kind of fake food that would be as good today as it was on the day it was manufactured.)

Did Don sign off on this?  (H/t to Assistant Professor Andy for the funny link, and to Fratguy for the funny line.)  Isn’t it interesting to see what became a children’s novelty processed food marketed to mothers as though it were a perfectly nutritious thing?  (Actually, when you look at the box, it’s not far from the way that energy bars are marketed today.)  Back in the day, mothers used to tell their children what they’d eat, not the other way around, which is why advertising aimed at children now emphasizes the pleasure, the coolness, and even the rebellion of consuming a particular food item. 

As for Thanksgiving:  Continue reading

Warnings from the Dead!

Roxie, an unusually prolific dead wire-haired fox terrier, has some great advice for those of us who labor under the burden of administrative “efficiency.”  She suggests that efficiency is a two-way street, and has some great advice for tenured faculty who are seeing their departments adjunctified as well as for adjuncts and junior faculty.  We must, as the Canadians say, work to rule.  Ignore that urge to volunteer for more uncompensated work, and resist pointless service bull$hit.  Here are her “Faculty Tips for Surviving in the Age of Excellence Without Money:”

Refuse to take on independent studies. That won’t really hurt students, who tend to take independent studies as much for the sake of scheduling convenience as to satisfy a burning desire to conduct research that couldn’t be undertaken within the context of a regular course. Special note to the untenured: You should say no to independent studies under any and all circumstances. They are major time sinks. You get no credit for them, and they take away from the already limited time and energy you have available for the work that will matter come tenure time. The clock is ticking! Say NO!

Refuse to take on service roles that feel pointless and don’t advance the cause of shared governance. Example: Conducting merit reviews in years when there is no merit money. The argument has always been that you do the reviews anyway so that the money can be awarded retrospectively on that magical day when the bronze turtle out in front of the library turns into a pot of gold. Bull$hit. Conduct the review if and when the funds materialize. Stop wasting our under-compensated time in the meantime. Continue reading

The origins of the casualization of academic labor

Jonathan Rees draws our attention to comments by Thomas Frank in a recent issue of Harper’s (sorry–no link) about why he left academia to pursue a career as an independent writer and journalist:

“Although it scarcely seems believable today, I originally came to journalism as a practical, responsible career move. It was the mid-1990s, I had just finished a Ph.D. in history, and I was toiling away as a lecturer at a college in Chicago. Thanks to an overproduction of historians and the increasing use of adjunct labor by universities, the market had become hopelessly glutted. Friends of mine all told the same stories of low-wage toil, of lecturing and handing out A’s while going themselves without health insurance or enough money for necessities. Our tenured elders, meanwhile, could only rarely be moved to care. What was a predicament to us was a liberation to them-a glorious lifting of their burden to teach. For the university, which was then just then discovering the wonders of profit-making, it was something even more fabulous: a way to keep labor costs down.”

I argued over there that his “tenured elders” weren’t the authors of this system–at least, not unless they were the Deans and Provosts who decided to use adjuncts instead of permitting departments to run tenure-track searches.  No tenured faculty in any department I’ve ever been a member of has cackled with glee at the prospect of seeing our ranks depleted and populated instead with adjuncts.  In fact, the faculty I’m on is always up in arms about the erosion in our ranks.  The chairs of my department, and the chairs of all other departments I know of in my college, have made the hiring of tenure-track colleagues their number-one request for the last several years. Continue reading