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In This Issue:

Remembering Thanksgiving Day
Fabulous Thanksgiving Feast
Amorous Almonds? . . . Promised Potency!
reprinted in Click2Asia

Chef Carlo J. Morelli
Photo of the Week

Austin Models Photography ~
A Showcase of Model, Acting, and Photography Talent

You Can Look at the World
as a Cheeseburger

Did you know that your local fast food joint is an International Laboratory and Museum. . . . No silly, I don't mean the guy that on the drive-through speaker that attempts to take your order in a combination of English and early Mesopotamian. I mean the food!

Almost nothing found in a cheeseburger was originally from our neighborhood, or our state, not even close. Nothing in a burger, or on it, started out on this continent!

Very few of the foods that we eat originated in North America. Well, then how did these foods arrive here? I'm glad you asked, because a lot of work went into this . . . so pay attention, there may be a test!

It may take a bit of a history lesson to get the lowdown on your dinner. Many of the food products we eat originated in the Middle East and Asia, having been introduced into Europe during prehistoric times.

Food products that were consumed by the ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans included bread (wheat), cheese, lettuce, pickle (cucumber), beef, vinegar, chicken eggs, olive oil, and mustard, often being traded like money.

The pepper and most of the spices we use are grown only in India and Southeast Asia, and are still imported into the United States.

As Europeans colonized the New World during the 16th century, these products were imported into what is today the United States. None of these products were found in the New World prior to European colonization. Today, almost all are now grown in the United States, with the exception of specialty items which are still imported. So when you say, hold the pickles, you could be causing a heartburn in New Guinea.

Another way in which new food were introduced to the United States was through the Caribbean. Sugarcane originated in Southeast Asia, and was introduced into India 2,500 years ago. From India, sugar was introduced to Persia (today known as Iran) by 600 BC. Arabs then introduced sugar into the Mediterranean region and to southern Italy and Spain. Europeans introduced sugarcane to the Atlantic Islands, and European explorers, beginning with Columbus, brought sugar into the Caribbean.

Other products came from Africa. The kola nut (Would ya like a Coke with your Fries?) for instance, was introduced from Africa to the Caribbean during the 19th century. There still is no production of kola nuts in the US, therefore all kola nuts or related products are imported from Africa or the Caribbean. Other African foods shipped into the United States include the watermelon and okra, a major component in gumbo. YIKES, NO GUMBO? What if they've lost on their way here?

Still other products originated in South America and Mesoamerica. Not messwithAmerica, Mesoamerica, meaning southern Mexico, central and the mainland coastal Caribbean. Those tomatoes on the hamburger or in the ketchup originated in South America, but were domesticated in Mesoamerica.

We believe it was the Spanish that first introduced tomatoes into what is today the United States in their colonies in St. Augustine (Florida), Santa Fe (New Mexico), and California. Tomatoes were later also introduced by immigrants from France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and by traders from the Caribbean. Potatoes originated and were cultivated in South America, then were introduced by the Spanish to Europe. Then back from Europe, to the British colonies in North America. So, when you order fries and it takes a long time to get, this may be why!. . . . Whew, what a trip, just so you can super sized you fries.

Other important New World foods stuff including corn (maize), squash, beans, and turkey, staple food sources for many Native Americans, were introduced to the pilgrims . . .and finally on your plate!

Salt the only thing you are trying to use less of, may be the only truly American product. Salt is technically not a food, but it is necessary for human survival. Salt was mined and traded in prehistoric times and was important for the preservation of food and later for manufacturing gun powder. Salt was here when the earliest folks arrived, and was and is still mined in several locations in the United States. Many salting operations were launched using salt water from the ocean. Salt is a lot of the taste in your fries, condiments, and that cheeseburgers.

Soooo, now when you stop for a quick snack at your local fast food establishment, you can tell your folks you stopped for a history lesson, and ended up trading in International Commerce... :)

Remembering Thanksgiving Day (1620-2003)
The Mayflower

The voyage of the Mayflower in 1620 from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth Rock started as a journey to find peace and justice in a new world. It began as a fervent prayer to give freedom a chance and remains today as the promise each year for a new beginning. Thanksgiving Day is a celebration of hope and remembrance. Today, we bring our families and friends together to share our tables and our hearts and to give thanks for all that we have to be grateful for in our glorious country. From this grand experiment and its courageous settlers to the greatest nation of the world, we have a lot to be thankful for.


Remembering Thanksgiving Past

My earliest memory of Thanksgiving was the fuss of preparing all the wonderful food in advance of our holiday feast. Being a traditional Italian-American, Midwestern home, we had a full cornucopia of cookies and candies of every ethnicity in abundance.

Thanksgiving morning was a special treat, with a home filled with the scent of baking bread and roasting turkey, which transformed our tiny cold-water flat in Little Italy on the Lower East Side of Chicago into a three-room palace. Everyone was involved--family and friends, young and old, with four generations of our own majestic women.

An unspoken but respected hierarchy prevailed, with the eldest women in control; a dancelike rhythm appeared to take charge of this traditional and noble endeavor. It didn't take long before our small kitchen and dining room filled, and every flat surface was covered. People scurried into the hallway, where neighbors shuffled pans and pots in and out of their own kitchens to make room for more, always more, so everyone could share in the abundance.


The Preparations

Preparation started days earlier, with the making of the pasta. I recall my great-aunt bringing in the clothesline from our back porch, the one that strung across the small yard to the adjacent porch and back. She washed and bleached this cord to string across our living and dining rooms, from sconces to chandelier and from doorjambs to windowsills. It was strung as tight as possible to hold the pounds and pounds of lasagna noodles and spaghetti needed to hang dry--enough to satisfy the hearty Italian appetites.

I recall as if it were yesterday listening to our nightly radio programs, with the shadows of hanging pasta on the faded floral wallpaper, lending an eerie overtone to the Green Hornet or Gangbusters. How could I ever forget opening my eyes in the morning with the sight of dangling pasta overhead? But then why in the world would I want to forget that magical moment and what it meant to a young boy: that a wonderful and glorious holiday was just around the corner?


The Family and Friends

Each family was represented in the choice of menu items. Every wonderful cook in each branch of the family offered to prepare his or her own special version of the chosen food. This made for a memorable feast indeed. As there were at least four successful individual restaurant owners in our family, the competition was playful and fun filled, with chunks of bread, ladles, and spoons dipping into everything, testing, tasting, and teasing.

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Fabulous Thanksgiving Feast

Holiday Roast Turkey with Herbal Rub
Yield: 18 servings (6 ounces each)

    1 turkey (13 pounds), fresh or thawed
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1 tablespoon dried rosemary
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 teaspoon dried tarragon
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 medium onion, quartered
    1 lemon, quartered
    1–2 small apples (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey and reserve for the gravy or stuffing (see recipes). Rinse the turkey with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
3. In a small bowl, mix the oil, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, salt, and pepper.
4. With your fingertips, gently loosen the skin from the breast without pulling off the skin. Spread 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture over the breast meat under the skin and replace the skin.
5. Rub the cavities and the outside of the turkey with the remaining herb mixture. Place the onion and lemon quarters in the neck and body cavities. Place the apples (if using) in the body cavity.
6. Secure the neck skin to the back of the turkey with skewers. Fold the wings under the back of the turkey. Place the legs in the tucked position and tie shut. (Note: May be prepared to this point, covered, and refrigerated for several hours.)
7. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large shallow roasting pan (no more than 2 1/2" deep). Insert an oven-safe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, being careful it does not touch the bone.
8. Cover the bird with a loose tent of foil. Roast for about 2 1/2 hours.
9. Remove the foil and baste the bird with the pan juices. Continue to roast for about 1 hour, until the meat thermometer in the thigh registers 180°F.
10. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a large platter and carve.


Good Old-Fashioned Bread Dressing
Yield: 10 to 12 servings

    3–4 loaves white bread (or 5 if you like leftovers)
    2 cups water
    Turkey neck and giblets
    1–2 onions, chopped
    2 bunches celery, chopped
    2–3 tablespoons butter
    Mushrooms , sliced (optional)
    1/2 teaspoon dried sage
    Canned chicken broth
    Oysters, coarsely chopped (optional)

1. Break the bread into small pieces (about 1" square) and place in 2 huge bowls or pots. Let stand overnight to dry out.
2. The next day, combine the water, turkey neck, and giblets in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.
3. Remove the neck and giblets from the pan; reserve the broth. If desired, remove the meat from the neck and chop the giblets (otherwise, discard both).
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 13" x 9" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
5. Place the onion and celery in a food processor and pulse until minced.
6. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onion, celery, and mushrooms (if using). Cook until heated through (do not brown). Spoon over the bread. Sprinkle with the sage and toss to mix.
7. Slowly pour the reserved broth over the bread mixture and toss well. Add additional broth until the bread is evenly moist and sticks together. (The bread will shrink as you do this. Be careful not to pour too much liquid in.)
8. If you are using oysters, add them now and mix lightly.
9. Stuff the turkey or transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish. (If using oysters, it is recommended that you bake the stuffing in a dish so as to ensure the oysters will be cooked through.)
10. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until browned.


Real Homemade Turkey Gravy
Yield: 14 servings (1/4 cup each)

    1 package turkey neck, heart, and gizzard
    1 carrot, thickly sliced
    1 onion, thickly sliced
    1 celery rib, thickly sliced
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 turkey liver
    3 tablespoons fat from poultry drippings (see note)
    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    3 1/2 cups turkey broth (see note)

1. In a large saucepan, combine the turkey neck, heart, and gizzard with the carrot, onion, celery, and salt. Add cold water to cover generously. Bring to a boil over high heat.
2. Reduce the heat to low; cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the liver and cook for 15 minutes.
3. Strain the broth into a large bowl and set aside. Discard the vegetables. If desired, finely chop the giblets.
4. In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together the fat and flour over medium heat until the flour turns golden.
5. Gradually whisk in the broth. Cook, whisking, until the gravy boils and is slightly thick. Add the chopped giblets (if using).

Note: Remove the cooked turkey and roasting rack from the roasting pan. Pour the poultry drippings through a sieve into a 1-quart measuring cup.

Add 1 cup giblet broth or water to the roasting pan and stir until the crusty brown bits are loosened. Pour into the measuring cup with the drippings. Let stand for a few minutes until the fat rises to the top. Spoon off 3 tablespoons of the fat for the gravy.

Discard any remaining fat and reserve the broth. Add enough water to equal 3 1/2 cups.

©2003 Morelli Publishing
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