Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Our most thoughtful condiments for the turkey

23 Nov 04 Our most thoughtful condiments for the turkey

The turkey has a bad reputation ever since Mark Twain derided the domestic turkey as the stupidest bird on earth. However, the US is full of its turkeys, domestic and political and in this season we are to be thankful for those laid upon the plank and roasted to perfection.

On Hunting the Deceitful Turkey
from Mark Twain

Therefore to honor the season of autumn harvest and a windfall of rotten apples into the political baskets of sour grapes, we uncork the wine, pass the port and begin a series of stories, collected to enjoy in front of a rushing fire or sitting on a luke-warm radiator or in a freezing cold room with three layers of socks and a hot water bottle clutched between the knees to gnaw on old bones and chew the fat, doing a little turkey-talk on the business of being a turkey.

On Turkeys and National Identity
nominated by Ben Franklin to be the national bird of the
US to reside in the great white nest

More on Wild Turkeys

from the Coffee Bean Goddess
pic of wild turkeys

A turkey is decidely an American bird., a gallinaceaous bird, Meleagriis gallapova, that is raised chiefly for culinary purposes. It is generally served with baked sweet potatotes, mashed potatoes and currant or cranberry sauce. However, cranberries aer not native in Europe, so currants are a good substitute for the appetizer. For a zesty change in the jelly section of your cabinet, you can experiment with making rowan jelly. The rowan is better known to the Americans as the ash tree that bears clusters of rusty red berries in late autumn. Wait until the berries are soft, nearly mushy before collecting them for jelly. Rinse them by running water over them . An easy way to stemming currants or rowan is by running a fork through the stems, thereby knocking the fruit into the cooking-pot. Don't worry over the loose oddbits, for making jelly requires straining and then possibly straining again. To make any fuit jell naturally, chop up three small japanese quinces and toss them in with the fruit. Allow them to stand overnight before cooking.

To make fine jellies, use low heat and allow the fruit to simmer hours. Strain the pulp through a cloth and allow more time for the the sediment to collect. Strain again to remove it. The liquid will change color depending on the intensity of heat an the resulting jelly will be a clear ruby that glistens wonderfully under sunlight. Use coarse sugar rather than crystal, adding it in slowly throughout reduction until you have the sweetness or tartness that you want. Two day jellies have much rounder flavors than the one-day jobber, and if you can manage the agony to three, you'll have a jelly which the neighbors will want. The trick is getting the full amount of juice out of the fruit and then repeatedly straining the liquid until all sediment is removed. Reduce, add water, reduce, add water, reduce until the fruit is nothing but mash.

Rowan by itself is tart, and is an excellent jelly for dark meat and game, but it blends fabulously with apple, pear, quince or mint. To give it some added zest, drop in some cloves, broken cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Orange and mandarin peels work nicely, too. The result is an incredibly wonderful jelly that will never be found in a delicatessan shop or on the grocery shelf with a brilliant red fire to warm the hearts of anyone who receives it as a present.

Rowan berries dry nicely, even more so than wild cherries and add wonderful color to a seasonal wreath to decorate your table or front door.

Now that you've had your work-out in the kitchen in creating the jellies to give some zing to the turkey, let's sit down and read, while the turkey gets it's roasting.

More facts on Turkeys from the Restaurant Report
Chef's Table: Let’s Talk Turkey
By Jim Coleman with Candace Hagan

In the following story, you can learn about the magical transformation of turkey to being a prince. I know, we're so used to people becoming turkeys that it seems impossible to believe that the reverse could be true, but this story is from Rabbi Nachman, known to many Jews for his delicious sense of humor that gets served with a generous helping of wisdom.

The Prince Who Thought He Was a Turkey
The Prince Who Thought He Was a
adapted by Gedaliah Fleer from the stories of Rebbe Nachman

Meleagris gallapavo: the real thing in the wild
us geo survey

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Baucis and Philemon

14 Nov 04 Baucis and Philemon

Ovid, Metamorphosis, Bk VIII
Dryden, transl Metamorphoses

Book VIII about 3/4 through book

Nearly every culture tells stories about gods or saints wandering about the earth, in search of good men. Brecht takes up the theme in his play, Der gute Mensch von Sezuan, in which the virtuous citizen is revealed to be a prostitute. The New Testament offers the Parable of the Good Samaritan, becoming the model for hospitals and emergency medical units over centuries, although the first Hospitalers were religious orders established along the routes of the Crusaders sweeping mercilessly over Europe, slaughtering the innocents that lived in their paths. Their vocation was to tend to the wounded knights and soldiers who were left on the field and to offer shelter those on pilgrimmage.

A band-aid does not much cover up the violence of genocide or religious wars as Central Europe became the chessboard of marauding Crusaders and invading Turks alternately sweeping off each other in bloody battles that captured towns, depopulated villages and persecuted Christians and Jews alike.

Ovid relates the Flood Story of Deucalion and Pyrrha, and although water does wash away dirt, it has little effect on men's souls. The plants and animals perished, subdued by the Deluge, but man resilient to nature through his engineering genius or tenacity to survive endured. In a few generations after the Great Flood, man resorted to his normal corruption and violence with much zest. The world turned and nothing changed much in human character.

And as then as now, disputes arose whether gods exist or the world has a Divine Creator. Atheism seemed as prevalent then as now with Ixion's son ridiculing Aechelous' explanation for the island, claiming it was a maiden drowned transformed.

"The others disagreed with what he said
And grew uneasy at his blasphemy
Particularly Lelex who was wise
Mature in years as well as wit and feeling.
He said, "The powers of heaven are eternal,
Not to be measured by our time and space,
And what the gods decide, their will is done."

transl Horace Gregory,
Mentor, 1958 p235

Lelex interrupts the discussion, presenting the story of Baucis and Philemon, relating the rustic beauty of the foothills of Phrygia where once Pittheus reigned. Jove took to wandering the earth, garbed like a peddler, searching for a stall to stay the night. One after another, the local inhabitants turned him away until he came to the hut of Baucis and Philemon. They had but little, but what little they had was theirs: a goat or two, the cheese thereof and smoked sausages hung from the rafters of the roof of the one-room dwelling.

Their door swung open as well as their hearts. A humble dinner lay upon the table and Jove invited in. Although meager, their frugal meal replenished itself. The food and drink never ran out. And for their hospitality, two trees now grow entwined together where a temple once stood. Jove granted their request never to be separated in life or in death.

As simplistic as the story seems, it is the source of a plethora of literature including Henry David Thoreau's Walden, as he cries to contemporary consumers to "Simplify, simplify, simplify."

"I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and ruckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labour in. Who made them serfs of the soil 1 Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushedand smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and wood-lot!"

H D Thoreau, Walden, Walter Scott Publishing 1886, p3

Thoreau reduces life to the needs of Food, Shelter, Clothing and Fuel, seeking a temporary refuge on Walden Pond as he contemplates the meaning of life and the corruption of man. Critical of the religious fervour of his age, he comments on the bustling trade at Salem harbour which brings no trade into the Celestial Empire, explaining that his purpose in living at Walden was not to live cheaply, but deeply, taking his accounts before his Creator , being a self-appointed inspector of snow and rain storms, of highways and forest paths and watching the wild stock of the local village.

Through the eyes of Thoreau, we see our exaggerated needs for artificial entertainment and our greed for superfluity while two-thirds of the world is deluged by unremittant poverty. The refrigerator does not hold a chicken, but a dozen eggs and milk cartons supplied by a distant dairy. The dinner comes in foil, popped into the handy nuker sitting on the kitchen counter. Cook? Make your own syrup from the elderberries hanging despondently on the neglected bushes? Collect the quinces falling by the side of the road? Or use the shrivelled carrots for a hearrty soup? Me?

Why should I do that when I can heat a pizza?

And so for their gratitude for the little they had, and the much they shared, Baucis and Philemon grew together, immortalized as trees, at the edge of a meadow for their hospitality to wayward strangers.

H D Thoreau, On Walden Pond

An Internet Directory for Ovid's Metamorphoses
references and allusions
background, journals, criticism
old 1997-98

Project Muse
use search, drop in Ovid

Perseus Project : Ovid Metamorphoses

Ovid Metamorphoses
Golding complete text
The Fifteen Books of Ovid's Metamorphoses, 1567
The first translation into English - credited to Arthur Golding

University of Wisconsin at Madison
an annotated Ovid, printed just like a chumash

Ovid with the Picasso illus


14th March 04 Pygmalion:

15 Febr 04 Pyramus and Thisbe: Till Death Do us Not Part

27 Sept 04 Daedalus and Icarus

20 Sept 04 Deucalion and Pyrrha

11 Sept 04 Daedalus and Icarus

4 Sept 04 Phaethon Rises

7 Nov 04 Medea

21 Dec Let Us Orpheus Theosophically

4 Jan 05 Orpheus and Eurydice a Transcendental Kind of Love

30 Jan 2005 Venus and Mars

Sunday, November 07, 2004


7 Nov 04 Medea

Medea with the dark hair, shrewd mind and piercing eyes is the epitome of witchiness. She set the model, which all stepmothers are forced to follow, becoming the ancestor of Baba Yaga and other venerable old hags that populate folklore.

Medea was the daughter of Aeetes, King of Colchis who owned the Golden Fleece. The Golden Fleece was protected by a dragon which never slept in a sacred grove of Ares near the end of the world. In Thessaly, on the other side of the world, lived a King Aeson who conceded his crown to his brother Pelias for the duration of his son's minority. Upon reaching his majority, Jason would be the rightful heir over the land. Pelias outwardly agreed to the conditions and accordingly took the reins of government in his own hands. When Jason came of age, Pelias seemed willing to transfer the authority to the younger man, but on condition that he go to Colchis and bring back the Golden Fleece as proof of his princely heritage.

Like any young man, Jason was enthusiastic about the quest, sniffing the sea air for adventure. He put out a bull summoning the brave youth of his generation to join him on the adventure. They sailed together in a ship dedicated to the goddess Hera. Joining him were famous heroes including Herakles, Theseus, Nestor and Orpheus (obviously their tour guide for the Underworld should they end up there and entertainment section should they get bored on the way. Maybe they intended to send him overboard to the Sirens, who knows?)

Once in Colchis, Theseus probably advised Jason on the manner of seducing the king's daughter to acquire the Golden Fleece, having already gained experience in Crete in killing the Minotaur through the services of Ariadne. In this case, perhaps Orpheus was to play soothing music in moonlight while Jason lip-synched maudlin poetry. Once in Colchis, Jason made known their mission to the King Aeetes regarding the Fleece. "Very well, " Aeetes replied, " only if he could yoke two brass-shod, fire-breathing bulls to a plough and then sow the dragon's teeth. This only seems to be an outrageous demand, but he had Herakles on hand who much experience in clearing the Stygian stalls and wrestling lions. Moreover, the advice from Theseus proved timely, as Medea fell for his handsome looks and assisted in the theft.

Anxious to prove himself an all-round hero, Jason put on a fine show in bull-taming on the appointed day, and excelled in the dragonteeth sowing event. In so doing, he not only gained the Fleece, but stole Medea's heart. However, the stout men of Colchis were affronted by his boldness and the athletic exhibition soon turned into a melee in which each man fought for himself. Still there was the problem of lulling the sleepless dragon to sleep which guarded the Fleece. However, with a little magic from Medea, his eyes closed quickly as the men snatched the Fleece from the tree and headed back to the ship for a quick sail homewards. Adventures are always better to talk about after they have ended.

Back in Thessaly once more, the town turned out to celebrate the capture of the Golden Fleece. Only one thing troubled Jason. his father was not there. Too enfeebled by age, he cuold not dance in the streets. Medea seeing Jason's consternation intervened. A devotee of Hecate, she knew secret incantation to make the ancient young again. There are different versions how she did this. Some say she cut him up and tossed in a cooking pot, while others are more begnign and said she made a special brew of all the unspeakable things with a bit of herblore, slit his throat, drained his blood and gave him the first complete transfusion. Whichever the case, he was killed and then rejuvenated to a younger age. While others recount that she slaughtered Pelias the Ursurper in a particularly brutal way, establishing the precedent for Eddie Gein and Albert Fish.

Medea boiling a Lamb
image is from the Harvard Library

Having saved Jason's life and assisted in the poaching of the Fleece, Medea was no longer needed. Jason's mind now turned to more legitimate ladies and took interest in Creusa, Princess of Corinth. By now, Medea had two children of her own, so Jason had been somewhat occupied other than ruling his own country. Jealous and embittered by his perfidy, Medea sent the bride a beautiful gift, a poisoned robe, so that when Creusa took it in her hands, her skin would be burnt off like napalm. Beautiful to see, but deadly to touch, Creusa suffered a horrific death, thus we say to this day—curiosity killed the pussycat. To further avenge herself, Medea committed infanticide, fleeing the country in her dragon chariot, leaving Jason with a heir and in despair.

The Absolute Medea-Maria Callas

pic: Callas Medea poster
a cool 3000

recording with the Callas

Classical Myths; Medea
a collection of myths

Carlos Parada: Medea
very beautiful page, hyperlinked text

Internet Classics: Medea By Euripides

Written 431 B.C.E
Translated by E. P. Coleridge

TextKit: Medea
E P Coleridge translation in pdf free download 31 pp

Medea by James Hunter
a biographical account of Medea

Temple U Classics Dept
has several links, Zeus and Pandora

Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable: Medea

Crime Library
serial killers


6 Jan 2003 Transformation Myths and Reality