“Born With Empathy”

Nov 27 2014 @ 2:07pm

Mark Joseph Stern shares why he’s grateful to be gay:

As part of my job, I regularly read the writings of people in whom something has broken or withered—people who have lost the ability to see the humanity in others. I put myself in the mindset of people who dehumanize and vilify and hate. I become intimately acquainted with the twisted beliefs of those who, encountering a person they don’t quite understand, lash out with cruel loathing and immoral rage.

Because I am gay, it is basically impossible for me to become one of these people. The identity—a professional minority-basher—just doesn’t fit, and besides, they wouldn’t exactly welcome me into their club. Gay people are born with empathy for the underdog, whether we like it or not. We’ve all played the role of the outcast, the weirdo; we’ve all faced prejudice and discrimination and sorrow and self-loathing. Those of us who emerge from the darkness gain newfound will and determination. But we can’t shake that fundamental desire of justice, that yearning for fairness for those despised by society.

I am grateful for this yearning, which, though sometimes frustrating and heartbreaking, gives my life direction and meaning beyond the daily drudgery.

The Waning Glory Of Gobble?

Nov 27 2014 @ 1:11pm

The Guardian Food editors offer a taste of the very first Thanksgiving:

Robert Krulwich looks back at how the turkey became the holiday’s leading entrée:

[Writer Andrew] Beahrs gives his biggest props to a 19th century magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale. She and her magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, campaigned for a national day [of thanksgiving], wrote letters to governors, to every member of Congress, even to the president, and when she wasn’t lobbying, she was writing novels that romanticized turkeys in that over-the-top drooling-with-her-pen way that may make you laugh … but it worked. Here’s a passage from her 1827 novel, Northwood:

The roasted turkey took precedence on this occasion, being placed at the head of the table; and well did it become its lordly station, sending forth the rich odor of its savory stuffing, and finely covered with the froth of its basting. At the foot of the board, a sirloin of beef, flanked on either side by a leg of pork and loin of mutton, seemed placed as a bastion to defend the innumerable bowls of gravy and plates of vegetables disposed in that quarter. A goose and pair of ducklings occupied side stations on the table; the middle being graced, as it always is on such occasions, by the rich burgomaster of the provisions, called a chicken pie.

That’s turkey, then sirloin, then pork, then lamb, then goose, then duck, then chicken pie, all in one sitting! … It took 300 years or so, but eventually the turkey knocked off every other contender and is now center stage, by itself, gloriously supreme, stuffed, adorned, triumphant. Viva la turkey!

Jessica Grose regrets that her family won’t be eating turkey this year, but Betsy Woodruff would rather see the bird sidelined once again. She writes that “turkey’s problem isn’t so much that it tastes bad as that literally any other meat tastes better”:

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“Death To Turkeys!”

Nov 27 2014 @ 12:34pm

So exclaims John Oliver, shaking his head over the annual tradition of presidential turkey pardoning:

“I issue this challenge to President Obama and all future presidents,” the Last Week Tonight host says in a new YouTube video [above] with his show on holiday hiatus. “If you want the world’s respect, just once, show up at a White House turkey pardoning with a cleaver and administer the justice these birds so clearly deserve.”

Obama has opted to ignore Oliver’s challenge; yesterday, he defended the pardon as an “action fully within my legal authority”. Dahlia Lithwick, tongue firmly in cheek, ponders the implications of the president’s policy, wondering if it will “start a wave of unauthorized poultry immigration”:

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It’s All Relative

Nov 27 2014 @ 11:47am

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How are you related to all those supposed cousins of yours, anyway? Nathan Yau created the above chart to have you covered at family gatherings:

Here’s how it works. Figure out the common ancestor between two relatives. Then select the relationship of the first relative to the common ancestor in the top row. Move down to the row that corresponds to the relationship of the second person to the common ancestor. The result is the relationship of the second person to the first.

For example, say the first person is the grandchild of the common ancestor, and the second person is a great-grandchild. Therefore, the second person is the first cousin once removed from the first.

Meanwhile, Jessica Goldstein recently investigated how closer familial connections play out during the holidays. She talked to Frank Sulloway, author of Born to Rebel, about how birth order affects family dynamics into adulthood:

“The biological fact that you’re first, second, or third, it doesn’t have any causal influence. What’s causal is, if you are first, you’re bigger, older, stronger, and you have certain privileges you don’t have when you’re younger,” he said.

Time for more fun with stereotypes:

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When Ragamuffins Roamed The Streets

Nov 27 2014 @ 11:00am

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Linton Weeks reflects on the scrappy history of Thanksgiving, which “in turn-of-the-20th century America used to look a heckuva lot like Halloween”:

People — young and old — got all dressed up and staged costumed crawls through the streets. In Los Angeles, Chicago and other places around the country, newspapers ran stories of folks wearing elaborate masks and cloth veils. Thanksgiving mask balls were held in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Montesano, Wash., and points in between. …

In fact, so many people participated in masking and making merry back then that, according to a widely distributed item that appeared in the Los Angeles Times of Nov. 21, 1897, Thanksgiving was “the busiest time of the year for the manufacturers of and dealers in masks and false faces. The fantastical costume parades and the old custom of making and dressing up for amusement on Thanksgiving day keep up from year to year in many parts of the country, so that the quantity of false faces sold at this season is enormous.”

In 2012, Greg Young noted that the “custom was mostly frowned upon by polite society as a distraction from the historic and somber traditions of Thanksgiving”:

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A Spatchcocking Good Time

Nov 27 2014 @ 10:19am

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Dan Frommer explains “spatchcocking,” which involves “removing the backbone and flattening the turkey”:

This process—also known as butterflying, and common for preparing chickens—reduces the roasting time for a turkey from roughly three hours to around 45 minutes. Freeing up both oven and host, it’s a complete Thanksgiving game-changer. …

[Mark] Bittman wasn’t alone to spatchcocking in 2012, and in fact, he tends to shy away from what he calls the “quaint” s-word, which dates to the late 18th century. The bigger performer seems to be this Serious Eats article, “How to Cook a Spatchcocked Turkey: The Fastest, Easiest Thanksgiving Turkey,” which spread widely on Twitter after it was published on November 6. A week later, on November 13, Alton Brown, the witty host of Food Network’s Good Eats andIron Chef America went on NPR’s All Things Considered show to talk about spatchcocking. “It’s a fantastic word.” Bittman’s articles are dated November 15.

“It seemed like ‘spatchcock’ was the word of the day this year,” web developer Jim Ray said in a 2012 Thanksgiving-recap episode of his cooking podcast, Salt & Fat. “There seemed to be some consensus that this was the way to roast your turkey. And—I didn’t do that this year—I think it’s probably the last year that I won’t spatchcock my turkey.” Today, Ray tells me, “I’m all spatchcock all the way.” Along with, it seems, many people.

(Photo by Brett Spangler)

Calories

This week, the FDA released new rules on calorie labeling:

The changes are sweeping: Any restaurant with 20 or more locations, movie-theater chains, amusement parks, meals sold in grocery stores, and vending machines will all be required to label calorie amounts on food options. There is no exception for alcohol ordered from a menu (mixed drinks ordered at the bar, however, will continue to not have calorie information). The rules take effect a year from now, although vending machine operators will have two years to comply.

In response, Jason Millman highlights research on caloric ignorance, including the above chart:

Do people eat healthier when they can see calorie counts? The evidence so far seems mixed. The impact seems to be greater when the calorie count is much higher than what consumers expect. What does seem clear from past studies is that people really are terrible judges of how many calories they consume when they dine out.

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Quote For Thanksgiving Day

Nov 27 2014 @ 8:42am

“I have been thinking about existence lately. In fact, I have been so full of admiration for existence that I have hardly been able to enjoy it properly. As I was walking up to the church this morning, I passed that row of big oaks by the war memorial — if you remember them — and I thought of another morning, fall a year or two ago, when they were dropping their acorns thick as hail almost. There was all sorts of thrashing in the leaves and there were acorns hitting the pavement so hard they’d fly past my head. All this in the dark, of course. I remember a slice of moon, no more than that. It was a very clear night, or morning, very still, and then there was such energy in the things transpiring among those trees, like a storm, like travail. I stood there a little out of range, and I thought, it is all still new to me. I have lived my life on the prairie and a line of oak trees still can astonish me.

I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try,” – Marilynne Robinson, Gilead.

The View From Your Window

Nov 27 2014 @ 8:07am

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Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 11.15 am

Divided We Thank

Nov 27 2014 @ 7:39am

Kenneth C. Davis credits Lincoln with issuing “the first two in an unbroken string of presidential Thanksgiving proclamations,” but notes that “the elevation of Thanksgiving to a true national holiday [was] a feat accomplished by Franklin D. Roosevelt.” He reminds us that Americans initially found Roosevelt’s holiday politically polarizing:

In 1939, with the nation still struggling out of the Great Depression, the traditional Thanksgiving Day fell on the last day of the month – a fifth Thursday. Worried retailers, for whom the holiday had already become the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, feared this late date. Roosevelt agreed to move his holiday proclamation up one week to the fourth Thursday, thereby extending the critical shopping season.

Some states stuck to the traditional last Thursday date, and other Thanksgiving traditions, such as high school and college football championships, had already been scheduled. This led to Roosevelt critics deriding the earlier date as “Franksgiving.” With 32 states joining Roosevelt’s “Democratic Thanksgiving, ” 16 others stuck with the traditional date, or “Republican Thanksgiving.” After some congressional wrangling, in December 1941, Roosevelt signed the legislation making Thanksgiving a legal holiday on the fourth Thursday in November. And there it has remained.

Josh Zeitz elaborates:

Though Republicans were louder in articulating their opposition, the split between Thanksgiving and “Franksgiving” states was not strictly partisan; rather, it was ideological.

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