Nov 24, 2011

A Memorable Thanksgiving...

It was Thanksgiving, 2004.  Mary Ann and I had been married for four months.  We wanted to do something special.  That's when I heard a review on the radio (I think it was NPR) of a "different" way of preparing the turkey.  It was described as having a rich flavor and producing very moist, tender meat.  What could be better?!?  Here is the recipe that we decided to try:

10-12 pound turkey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup milk or cream
1 cup water

  • Heat oven to 325°F
  • Prepare turkey for roasting.
  • Combine peanut butter, flour, paprika, salt, celery salt and pepper.  Stir until blended, adding enough milk to make a medium paste.
  • Spread paste over entire turkey, covering well.  Place on rack in roasting pan.  Add 1 cup water to pan.
  • Bake at 325°F for 3-4 hours or until meat thermometer registers 180° to 185°F.  Baste every 30 minutes with pan juices.
  • Note stuffed turkey requires 30-45 minutes more roasting time.
Our experience didn't exactly match the description I had had heard on the radio.  We combined the peanut butter, flour, paprika, salt, celery salt and pepper just as directed and added milk to form a medium paste.  We coated the bird generously and placed it on the rack in the roasting pan, adding water in the bottom of the pan.   With those preparations completed, we began to roast this tan-coated beauty.

The first thing I observed was that as soon as the bird began to warm up, the coating slid off like frosting on a warm summer day and formed a mound of goo in the roasting pan.  Very little remained on the bird.  That didn't seem to match the descriptions that I had heard.  This was supposed to form a delicious golden crust on the bird's skin.  We continued cooking.  I basted that bird every half hour just as I was supposed to.  The smell didn't seem to be encouraging.  The heat of the oven on the bottom of the roasting pan seemed to be burning the collected goo.

At the end of our allotted four hours, we retrieved the results from the oven.  The bird was inedible, the pan, encrusted with black tar, was practically uncleanable, and the entire house smelled like peanut flavored charcoal.  It was a less than successful experiment.

I have since learned that the recipe was originally published in The Black Family Reunion Cookbook (Recipes & Food Memories™), published in 1991 by the National Council of Negro Women.  I'd still like to try turkey cooked this way by someone with sufficient "soul" to make it work.

Nov 4, 2011

Balloon Man

Garrett Cashman aloft with his cluster balloons - Life Magazine, September 20, 1954
 In 1954, Life Magazine published the picture shown above with the description, "Fulfilling an old dream, Garrett Cashman, 26, lashed 60 weather balloons to a bicycle wheel and a plywood seat and soared over Albany, N.Y.  At 6,200 feet, the sun's heat began popping his balloons, and he sank gently to earth, to answer charges of flying without a license."

It began on September 9th.  As described by Lawrence Gooley, a purveyor of upstate New York Popular history, "The people of Alba­ny, NY, looked skyward on Sep­tember 9, 1954, not believing what their eyes were seeing.  High above, 26-year old Gar­rett Cashman was fulfilling his childhood dream of soar­ing among the clouds. A grape-like cluster of 60 gas-filled balloons car­ried him slowly, silently, majesti­cally across the sky.  With only a light wind, Cashman stayed aloft for hours, enjoying the sun­shine, the spectacular view, and the exhilaration of achieving his life’s desire.

He rose into the clouds, and then broke free of them at 3,000 feet. When he reached 6,200 feet, the heat of the sun began expanding the bal­loons, causing some of them to burst.

Not a problem for Cash­man, who cut several balloons free, dropping in a controlled descent, and landing near Valatie, 21 miles from his launch point.

… Cashman was immedi­ately arrested by police.

Receiving dozens of re­ports, they had followed his progress down both sides of the Hudson River. He was charged with being an unlicensed pilot and operating an uncertified and unregistered aircraft.  For lack of $100 bail, Cash­man was taken to Albany county jail.

Hundreds had watched his flight as word spread, and both cops and onlookers now marveled at the seem­ingly fragile contraption that had carried Cashman so far. He weighed 140 pounds; the machine weighed 40 pounds; and he carried 30 pounds of sand.

Cashman had been seated on “a piece of ply­wood, 15 inches square, mounted on a spoke-less bicycle wheel swinging beneath two bunches of war surplus rubber bal­loons. Each was six feet across and contained 113 cubic feet of gas.

“An opened parachute was slung between the two clusters, just in case.” What seemed like insan­ity to everyone else was pure heaven to Cashman."

I remember vividly reading about Garrett Cashman in the Schenectady Gazette and the Schenectady Union-Star, our local newspapers.  I romanticized about how exciting it would be to try the same thing.  At age 14, my dreams didn't always coincide with my parents' goals.  I didn't get to go ballooning for many years, and then it was in a hot-air balloon in Mississippi.

In 1957, my friend Roland Racko ran for Vice President of our high school class.  Inspired by Garrett Cashman's ballooning adventures, we decided to float some giant weather balloons over the high school with banners promoting Roland's candidacy.  They did draw attention as we had anticipated and Roland won the election.

In later years, I read of Mr. Cashman's continuing ballooning adventures.  He tried repeatedly to get a balloonist's license and finally succeeded in November of 1954.  He appeared at Daytona's Speed Week in 1955.  He would ascend on a tether to promote business openings.  He would sometimes launch from the site of a carnival or race track and simply fly with the wind.  He reached altitudes of over 19,000 feet hanging beneath his helium or hydrogen filled balloons.  He descended by popping them with a slingshot, knife, or gun.  At one point, he was involved in promoting Ringling Brothers' Circus.  And while all this was happening, he invented things ranging from parachute brakes for downhill skiers to an indoor hickory barbeque broiler.
In 1976, Oscar Barker wrote about Garrett Cashman, Airman Extraordinaire in the Troy Record newspaper, "...that memorable morning when police and newspapers began receiving frantic telephone calls from the public – a man was dangling from a bunch of huge balloons as he floated a few hundred feet above the Capital District…Like a chase scene by the Keystone Cops, police and reporters tracked the strange craft down back roads and through fields...In the giddy months that followed, Cashman became a national news figure. Offers came in for him to perform with his beautiful balloons at fairs and the like….Especially memorable was the way the balloonist maneuvered his craft. He’d pull out a slingshot and, using fish-line sinkers as ammo, would puncture a weather balloon or two to descend somewhat.
They don’t make them like Garrett Cashman any more…which is a shame."

Nov 2, 2011

Heroic Ancestor...

My Great-Grandfather George Neddo enlisted in the Union army on October 2nd, 1861.  He lived in Whitehall, New York, very close to the Vermont line.  When he heard the call, he rode his horse 42 miles up the route that is now Vermont highway 22A to Middlebury, where he enlisted.  He served until being mustered out honorably on October 28, 1864.  I have read the history of his unit, Company A of the 6th Vermont Infantry Regiment, many times.  The toll taken by disease is even worse than the losses suffered in battle, which were themselves appalling.  I marvel that he made it through the carnage.  And to his credit, he rose from Private to the rank of Captain (at a time when a unit's officers up to the rank of Captain were elected).  He engaged in the following battles:
Warwick Creek, Va.
April 6, 1862
Lee's Mills, Va.
April 16, 1862
Williamsburg, Va.
May 5, 1862
Golding's Farm, Va.
June 27, 1862
Golding's Farm, Va.
June 28, 1862
Savage's Station, Va.
June 29, 1862
White Oak Swamp, Va.
June 30, 1862
Crampton's Gap, Md.
Sept. 14, 1862
Antietam, Md.
Sept. 17, 1862
Fredericksburg, Va.
Dec. 13, 1862
Marye's Heights, Va.
May 3, 1863
Salem Heights, Va.
May 3, 1863
Banks Ford, Va.
May 4, 1863
Fredericksburg, Va.
June 5, 1863
Gettysburg, Pa.
July 3, 1863
Funkstown, Md.
July 10, 1863
Gainesville, Va.
Oct. 19, 1863
Rappahannock Station, Va.
Nov. 7,  1863
Wilderness, Va.
May 5, to 10, 1864
Spottsylvania, Va.
May 10 to 18, 1864
Cold Harbor, Va.
June 1 to 12, 1864
Petersburg, Va.
June 18, 1864
Welden R. R., Va.
June 23, 1864
Reams's Station, Va.
June 29, 1864
Fort Stevens, Md.
July 12, 1864
Charlestown, W. Va.
Aug. 21, 1864
Opequan, Va.
Sept. 13, 1864
Winchester, Va.
Sept. 19, 1864
Fisher's Hill, Va.
Sept. 21 and 22, 1864
Cedar  Creek,  Va.
Oct. 19, 1864

Needless to say, I'm honored and proud to be George Neddo's descendant.