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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clever Gretel's Turkey Feast


Bechlboschen or Christmas Bush, Feast Days, the Color Red and Christmas Goddesses
Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
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In Salzburg Land, the Bechlboschen is a Christmas bush. The special significance of this bush or why it was tied to Christmas is unclear but it is probably based on a long forgotten pagan belief. A Christmas bush is also traditional in Bavaria in a region near Guenzburg. It was said the bush marked the spot frequented by the dirneweibl (female child) dressed in a bright red cloak, who carried pretty red apples in a basket. She always offered these as gifts to the unsuspecting passerby (probably in the winter season around Christmas time?). Should the person accept her gift, it turned into pure gold. But if the person did not follow her, the dirneweibl retreated into the forest, crying pitifully. The color red for her cloak is significant and marks her as one of the many forgotten pagan goddesses of German mythology. One of the most famous fairytale figures of all is dressed in similar garb and likewise retreats into the forest: Little Red Riding Hood.
In the tale of Clever Gretel (full text below), the protagonist wears shoes with red heels, a similar marker. But Gretel is not the typical Christmas Goddess of times past. Red shoes mark a strong-willed, socially deviant person in fairy tales, who could signal trouble. Still, her cooking is sublime.


It is easy to imagine that Gretel would have liked to cook even bigger birds than mere chickens, given her lusty appetite. Here follows a recipe for an American feast: the Thanksgiving Roast Turkey.
To cut down on roasting time, buy a small turkey (12 – 14 pounds). Butterflying the bird will also reduce the cooking time. That said, you must still begin preparations one day in advance:

One day in advance:
Mix 5 cloves of minced garlic, minced parsley, oregano, rosemary, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ cup minced shallots together. Cut the bird along its backbone and split it open, pressing it down to lie as flat as possible. Season with salt and pepper. Rub bird with garlic mixture. Push some of the mixture under the skin and the remaining over the entire surface of the bird. Let it sit in a plastic bag in your refrigerator over night.

Next day:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (or 190 degrees C). Use a pan with a rack. Position turkey in rack with breast side up. Baste with melted butter (1-4 tablespoons melted). Roast until skin is crisp and the thickest part of the thigh away from bone registers 175°F (or 80°C). This should take 2 ¼ to 2/3/4 hours for a 12 – 14 pound bird. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before eating it.

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