Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving with a Little History Lesson

Hey guys,
I would just like to take a moment to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving! I would also just like to chat very briefly about the history of Thanksgiving, as a recently caught this clip from The Tonight Show, and was truly taken aback by the general public's lack of knowledge about this very important holiday. I consider myself a genuine history buff, and I have been planning for quite a while to begin writing more posts on historical topics, and I could not think of a better place to begin doing so than by talking about our nation's first Thanksgiving.  

A Short History of The First Thanksgiving
Although a certain amount of debate remains, it is widely believed that the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621, in New England, where it all started. In September of 1620, in Plymouth, England, a group 102 people --comprised of religious separatists and individuals seeking prosperity in the new world -- boarded the Mayflower and set sail across the Atlantic Ocean [1]. The group would ultimately become known as the Pilgrims. After spending more than two months at sea, the Pilgrims would ultimately anchor their boat at the tip of Cape Cod [1]. After another month, the Mayflower would cross Massachusetts Bay, and the Pilgrims would begin establishing a village at Plymouth [1]. Although this event occurred well over a century after Columbus sailed the ocean blue, it would mark the first permanent settlement of Europeans in the New World [5]. Moreover, before the end of the year, William Bradford, one of the Mayflower's passengers, would become governor of the new colony.  

Throughout the first winter, many of the colonists stayed aboard the Mayflower, and approximately half would perish due to scurvy and contagious diseases [1]. In March, after the brutal winter began to subside and fade into spring, the Pilgrims who had survived began the process of moving ashore permanently. They were soon met with the most remarkable and unusual visit from an Abenaki Indian who spoke to them in English [1], [2]. Several days later, the same American Indian would return with a friend of his named Squanto, who has also been called "Tisquantum" by some sources [5]. Squanto had a truly remarkable story to tell. He was originally from the Pawtuxet Tribe, and was believed to have been captured by the British off of the coast of Maine when he was in his teens, and subsequently sold in to slavery [1], [2]. However, Squanto would ultimately make his escape to London, and would later return to his native North America by the time he was in his mid-30s [1], [2].

Squanto would go on to teach the emaciated Pilgrims how to live off of the land. He taught them how to fish, how to grown corn, how to take the sap out of a maple tree, and where and how to hunt beaver [1][5]. One really needed to be a rugged individual in order to survive in those days. Squanto also helped the Pilgrims reach a peace agreement, and assemble an alliance, with the Wampanoag tribe as well. This friendship would persevere for more than 5 decades and sadly remains one of only a few examples of peace and harmony between Native Americans and European colonists [1].

In November of 1621,  Governor William Bradford called for a feast to be held, in order to celebrate and give thanks for the Pilgrims first successful corn harvest, and he invited their Native American friends to join them. This feast -- which is widely believed to be the first Thanksgiving-- lasted for a period three days.

And there you have it, folks. That is how the holiday -- as we have come to know it today -- all began.
What They Ate
Although turkey is now the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving feasts, and nearly 90 percent of Americans consume this bird bird over the holiday, it is believed that either goose or duck was the main wildfowl at the first thanksgiving, although it is possible that turkey may have been present [3]. It is also widely believed  the meal contained venison, and plenty of other meats and vegetables, but did not contain any sweet deserts which have since become a staple of our Thanksgiving feasts.

A Few Key Moments in The Timeline and Evolution of Thanksgiving after 1621
  • 1623 - A second Thanksgiving was held two years later in order to mark the end of a horrible drought [1].
  • 1789 - A George Washington issued the nation's first "Thanksgiving proclamation" [1]. John Adams, our nations' second president, and James Madison, our nations fourth president, also "designated days of thanks" while they were in office [1].
  • 1817 - New York became the first state to adopt Thanksgiving as an annual holiday, and the south remained largely unfamiliar with Thanksgiving for much of the 19th century. [1].
  • 1863 - In the thick of the Civil War, and more than 200 years after the first Thanksgiving, Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday [1]. This came after Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of the nursery rhyme "Mary had a little Lamb," had been lobbying the government to make Thanksgiving a national holiday for the previous 36 years [1].   
  • 1941 - FDR signed a bill which would officially make Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November of every single year [1].
There is so much more that one could write about the history of this wonderful holiday, but I wanted to keep this post concise, and I also wanted to make sure I had something ready to publish on Thanksgiving day. I hope you all have garnered some interesting information from this post, I hope it sticks with you, and I also hope each and every one of you has a great Thanksgiving and gives thanks for everything you have been blessed with.

PS - On a final note, it is always good to know that an adult male turkey is called a Tom or a gobbler, an immature male turkey is called a Jake, and female turkeys are called hens! 

Till next time,

References/Further Reading 
1. “Thanksgiving.” 2013. The History Channel website. Nov 27 2013, 3:31
2. Carol Schmidt Family and Friends Editor. "Squanto: Symbol of Thanksgiving Story."Stanwood/Camano News. N.p., 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2013 <>.
3. Gambino, Megan. "" Smithsonian Magazine. N.p., 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. <>.
4. “William Bradford.” 2013. The History Channel website. Nov 27 2013, 2:36
5.  “Plymouth Colony.” 2013. The History Channel website. Nov 27 2013, 3:55

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Let's Talk About Venison

Venison Chops Sizzling in a Cast Iron Skillet w/Onions

Anyone who has ever tasted venison, whether it be in the form of jerky, steak, roast, chops, etc. knows full well how delicious it can be. Now that deer season is upon us, I figured it would be a fitting time to write a post about venison, and tell you a few interesting tidbits about the nutritional benefits of eating it. Moreover, I will also explain how this tasty and nutritious treat is no longer exclusive to hunters and individuals who are fortunate enough to have friends who hunt. 

Wendy Melton has a nice article on Livestrong, which I would like to paraphrase, which is entitled What are the Health Benefits of Eating Venison? Melton begins by describing how venison is a terrific alternative to other meats, such as beef, chicken, and pork, as it is both high in nutrient values and low in calories. She also describes how deer are now raised on "large venison farms," so if you are not a hunter, there is no need to worry as hunting is no longer the only way to get your hands on a slab of venison. However, it is very important to make note of the fact that farm-raised venison is typically lower in protein than wild deer. Melton explains how farm-raised venison contains roughly 26 grams of protein per 4 oz. serving, whereas wild deer can contain up to 35 grams of protein per 4 ounce serving, as they are not unconfined and therefore have the ability to consume a wider array of foods. 

Nevertheless, although farm-raised venison may contain less protein than wild deer, it is still a very attractive alternative to other meats for a variety of reasons. For example, farm-raised venison is still significantly lower in fat than beef and slightly lower in fat than chicken, as deer are a "naturally lean animal." Furthermore, venison, even farm-raised, is a terrific source of iron, it has very few calories, it is typically lower in cholesterol than other meats, and it has no added hormones which stands in sharp contrast to other commercially raised animals such as cows, chickens, and pigs. 

If you are a member of my hunting brethren, then good luck and I hope you bag a deer this month! If not, I hope you find a way to pick up some venison, give it a try, and make it a part of your diet.    

Till next time,

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Great-Grandfather

I would like to take a brief moment to tell you about my great-grandfather. He lived from 1900-1991, and therefore I never had the privilege of meeting him, as he passed away when I was merely an infant. However, he is one of my biggest influences despite the fact that I never had the chance to get to know him. His perpetual memory lives on in our family, and he is the reason why being a Michigan sportsman, a Tigers fan, and a lover of Ford automobiles is embedded deeply within my DNA. He was my dad's maternal grandfather, and the vast majority of what I know about this great man came from my father. I do not remember how old I was when I first heard my great-grandfather's name -- which was John -- and first learned about the life he lived and the legacy he left. However, I do remember riding around with my dad on Saturday mornings, after a long school week, when I was 10 or 11, and being mesmerized by the stories my father would tell me about him as I sipped on my thermos of hot chocolate. These conversations with my father are my earliest recollections of when I began to grasp a sound understanding of the man my great-grandfather was.  

My father would speak of how my great-grandfather would go deer hunting in Michigan's Upper Peninsula every November before the bridge was built in 1954, and would therefore have to take the ferry and leave his vehicle behind. He spoke of how he would "rough it" up there for an entire week before coming back home. My dad also told me of how, in addition to being an avid deer hunter, my great-grandfather thoroughly enjoyed upland bird hunting, waterfowling, and fly-fishing. He spoke of how my great-grandfather was not only able to hunt for his own food, but he was also able to grow his own food, which was a skill that came in handy when food was in short supply during The Great Depression and again during WWII. He was an old-fashioned type of man, who could live and survive off of the land, without experiencing any trouble whatsoever. My dad frequently made mention of the fact that my great-grandfather never once ate fast food either, which I always thought to be an interesting tidbit about him.

My father would always tell me of how my great-grandfather was an exceptionally intelligent man with penmanship that was reminiscent of John Hancock's chirography on the Declaration of Independence in spite of the fact that he only had an eighth-grade education. He was self-educated man, who garnered his knowledge from reading and living, and he went to work full time at the tender age of 13. He was employed by his father, who owned a small general store, and he delivered groceries for his dad on a sleigh in the winter and on a wagon in the summertime.

My father told me of how my great-grandfather ultimately became an accomplished carpenter due to the tremendous work ethic which was forged in his youth. He was a meticulous perfectionist, and he would never walk away from a job until it was flawlessly completed. He always worked long, hard, and arduous hours, and when he and his buddies would reward themselves and go out for a drink on Saturdays, he would always wear a white shirt and a tie to the bar, as he took pride in how he appeared when he went out on the town.

Although my great-grandfather never made a lot of money, he always felt that he was rich because of the great relationships he had with his family and his friends. He would always be more than happy to help someone out with whatever he had in his wallet as well. Having a cup of coffee with a friend, or taking one of his grandchildren hunting or fishing, was always far more important to him than money ever was. He took pride in the few possessions he had, as everything he owned was of superior quality and American made, and he made sure he took exceptional care of everything he ever had the privilege of calling "his own." I have a few items that belonged to him, such as his compass and his match holder, and I will one day pass these priceless family heirlooms along to the next generation.

My great-grandfather lived through the first nine decades of the 20th century, and saw the world undergo a radical transformation. To name a few things, he saw the Wright Brothers spark beginning of aviation, he witnessed the preferred method of transportation go from a horse and buggy to automobile, and he saw a man walk on the moon in 1969. He also saw his Detroit Tigers win four World Series championships (1935, 1945, 1968, 1984). I have yet to see them win one.

Since it is nearly deer season, and my great-grandfather loved to hunt Michigan whitetails, I figured it would be a perfect time to write this story. Another reason I wanted to share my great-grandfather's story is because he was the embodiment of everything I am trying to accomplish with The Way of the Alpha Male, as he was the epitome of my vision of what a man should be. He was a selfless man who believed in helping others, and being the best you can be. He came from the era when everyone helped each other out, where one would treat their neighbors like family, and when it was truly important for a man to have character and class.

Please feel free to comment on this story, and leave your thoughts and comments as always. Thank you all very much for reading.

Till next time,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Six Months In: A Second Letter to My Readers.

Dear readers,

It is hard for me to believe that it is already November, and yet another year is speeding towards the finish line. Next week Friday, November 8th, will actually mark the six month anniversary of the day I started my blog. Therefore, I thought I would write you another letter, just as I did for the three month anniversary back in August. You can also bet on another one of these bad boys coming straight your way in February for the nine month! Anyhow, I just wanted to send out a special thank you to anyone who has either read my stories, commented on them, re-shared them, or added me to their circles. I honestly cannot tell you how much I appreciate your interest and support for what I am doing. I would also like to reiterate what I am trying to accomplish with The Way of the Alpha Male. To put it as simply as possible, I started this blog to write about the subjects I enjoy, and I intended it to be a very professional place where guys could talk about guy stuff. However, to quote Jon Acuff, from the book Start, a blog never turns out to be exactly what you thought it would be by the time it is a year old, so I look forward to seeing how my blog evolves over the next six months. I will continue to stress the importance of reviving forgotten manly attributes, being altruistic, helping others, doing the right thing, being healthy, and will also continue conveying an overall positive message here. I do plan to continue exploring new topics, in order to keep things fresh, and any suggestions would be more than welcome. Thank you all very much.