Monday, November 4, 2013

Dead Man Talking, Literally

Caleb Trask

Genealogy tip for today: Dead Men Talking, Literally

Have you seen the TV show of a lady that lives on an island in New York City (!) who speaks to the dead? I have watched it from time to time, altho' (disclaimer) I have to say that I neither endorse nor am even sure she really does do what she says. But it does make for an interesting show. 

However, I have sometimes wished I could literally talk to a few dead ancestors! I have one 'nemesis' in particular to whom I wish I could speak. He is my great-great-grandfather, Caleb Trask, above. I have spoken of him before. (Preponderance of Evidence) He must have been a man of few words as he never happen to mention, or refused (no one knows) to pass on the names of his father and his mother. (Notice is square chin, usually a sign of determination.) I've wondered what his personality was like and what his childhood was like. Did his father leave unhappy memories? According to oral family history, his mother died when he was a teenager. His father disappears off the scene when he was 10. He could have at least mentioned her, for pity sake!! It has been said where she is buried - town wise, but the grave has never been found in recent times.

Again according to oral history he had 3 brothers and a sister. Apparently even their descendants were not given the names of the grandparents. I say that, but on the other hand there is an application to SAR (Sons of the Revolution) where a nephew of Caleb's joined. It listed the right parents (as found also in census records), but according to him, Noah Trask was his grandfather - which should be Caleb's parents. (Again - discussed in Preponderance of Evidence.) I have pretty much disproved that assumption, at least so far. But all it would take is one little ole obscure piece of paper to disprove it. So far it has eluded me.

I visited Caleb's grave one time, thrilled that I found it, and stood there carrying on a one-sided conversation with him in my head. (If I had done this out loud my kids probably would have thought I was nuts!)  I had the impression he was telling me 'keep looking, you'll find them.'  Now that was about 1995 or 1996 - somewhere in the nineties, about 20 years ago.  

Now really! Do you think I heard from ole Caleb? I couldn't tell you. What he "said" I'm sure is very well true. But notice he didn't say when! It could be that he meant I would find out when I joined him in the great beyond. But what good does that do me now? And did he really say anything to me in the first place, or was that wishful thinking on my behalf? 

I don't know; it’s fun talking about it. And I'm not here to promote or deny the veracity of mediums or the talking to the dead.   But just think how much easier genealogy could be if dead men really could talk!!


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Umar of Arabia is assassinated at Medina and is succeeded as caliph by Uthman.
Christopher Columbus discovers Guadeloupe during his second expedition.
William III and Mary of England wed on William's birthday.
Following the Russian capture of Berlin, Frederick II of Prussia defeats the Austrians at the Battle of Torgau.
General Arthur St. Clair, governor of Northwest Territory, is badly defeated by a large Indian army near Fort Wayne.
Congress agrees to pay a yearly tribute to Tripoli, considering it the only way to protect U.S. shipping.
Abraham Lincoln marries Mary Todd in Springfield, Ill.
Florence Nightingale and her nurses arrive in the Crimea.
From the main Confederate Army at Chattanooga, Tennessee, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's troops are sent northeast to besiege Knoxville.
Austria signs an armistice with the Allies.
The U.S. Postmaster General orders all homes to get mailboxes or relinquish delivery of mail.
The entrance to King Tut's tomb is discovered.
Calvin Coolidge is elected 30th president of the United States.
Nellie Tayloe Ross and Miriam Ferguson are elected first and second women governors (Wyoming and Texas).
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is established.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower is elected 34th president of the United States.
Russian troops attack Budapest, Hungary.
At the American Embassy in Teheran, Iran, 90 people, including 63 Americans, are taken hostage by militant student followers of Ayatollah Khomeini. The students demand the return of Shah Mohammad Reza Pablavi, who is undergoing medical treatment in New York City.
Ronald Reagan is elected the 40th president of the United States.
Carol Moseley Braun becomes the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated at a peace rally in Tel Aviv.
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois elected 44th president of the United States, the first African American to hold that position.


William III, Prince of Orange/King of England, Scotland and Ireland

Birthdays today

William III, Prince of Orange, later King of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Will Rogers, American actor and writer.
Walter Cronkite, reporter and news anchor for CBS News; dubbed "The Most Trusted Man in America."
John Basilone, US Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
Ruth Handler, businesswoman, toy designer who co-founded Mattel with her husband and created the Barbie doll.
Art Carney, actor; best known for playing Ed Norton, sidekick to Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden on the TV series The Honeymooners, he received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his starring role in the film Harry and Tonto.
Eugene Sledge, US Marine, famous for his memoir of the fighting in the Pacific Theater, With the Old Breed.
Sir Charles Kuen Kao, Chinese-born physicist known as the "Father of Fiber Optics" and the "Godfather of Broadband"; he shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics.
Laura Welch Bush, wife of US President George W. Bush, she served as First Lady from 2001 to 2009; she used her position to champion education and literacy.
Jeff Probst, game show host and executive producer, best known as the host of the US version the reality show Survivor.
Sean Combs, rapper, record producer, actor; at various times used the stage names Puff Daddy, P. Diddy and Diddy. He won three Grammys and two MTV Video Music Awards.








noun: Absolutely nothing; worthless.



From Yiddish, short for kozebubkes (goat droppings), from bub/bob (bean). Earliest documented use: 1937.



The word is also spelled as bobkes, bubkes, bopkes, bupkes, bupkus, bubkis, bubkes, etc. The English equivalent of the term is beans, as in: He doesn't know beans about computers.



"Sorry, your stock options are worth bupkis."
Nancy Davidson; The Secrets of Lost Cats; St. Martin's Press; 2013.



This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer. -Will Rogers, humorist (1879-1935)



Today’s Recipe

Holiday Cooking

This is a long recipe but looks very good!
I didn't know this but goose and duck are considered red meat.

1 goose, approx. 8 lbs.
Juice of a lemon
Salt and pepper
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 head garlic
1/2 cup Madeira wine
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock (for gravy)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Root vegetables to roast with the goose, such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, and/or rutabagas, peeled and chopped into large chunks

In general, plan for:
8-10 lb goose for 5-6 people
11-12 lb goose for 6-8 people


To start, if the goose has been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before cooking. Keep it in its plastic wrapping until you are ready to cook it. While in the refrigerator, and or while you are bringing it to room temp, have the bird resting in a pan, so that if the plastic covering leaks for any reason, you are confining the juices to the pan. If you get a frozen goose, which is most likely the case, you will need to defrost it in the refrigerator for two days first.

While I have never found any instances of food poisoning from raw duck or goose, it’s best to handle the goose with common sense. Use a separate cutting board and utensils to avoid contaminating other foods. Wash your hands with soap frequently – if for no other reason than because geese are fatty and you don’t want to be walking around with greasy hands. Use paper towels to clean up.

Remove the neck, giblets, wing tips

Remove the neck and giblets (heart, gizzard, liver). Use them for making the gravy. You want to remove the last two joints of the wings, too, and use them for the gravy as well.

To do this, use a thin sharp knife – a boning knife is ideal, or you could use a paring knife or fillet knife – and cut across the side of the joint, severing the tendons. Bend the joint the opposite way it is supposed to go to break it. Cut the remaining skin and tendons. You should not need to cut bone at all.

Slice off the neck skin about a half inch in front of the body.

Remove the excess fat

You also need to remove excess fat from the goose. You will want to save it – goose fat is among the most delicious of all cooking fats, and it is far healthier than butter or lard.

First grab the fat inside the body cavity and put it in a bowl. Now slice off the wide belly flaps covering the body cavity; if you plan on stuffing the goose you’d need these, but we’re not, so out they go. You also want to remove the Pope’s nose, which is the goose’s tail. All of this should go into a pot with a little water (about ½ cup) and put over low heat to render out.

Prick the goose's skin all over with a needle

You still need to give all that fat underneath the goose’s skin somewhere to go – if you don’t, the skin will never fully crisp up. I’ve found the best way to do this is to prick it with a clean needle. The technique is to stick the skin from an angle so you are not piercing the meat of the goose, just the skin. Do this all over the goose.

Season the goose and place in the oven

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Rub the goose all over with the cut half of a lemon. Use both sides to get it good and coated. Put the halves inside the goose. Sprinkle salt liberally all over the goose. Use more salt than you think you need; it helps crisp the skin and adds a lot to the flavor.

Slice off the top of a head of garlic and place it inside the goose.

Place the goose breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan and into the oven.

Start the gravy

Meanwhile, start the gravy. Chop and brown all the giblets, wings and neck in some goose fat in a large pan. Sprinkle salt over them. Add the chopped onion and stir to combine. When the onion gets a little browned, sprinkle the flour in the pot and stir to combine. Cook this over medium heat, stirring often, until it smells nutty – about 5-10 minutes. Turn the heat up to high and add the Madeira. Let this boil furiously for a minute or two, then add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Add the dried thyme. Turn the gravy down to a bare simmer.

Add root vegetables to the roasting pan

After the goose has cooked for 20 minutes, add any chunks of root veggies you might feel like using. I like a mix of potatoes, turnips, carrots and parsnips. Here’s a tip: Toss them in some rendered goose fat and salt them before placing in the bottom of the roasting pan.

You can also use this time as an opportunity to spoon out some of the goose fat that may be collecting in the bottom of the roasting pan. Put it in the pot with the rendering goose fat.

When you’re done, put the goose back into the oven for another 25 minutes.

Carve out the breasts

When a total of 45 minutes of cooking time has elapsed, test the temperature of the breast. You should have something between 130 and 140 degrees. If you’re there, remove the goose but keep the oven on.

Now you need to carve off the whole breasts. Using a thin knife – again, a boning knife is ideal – slice along the keel bone, which separates the two halves of the breast. Go straight down and tap the point of the blade against the breastbone as you move the knife up toward the wishbone, then back toward the open body cavity. Know that a goose has a deep keel and that the breastbone comes out wide at almost a right angle from it, so work your knife in short, gentle strokes out to free the whole side of the breast. Once you get near the wishbone, find it with the tip of your knife and carefully slice around it. Repeat on the other side.

Remove the breasts and tent with foil.

Finish cooking the rest of the goose

Put the goose (minus the breasts) back into the oven. Let this cook for another 45 minutes.

Watch the goose gravy. If it gets too thick, add a little water.

After the additional 45 minutes are up, probe the thickest part of the goose’s thigh with a thermometer. You want 165-175 degrees. If it is a little low or high, that’s fine. Remove the goose. Check the root veggies, and if they are done, great. If not, keep them in the oven for the moment.

Remove the garlic from the goose. Tent the goose with foil and set aside.

Finish the gravy

Remove the garlic cloves from the husk and put the cloves into the simmering goose gravy. Let this cook for 5 minutes. Fish out the neck and wing pieces and pick off any bits and toss them into the gravy. Pour the gravy into a blender and buzz the hell out of it – you might need to do this in batches to avoid it spurting out of your blender. You want a thick gravy, so if it is too thick add water. If it’s too thin, don’t worry, you can cook it down.

Return the gravy to the pot and put on low heat. Simmer it more if it is too thin.

Sear the breasts

Now get a large sauté pan hot. Add some goose fat, and let that get hot over medium-high heat.

Take the goose breasts, which should be a lovely pink on the meat side, and pat them dry. Place them skin side down in the pan and sear the skin hard. You might need to press down on them a little to get good contact. Check after 3-4 minutes. You want a rich brown.

When it is ready, remove the breasts – don’t cook them on the meat side! – and immediately salt the skin. Set aside, skin side up. Move the pan off the heat.

Carve off the legs and wings, and sear

Carve off the legs and wings of the goose. Get the pan hot again and sear the skin surfaces of the legs and wings. While this is searing, slice the breast (at an angle is nice) skin side up. Salt the legs and wings and serve with the root veggies.

Now remember: You have worked hard to get a good sear on your goose skin, so put your lovely gravy underneath the meat, not on top of the skin.

Save bones for stock

When you are finished with your goose, save the bones from the carcass to make goose stock, which is just like chicken stock, only with goose bones.





Now You Know!