A sequel to the novel, The Brothers Schlemiel
Being the somewhat true story of the origin of the Fried Turkey, as well as the first time in history that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincided…
What you need to know: Abraham and Adam are identical twins. Abraham has been living in New York. Adam has just arrived from Chelm…
Even though he was fresh off the boat from Ellis Island, Adam Schlemiel could understand Thanksgiving as an almost Jewish Holiday: the English colonists came close to death, survived, and everyone celebrates by eating a feast.
It was the American Dream that he couldn’t get. The whole “land of opportunity” and “new beginning” just wasn’t working for him.
A carpenter by trade, Adam Schlemiel had crossed half the world only to discover that he hated the crowds and smells of New York City. He missed the fresh air of the countryside. He couldn’t stand his work at the furniture factory. He owned the only hammer with a claw end, so Adam’s job was to pull the nails out from other carpenter’s mistakes.
“I don’t make things,” he complained to his twin brother, Abraham. “I unmake them. I have nothing to be thankful for.”
“We’re going to Great Uncle Shmuel’s chicken farm in Massachusetts,” Abraham said. “It’ll be fun.”
Adam sighed. It was well enough for Abraham to be happy. He was a famous cook, who worked at the oldest restaurant in New York City. He had even invented a new way to prepare turkey.
“A bird accidentally got left in a barrel with the salted corned beef,” Abraham confided. “So delicious and tender!”
The Thursday morning arrived, and they left Brooklyn at the crack of dawn with a huge barrel containing the marinating turkey. They took subways and cabs and trains until they arrived late in the afternoon in Lowell, Massachusetts, where Great Uncle Shmuel Schlemiel himself met them with an old-fashioned horse cart.
“What’s in the barrel?” the old man asked.
“The turkey,” Abraham explained. “For dinner.”
“I’m glad you brought it,” Uncle Shmuel said. “Aunt Sarah packed the stove with everything from potatoes and stuffing to bread and green beans. I was wondering how we were going to cook a turkey, too.”
As they rode, Uncle Shmuel told Adam of his unusually profitable greben business.
“One day Aunt Sarah ran out of cooking oil,” Shmuel said, “so we melted the chicken fat down to make schmaltz. We forgot that all the chicken skins were in the pot, too. They fried crisp and floated to the top. Fifty pounds of the crunchiest and tastiest chicken cracklings. I put it in paper bags, add some salt and sell it. I call it Gretel’s Greben. People love it.”
“Who’s Gretel?” asked Adam.
“I don’t know,” shrugged Uncle Shmuel. “It sounded good.
As they drew nearer to Uncle Shmuel’s farm, Abraham became worried.
“What did you say Aunt Sarah had in the oven?” he asked.
“Plenty,” Uncle Shmuel said. “All we need to do is carve the turkey.”
Abraham’s heart leaped into his throat. His face went red. Nobody noticed.
The farm was beautiful: a rolling field covered with snow, the farmhouse, the barn, chicken pens. The edge of a frozen pond was visible behind the pens, and all around the farm were thick woods with tall trees.
“It’s like home,” Adam said, softly.
“Welcome to Chelmsford!” roared Uncle Schmuel. “We call it that because none of us can afford to go back to Chelm!”
Abraham ran into the kitchen and opened the oven.
“Where is the turkey going to go?” he asked Aunt Sarah.
“Go?” she said. “It’s not going anywhere. You brought it. It’s here. Isn’t it?”
“Yes, yes,” Abraham said. “But it’s not cooked yet.”
“What do you mean it’s not cooked?” Aunt Sara said, squinting at her distant nephew. “What kind of a schlemiel would bring an uncooked turkey to a Thanksgiving dinner?”
“Me!” Abraham said, nearly shouting. “If I cooked it in New York City it would be rancid by the time we got here. Even if there was room in the oven, it still would take hours…”
Abraham was pacing back and forth in the kitchen, banging himself on the forehead, when Adam ran in.
“Abraham, you should see! There is a conveyor belt moving raw chicken skins into a gigantic vat full of boiling oil, but the belt wasn’t high enough, so I took out my hammer and I built an addition. It’s the first time I’ve made something since I left Chelm.”
“Congratulations,” Abraham mumbled. Then he looked up. “Wait! Did you say there is a gigantic vat full of boiling oil? Quick, follow me.”
A light snow was falling as the friends and relatives watched the Schlemiel brothers lug the barrel next to the fire. Abraham borrowed a hook from and yanked the turkey from its brining marinade. He patted it dry with a few towels.
“Wait,” Adam said. “You’re not going to drop the turkey into the oil?”
“Of course!” Abraham said. “We fry chicken in the restaurant all the time. It’s quick and tastes good.”
“But,” Adam said, “it’s going to cook us too.”
Adam found a long pole and threaded it through the hook’s handle.
Together, the Brothers Schlemiel lifted the suspended turkey, and then slowly lowered it into the vat of boiling oil.
Everyone else stepped back.
Bit by bit the turkey sank into the bubbling fat, until just the hook was sticking up.
They slid the pole out, climbed down from the platform, and shook hands.
Just then, the oil bubbled over the top of the vat and, “Whoosh!” a pillar of fire shot up to the sky.
With a gasp of astonishment, everyone jumped back.
The flames engulfed the platform, which burned in an instant.
When the smoke cleared, all that was left was the burning fire and the vat of boiling oil. The top of the hook was still protruding from the bubbling fat.
“What are we going to do for Thanksgiving dinner?” moaned Aunt Sarah.
“Trust us,” Abraham said.
Adam was already busy with his saw and hammer, directing everyone to gather lumber.
Just over an hour later, the Brothers Schlemiel mounted the newly reconstructed platform. Everyone else stayed far away, but getting the turkey out was easier than putting it in. They threaded the pole through the hook and lifted a perfectly browned turkey from the vat.
It was dark by then. The long table was set, and everyone gathered as candles were lit.
No one knew who started it, but with the snow on the ground, boiling oil, candles, and the smell of fried food… the Schlemiels and the gathered emigrants from Chelm began to chant the Chanukah blessings over the candles.
The turkey was tender and delicious, and when the meal was done, Aunt Sarah got out some dreidles so the children could play.
Adam smiled at his brother. “Now I know why they call America ‘The Melting Pot.'”
Abraham laughed, and then chased his brother out into the snow.
Naturally, we hope you enjoyed this story. If you did, please purchase books and audio recordings by Mark Binder. These are available wherever fine books and ebooks are sold. Mark’s latest is the illustrated ebook, Cinderella Spinderella.
You can find a complete list at http://lightpublications.com/binder