Giving Thanks

by Bill Hufnagle
aka Biker Billy 

December has rolled around again—not the best month for riding in most parts, though it’s a great time to curl up with your favorite moto-magazine before the fire. While it brings the arrival of harsh weather and short daylight hours, it also brings the holidays. From Thanksgiving just past to the upcoming Christmas and Chanukah, this is the season of lights. A time of feasting, sharing, gift giving, and saying thanks for the many blessings we have. As motorcyclists in America, we have so much to be thankful for.

It is also a time when we as a nation fully absorb the results of the elections of early November. As I write this prior to Election Day, not having a crystal ball to see the future, I am not writing a political missive. By the time you read this, the votes—yours and mine—will have been counted, and we together will live in the future decided on that day. With any luck, our common interests in motorcycle rights will fare well during the next two years.

However, while this is not a column about politics, election politicking inspired it. Hopefully a recent “joke” by a senator from Massachusetts has been properly apologized for—one that involved our troops in Iraq and cast aspersions regarding their educational achievements. Whatever the truth is about the intended meaning of those words, it has made me think again about those boys and girls in our armed services. If you have caught one of my humorous cooking shows in the past few years, you may have heard me express my feelings about those brave Americans. I think of them a lot, and I want to share my renewed commitment to them.

To start, I would also like to share a piece of personal history. I am the proud son of a soldier, raised by his widow who lived out her days loving him and respecting him and honoring his memory. My mom and I lived the sacrifice that so many service families make. In his case, the war was unquestioned by our nation, and my family’s loss was untainted by political divisiveness. As a wounded combat veteran of World War II, my father returned home to a grateful nation. While he died many years later from health issues caused by his war wounds, he lived out those years in a free nation that respected his service. He died when I was six, and while my memories are few, they are as vivid as the respect that everyone that knew him had for him. Long gone but not forgotten, I will miss him and love him to my last day. He was an American soldier; like so many before and since, he loved America and the freedom she stands for and was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to insure the future of his nation and family.

To my way of thinking, there is no difference between the Americans who served their country before, or during, or after World War II. Yet there are differences in the character of the times and the social, political, and economic fabric of our society across those generations of patriots. It is within that comparison between the similarity of the patriots in service and the difference in their eras that my thoughts reside.

It is one of my strongest beliefs that there is a separation between the people who serve in our armed forces and the elected officials who determine how and where they serve. I know that the troops serve in good faith, honor, and love of all the great virtues that Truth, Justice, and the American ways of freedom and democracy stand for. Politicians of all parties, on the other hand, are a mixed lot who more often seem to serve themselves or special interests than the ideals of our founding fathers. I am not saying that every solider is a saint or every politician a devil; I just say where I see the preponderance of actions. That’s why I have come to end my shows with the simple request that I will end this column with. Let us as a nation learn the true error of the Vietnam era—deliver your judgments of politics upon the politicians, not the troops. To them, give the thanks and respect that true heroes deserve, for they love your freedoms enough to die for them. Also, remember it is not too late to say Thank You to the veterans of Vietnam, Korea, the first Gulf War, and all those who served, whether in times of peace or conflict. In this season your thanks, prayers, and respect for these our fellow citizens is especially valuable. I thank them all and you for giving them your kindest consideration.

Sweet Potato Fritters

These spicy sweet fritters make potato latkes look like a pedal bike compared to a full-dressed Harley. Great all year long but especially welcome as a holiday appetizer. Try them at your next holiday party.

4 canned chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, minced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 jumbo eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups peeled and shredded sweet potatoes
1 medium-size onion, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup Craisins (dried cranberries; look where they sell raisins in your supermarket)
Olive oil for frying

1. Place the chipotles, garlic, brown sugar, salt, white pepper, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, baking powder, and eggs in a blender or food processor and process until no large pieces of chipotle remain, about 1 minute. Add the flour and process until smooth, about 1 minute.

2. Place the sweet potatoes, onion, and Craisins in a large mixing bowl and toss together well. Add the batter and mix well.

3. In a medium-size skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil over medium heat. Place 1 tablespoon of the sweet potato mixture in the hot oil and flatten gently with the back of the spoon. Repeat until the pan is full of fritters. Fry until the edges start to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and fry the other side until browned, another 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve piping hot.

Makes 10 to 12 fritters

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Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2006. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.

M.M.M.

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