“On the Second Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two turtle doves…”
I’ve always wondered why they called them turtle doves. Are they amphibian? Do they have webbed feet like ducks, or perhaps carry a shell around on their backs?
Upon doing a little research, I discovered that the “turtle” in the name actually has nothing to do with the reptile. Rather, it comes from the Latin turtur, which references the sound that these birds makes – sort of a deep, vibrating purring sound of “turrrr…turrr.” In fact, the scientific name for these birds is Streptopelia turtur.
But even though turtle doves are unrelated to turtles, it is this part of the name that keeps coming to mind as I consider my delicacies for the second day. Having feasted upon a game bird already yesterday, I’m not sure I am in the mood for yet another one today – although doves are hunted and eaten much like partridge or quail are. In fact, they were another bird that dear old Dad would go out after, accompanied by his faithful dog Dottie Sue. Because doves are a smaller bird, some folks like to de-breast them, then wrap the breasts with slices of bacon, skewer them much like shesh kabobs, and roast them on the grill. They make a nice little appetizer this way, but you would need quite a few doves for a main course, although they can be cooked whole if desired.
But like I was saying, I can’t seem to get away from the word turtle. It invokes yet another childhood memory for me… turtle soup.
If you grew up in southern Indiana like I did, you may have tried this regional recipe. Indeed, turtle soup seems to be a popular dish for church suppers, which is where I first tried it – in the basement of a country church with my Grandpa and Grandma Wolzenski, who were devout Catholics. I even have a memory of riding along a country road with my grandfather, only to have him bring his big ole cadillac to a screeching halt – all because he saw a snapping turtle along the side of the road.
Yup…those mean, nasty, ugly critters are a main ingredient in this dish, and in fact it’s often called Snapper Soup. Before y’all start saying “ewwwwww!” let me assure you that Snapper Soup is good eats. While it appears that areas of the United States have their own regional recipes (apparently turtle soup is also popular in the eastern part of Pennsylvania and in New Orleans and perhaps in other areas as well), the Hoosier version is tomato based and tastes much like a vegetable soup, with turtle meat substituting for the beef.
Finally…being from Evansville, Indiana I cannot complete a post about eating turtles without mentioning yet another childhood memory – the turtles from Libs Candy Store. A delightful concoction of chocolate, caramel, and pecans.
Anyone who grew up in Evansville remembers Libs… the candy store was an icon on Main Street back in the day. I even remember going there with my brownie scout troop to learn how they made all those yummy chocolates. The store was begun by brothers Bob and John Libs back in 1950. At one time they owned three shops and supplied 75 retailers. Every Evansville kid got a solid chocolate bunny from Libs in their Easter basket – myself included.
However, it was their turtles that I really loved. I’m not sure if they actually called them “turtles” – seems that name was trademarked by a California candy company from the San Francisco area. I think Libs actually called theirs “pecan flipovers”…but they basically were the same thing, and nowadays it appears everyone calls these things turtles. I just call them yummy. Who can resist that mixture of soft caramel and toasted chopped pecans, covered with milk chocolate? Absolute heaven. I can remember calling Mom from a college phone and begging her to send me a box or two, lest I go into turtle withdrawal. Of course they were all devoured within a week.
The original store closed in 2002. However, there are now two members of the Libs candy family continuing the tradition – John Libs’ son Mike has his own “lil ‘ol candy shop” on Evansville’s east side, while Mike’s cousin Stephen (son of Bob Libs) operates Stephen Libs Finer Chocolates, also based in Evansville. I won’t get into a discussion of whose turtles are better…suffice to say that now I have twice the opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite sweets.
So there ya go, folks. Soup, snack, and sweet. Munch on some grilled dove breast while savoring a bowl of snapper soup, and then finish off your meal with a chocolate caramel pecan turtle or two.
Can’t think of a better way to celebrate the day, myself.