It’s Thanksgiving Day as I write this, and I am away from home. Not simply away from my homeland, but away from my adopted home in Sussex. We’re on holiday this week in a small town in Scotland. But at least I have Thanksgiving Day off.
Even though we are in a very rural area—the landlord told us it is like stepping back into the 1950’s, and he was not far wrong—we managed to cobble together a respectable Thanksgiving dinner. I have a turkey breast, stuffing, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce, several types of veggies and Bisto gravy. All in all a good effort for very little work.
I mention this because it is significant that having a Thanksgiving dinner over here is not as disappointing as it used to be. Back in Sussex, I could have had creamed corn, yams with marshmallows, rolls, French-cut green beans with almond slivers, corn bread, pumpkin pie and even hot chocolate with a dollop of Marshmallow Fluff in it. (The only thing I still cannot find is that really cheap cranberry sauce in a can that tastes like the inside of a drainpipe—somehow, the posh and very tasty cranberries in port sauce we picked up in Marks and Spencer’s just doesn’t say, “Happy Thanksgiving” like a slab of tin-infused purple jelly.)
Years ago, when I tried to pull together a Thanksgiving dinner, I always ended up with a hybrid meal containing dubious substitutions that tasted of disappointment, whereas now it’s fairly easy to create a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all (well, most) of the trimmings.
But all that gets you is a Sunday dinner in the middle of the week. And even if you manage to convince a group of family and friends to come share the day, you’ll merely find yourself sitting around a table, having a Sunday dinner in the middle of the week with a bunch of people who just don’t get it.
Thanksgiving is about food, yes, but it is so much deeper than that, and without having grown up with it, a person cannot grasp the tradition, the meaning, the true spirit of Thanksgiving. So T-Day—along with the 4th of July—remains one of the few times during the year when being an expat really hits home.
There have been numerous posts in the expat blogosphere about Thanksgiving, many of them from bemused Brits fairly new to the US. You see, this holiday is huge and Americans take it very seriously.
Given that we have a tiny family in the States and all live over 1,000 miles away, we had planned to sit down to an intimate family dinner. This apparently causes apoplexy in friendly neighbours and we were swept up into their family gathering. So it was that we became part of a Thanksgiving meal for 20! Yes, 20!
As you'd expect, with so many people gathering, it was a Pot Luck affair with various guests taking responsibility for various dishes. The Ball & Chain (who seems to have been replaced by a crazed chef at the moment) brined and cooked the turkeys, while I and the Little Guy successfully attempted pumpkin cheesecake (delicious, despite the fact that I misread the instructions and put a quarter of the required cream cheese in.)
Other dishes included turkey gravy, which over here is a thick, white affair, corn souffle, and of course, the inevitable Green Bean Casserole. I won't linger too long on this lest I start up another World War, as happened on this blog last year. Jeez. 81 comments.
Kat, (Three Bedroom Bungalow), an American in England, thoughtfully tweeted me a photo and the recipe for her green bean casserole, which I promised to share here.
2 cans green beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup cheddar cheese
handful of slivered almonds
1 3/4 French's French Fried Onions divided
Mix all ingredients and half of onions in bowl, put in 9X9 baking dish cover with remaining onions. Bake at 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C for 20 min or until bubbling.
I'm sorry Kat, (and other devotees) but I'm still not convinced. Mind you, the same raging debate will happen in about a month when I suggest to my American friends and family members that we purchase a Christmas cake!
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