Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Typical Thanksgiving Outside the US

Not in the US to celebrate Thanksgiving?  Well celebrate it anyway!

Feeling like a real baker rolling cookies at 5am!
In the past, when I first left the US we would gather with American friends and rather than cook, go out to a restaurant that was serving Turkey and the other traditions and enjoy a nice dinner.  These were always fun.  The food was great as well as the company.  However, we would always find ourselves reluctantly the last to leave as restaurant staff were mopping the floors and stacking chairs on tables.  This is what motivated me to start cooking at home a few years ago.  Now with a child who is growing up with parents from two different cultures living in a third, I also think this is a good way to expose him to some American culture.  Our closest friends join us every year.  

I really enjoy this so much more than eating out, and I think part of it is that I have surprised myself with my ability to cook a Turkey.  I can bake, but I am not a big carnivore so any kind of flesh coming out of my oven always impresses me. I can’t take all the credit – Butterballs are pretty much foolproof.  Yes, you can buy them here around the holiday season.  There are more American products readily available than you would imagine. 

I do pumpkin pie, pecan pie, stuffing – yes, I stuff the Turkey and fear no salmonella.  I cook the extra stuffing in the pan, but it is always too much and I end up giving it away.

For the pumpkin pie I tried a Williams Sonoma pie mix that I picked up during my US visit.  It wasn’t bad, but didn’t taste so traditional to me so I mixed it with my “traditional” pie mix (the one on the label of the pumpkin can is fine) and that did the trick – and it created enough mix to fill my gigantic pie dish.

Le pumpkin pie
Pecan pie is so much easier to make than I ever thought it would be.  After the first time I made one about five years ago, I kept searching the recipe frantically – that can’t be all?!!  This year, I did not have any Rum, JD or other fancy versions of moonshine to put in the mix.  What to do – add a little single malt scotch!  I am not sure which brand, but I think any will do.  I was told by one guest that this was the best pumpkin pie ever and I think the scotch had everything to do with it.   That and adding less sugar than the recipe calls for.  I do that with most recipes now because the taste just seems so much more balanced as a result and not overly sweet.  Try it - cut back about 1/4 to 1/2 the suggested sugar measurement.  You may like your recipe better.

Cranberry sauce. Check.  Although I was challenged this year and could not find cranberries anywhere it was a mixed berry sauce, but it got the job done.  I made an amazing roasted sweet potato recipe I got from my stepmom.  Basically roast the cubes, add olive oil, a little white vinegar, salt, pepper and rosemary – hands down the best sweet potato dish ever.  They were not sweet or covered in marshmallow goo.  Green beans, salad, bread from the oven and lots and lots of wine – a little for cooking, more for drinking.

Since Thanksgiving is obviously not a holiday here, I usually do dinner on a Saturday since our weekend is Friday – Saturday.  This year my husband had to travel early Saturday for a meeting so I did it on Friday.  Thankfully we (son and I) were still super jetlagged from our US flight so we were up at 5am Friday.  I was basically Erin’s sous chef as we made all the pies and sugar cookies for the kids to decorate that evening.  It was so fun because he was so into it.  But why wouldn't he be - baking is really just messy play and he is a boy.  The only thing I prepared the night before was a pumpkin roll – which I love more than anything.  My childhood best friend’s mom would make these and I loved them so much.  It has been so long since I made one that I forgot and rolled it with the filling before it cooled.  We can't all be Julias or Nigellas, but no need - it still turned out fine.

The moral of the story - do not use a cheese cutter for desserts!
So come 7:30-8:00 the apartment started filling with friends.  Just like every year we ate, drank and were merry.  We were thankful.  Traditionally, we all take our turn saying what we are thankful for.  2011 had its share of ups and downs, but we all have so much to be thankful for.  I didn’t get a chance to explain the story of Thanksgiving to the kids, but we’ll get there eventually.

So not in the US for Thanksgiving? It doesn’t change a whole lot except your geographic location.   Ok, not everyone can physically be together sometimes, but there is still so much to celebrate and be thankful for. And there is the added bonus that you are not bombarded with Black Friday advertisements and its related horror stories!

Angry Bird


CookingInStilettos said...

What a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving-'cause friends and family are really what it's all about anyway! It is definitely a different food experience from my first Thanksgiving in Saudi in the 70's. Our wonderful neighbors roasted an entire goat in lieu of a turkey for all of us Americans, and while it was not the traditional fare, it is still one of my favorite memories!

Pam said...

I did reply to your comment before, but it didn't stick! I thought it would be interesting for you to go back to Saudi and see if you feel much has changed.. However, after I posted that I later thought you and I should start a reality show where we travel around the world and eat!! A much tamer take on "Girl's Gone Wild" :-)