Sunday, November 23, 2008

Transatlantic Thanksgiving

Brits don't understand Thanksgiving. Of all the American holidays, they're not quite sure what to do with it - it's sort of like English Christmas, with a turkey and the trimmings, but it's also sort of an anti-English holiday (hi, the Pilgrims were celebrating surviving after ESCAPING from England).

So, since I'm not going home for Thanksgiving, and I've been cooking a potluck Thanksgiving dinner every year since my senior year of college, I decided to introduce some of Brits in my life to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I billed it not as a gourmet Thanksgiving (no turducken with shittake mushroom stuffing) but as a "taste of America" - all of the standard dishes that one might not actually like, but are at every Thanksgiving meal. Last night was the Transatlantic Thanksgiving for 15 people in my narrow apartment, and featured the following menu:
- turkey
- stuffing (2 kinds, homemade apple-walnut, made by Ashley, and StoveTop, imported on the day of by visitors Mel & Dave)
- French's French-fried onion green bean casserole
- sweet potato and marshmallow casserole
- mashed potatoes
- cauliflower
- cranberries
- gravy
- 3 kinds of pies made by Ashley (pumpkin, pecan, apple)
- pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

After seeing frozen turkeys at Sainsburys for £49.99, I decided to take a chance and inquire at the butcher I pass every day on my way to work. I asked for a 15lb bird, and the nice butcher promised to get me a fresh "7+ kg" turkey delivered on the day of my dinner party. So yesterday morning I biked down the road and picked up my 6.82kg bird at 10am, and paid only £32.86! The bird made the journey back home safely in my bike basket, and went straight into the roasting pan for trimming and cooking. There I discovered that my turkey was so fresh that it still had little feathers on the legs!

It was a real pleasure to make a turkey that I wasn't worried about being not-quite-defrosted, or frantically searching for the giblets frozen to the inside of the bird's cavity and cutting myself while trying to pry them out. The bird was so fresh, you really tell the difference between a fresh and frozen turkey. At about 14lbs, it was a big bird and there was some serious concern that it might not fit in our very English tiny oven. But it did fit, and came out wonderful.

The sides went well also; there were only slight difficulties with converting Fahrenheit to Celsius and cups to grams. Everything miraculously done on time, and ready for the wine-bearing guests. Fifteen of us crammed into the rearranged lounge and hilarity ensued as normally dignified English people shoved mouthfuls of food in their mouths with as much gusto as Americans; it seems like turkey and stuffing incites gorging no matter what continent one's on.

The desserts also created an uproar as pie eating contests (1 of each!) gave a lot of people sugar highs. When people couldn't eat a morsel more, the party decamped to a bar across the street to finish the night. All in all, the way a Thanksgiving should be (minus the American football) and big balloons; pictures, of course, are here.

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