Sunday, November 22, 2009

Turkey Day

No, I'm not talking about Christmas. Over in the US of A we have the other Turkey Day to get through before Christmas - Thanksgiving. You'd think it would form a sort of barrier against ridiculously early Christmas ads, but alas it doesn't.

It’s a bit weird being an expat in the US at this time of year.
“Are you going anywhere for the holiday weekend?” usually gets a blank stare from me even after almost twenty years here.
“Oh Thanksgiving” (with emphasis on the second syllable, please note). “No, not really”, I reply to looks of disbelief mixed with pity.

When you’re not brought up with Thanksgiving, or anything remotely like it, it’s easy to miss the gravitas that this “holiday” has. Most of the time it completely sneaks up on me and I run around at the last minute, gathering up other expat waifs and strays for a big meal.

For many Americans however, Thanksgiving is more of a family affair than Christmas. Fortunately we have a teeny family here and we’re seeing them at Christmas so the pressure is off. It also helps that my husband travels a lot on business so the last thing he has ever wanted to do was take a flight at THE busiest travel time of the year with three kids in tow. Flight prices are ridiculous, the airports are packed, and of course the weather is usually at its most unco-operative.

Friends of mine are already fretting about how to make peace with the brother-in-law from hell who got drunk and shouted at everyone last year, or the fact that they are guilted into staying in their parents’ house even though there’s no room for all the kids. Happy families indeed!

This year, for some reason, the Ball & Chain is going berserk and doing the entire meal himself, from scratch. I keep popping my head into the kitchen to see if there’s “anything I can do”, but apparently it’s all under control. So far he’s only damaged one small Pyrex bowl when he tried to make caramel and it went a bit hard. He’s made the cornbread and biscuits (more like unsweetened British scones) for the cornbread stuffing (yee-haw), and has identified his chosen method of brining the turkey, which he will pick up on Wednesday. I will probably end up peeling potatoes like Cinderella, but that’s fine by me.

As long as he doesn’t make that bloody awful green bean casserole I’ll be happy.

To read about the sad tale of an American in the UK at Thanksgiving, pop over to Pond Parleys to read Mike's piece.


  1. I hope it goes well. I have lived over in Detroit and New York, thanksgiving totally went under my radar one year and I ended up with a houseful of guests and nothing to serve them except the rather dodgy contents of my home alone fridge. They were not entirely impressed with my culinary delights. Olives anyone and a slice of salami anyone?

  2. I've always been quite jealous of Thanksgiving - mostly because of the food. Pumpkin pie? Lush.

    Liz (LivingwithKids)

  3. I'd love to try pumpkin pie!
    Over here we seem to be getting straight into the Christmas rush. I think having to fit in Thanksgiving as well would only add to the problems that we already have. Thank Goodness we don't have Thanksgiving! Maybe it would be good to have one in the summer!

    Nuts in May

  4. Swop late November for the 15th of August and you have got the British Expat meets Ferragosto in Italy version too.

    I always forget all about it till the last minute and then have to find the energy to take grave exception to the idea that I should come to them and eat lots of hot, heavy food when I am already melting, followed by even greater umbrage if it is suggested they should come to me and make themselves the Queen of my kitchen with my good self as their personal skivvy.

    Luckily I married one of the few Italians who is in full agreement that we should give it a miss, he'd rather not combine his foul tempered, "trying not to spontaneously combust" wife with a heavily disapproving and equally overheated mother on one of the most sweltering days of the year either.

    What are the evils of the green bean dish ?

    British mum to a mini Italian in Lombardia

  5. Sarah - I once took a very long train journey at Ferragosto across Italy. To say the train was packed to the gills is an understatement. When it stopped, people on the platform were throwing their suitcases in over passengers' heads and then climbing in. I thought there was going to be a riot.

    Green bean casserole is green beans, with canned mushroom soup poured over them then canned fried onion rings on the top. Baked. See what I mean?

  6. Green bean casserole? urggh. Sounds like a Christmas recipe we saw in Florida when we were there once. Sweet potatoes, butter, brown sugar, marshmallows baked in the oven. Wow- sweet or what. We didn't have any

  7. I am dreading the whole Thanksgiving/Xmas season. This year my MIL is in town so I am actually cooking for her and the kids on Thanksgiving itself. Haven't even thought about a menu. Seems a bit extreme for possibly 4 adults max and 2 children that are unlikely to eat a total of 10 mouthfuls between them. And no, of course, that disgusting green bean casserole will not be on the menu. Ugh

  8. Expatmum

    Oh I bet that was a fun few hours, with all the cultural differences over what is required personal space + a sardine tin train + rampant heat and humidity.

    Green beans. I wish I hadn't asked.


    And I am not some Italianofied gourmet foodie snob. Definitely Italish cuisine on the menu in this house. I just made my aghast husband baked beans on jacket microwaved potatoes for dinner, claiming that tomato content made it classic Italian and the potatoes were grown here, so there. And it had parmesan on top. Real. Not dusty stuff in a cardboard shaker thing. So no cultural outrage permitted.

    You know I could make him the green bean thing as a punishment for complaining about my cooking vis a vis his Mamma's. Well I would if I could track down a tin of mushroom soup.

  9. Yes, what is it with the green bean casserole?

  10. LMAO at the green bean casserole, you are so right!

    One of my bestfriends here has taken pity on this particular expat and has invited us over for it the past couple of years. I am happy for the time out of school though!

  11. Nicola - try Wholefoods. I bet you can walk in and buy the whole dinner the night before.

    And yes Liz, pumpkin pie is delicious. The Ball & Chain made his this morning along with homemade ice cream. At least I think it was him but the fairies may have switched him for someone else as I've never seen him spend so much time in the kitchen. Hmmmm.....

  12. Eww, I'm with you on the green bean casserole Toni. And I'm told that icky casserole is nothing without the dried onions on top! I also don't get the marshmallows on sweet potatoes fascination. Aren't the potatoes sweet enough?

    When I was in England I missed Thanksgiving the most. I like that there is nothing involved but togetherness (if you can get passed all the work involved.) Christmas has become too commercial for me.

  13. I have been out of the States now for 10 years, and I usually celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Saturday of the month, and have a great big bash. On Thanksgiving Thursday I watch "Home For the Holidays", eat comfort food like Mac and Cheese, and generally get a bit mopey. But even though Thanksgiving really means nada over here, it's still fun to make it a part of life.


  14. I'm having some expat friends over on Thursday... Guess how much my turkey cost? £100!!! God I miss Safeway and their $11 birds...

  15. I should look into this. I have an American visiting just now, and didn't even realise it would be an issue.

  16. A hundred quid for a turkey. That's daylight robbery. They can probably see the Americans coming a mile off. Everyone else is paying about thirty!!!

  17. We've come to celebrate it more so since having kids, but we don't usually go anywhere.

    PS I hate that green bean casserole too!!

  18. I've cheated this year and bought a slice of pumpkin pie. I make an apple pie from scratch but my (American) husband always insists we must have both. He eats one slice of the pumpkin pie and remembers he's not that fond of it. I'm buying a slice this year so he can know that he's eaten pumpkin pie, he's celebrated Thanksgiving!

  19. thanksgiving always creeps up on me unawares too here in canada. we have it in october! still takes me by surprise after all this time. now if they served pie 'n peas i'd be laughing.

  20. Sounds like the pressure is on but not for Christmas - can I ask or am I foolish does everyone then have Turkey for Christmas too??? Happy Thanksgiving anyway!

  21. Well we do. I think most other people do too as it's all over the shops. Good job I like turkey!

  22. DH's family tradition is NOT to have turkey for Christmas seeing as they just had it for T'giving. Wouldn't bother me to have a second turkey a month later! Instead we usually have a nice cut of beef for the red meat eaters and salmon for the others.

  23. I am English, have lived in the USA for 46 years and love Thanksgiving. I am with you on the green bean casserole business. I dislike the sweet potato/marshmallow dishes, but those often are family recipes, so I will eat them (while saying Thanks that no-one in my family cooks them). But nobody's grandma ever sloshed Cambells soup over canned beans. It was a novelty dish for one year—now there should be a law.


The more the merrier....

Blog Archive