Saturday, 6 December 2008

Thanksgiving in Our House

This time last week, Bill and I were rushing around getting ready for our Thanksgiving party. We do our celebrating with family and friends here in England not on the 4th Thursday, but on the 4th Saturday of November, due to the fact that people don't get the day off here (duh). People have often told me they were very excited about getting to come to a 'Real American Thanksgiving' and that appreciation makes all the work of cooking for a large group worthwhile.

This is the one time of the year the house is certain to look its best.

When people give us compliments I'm reminded how much I do love my 1920's house, I'm just used to it now.

The funny thing about the house is were I to give a tour, virtually everything in it either belonged to a member of my family or a member of Bill's,

it was bought second hand or I made it.

My aim has always been to re-create the meals we had at Grandmother's house

(Mom always did Christmas) until Grandmother moved in with Mom and we had Thanksgiving there, too. There have been slight changes to consider what is more practical, but the menu is still largely the same:

  • Relish tray: olives, cocktail onions, pickles, celery sticks, carrot sticks, bell pepper sticks (I've added dips, having learned to like sour cream and hummous; dips are also very American, apparently)

  • Vegetable salad: lettuce (only now I use spinach), tomatoes, celery, cucumber, bell pepper; I omit olives, as Bill doesn't like them, and add shredded carrots and mushrooms, which Mom never served; salad dressings (also very American, in spite of being "Italian" or "French" dressing)

  • Turkey (traditional at Christmas in England; we do ham then instead, being tired of turkey by then)
  • Cornbread dressing
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Carrots
  • Peas (Mom always served green beans, but they aren't that easily come by here)
  • Fruit salad: chopped apples, bananas, tinned mandarin oranges, mixed together with mayonnaise. Sounds really weird, I know, but that's what Mom served and she only ever made it at Thanksgiving. It is suprisingly delicious.
  • Apple pies (because I didn't like pumpkin pie when I was a kid)
  • Pumpkin pies (served warm, instead of the traditional style of cold; with whipped cream, which melts and is messy, but it's delicious)
  • Mom made iced tea, if I remember, but Brits absolutely abhor the stuff and in cold weather I have to admit it doesn't appeal. We organise a drinks table that allows people to chose soft drinks, wine, fruit juice or water. Guests are requested to bring the beverage of their choice (but nothing else). Invariably, though, they bring boxes of chocolate, house plants or flowers as gifts.
  • Coffee (if we can remember it) with the pies and, if we have some chocolates around to get rid of, I try to remember to put those out. We did a cheese board for a while, but that rarely got all eaten and the problem with cheese is that we eat it binge on it when it's available.
I used to do quizzes -- Brits love quizzes -- about famous Americans or American history and such. One year I just put out a jigsaw puzzle of the US and people seemed to really enjoy doing that. I had planned to do that again this year, but in the end people had to just settle for food and each others' company.

Our routine has largely been for me to do the advance food preparation and for both of us to clean house. Then I set the table, putting out the cold foods,

get showered and dressed and wait for the guests to arrive, about 7:30pm.

Bill cleans up and changes and when the guests arrive, well then things get a bit manic. I push people towards the drinks table

and take coats upstairs (that's my exercise for the evening). Bill does the last minute

things in the kitchen like the peas and mashed potatoes.

We both ferry hot food to the table and then hand someone a plate and tell them to get to shovelling.

I try to talk with people and keep an eye on food supplies on the table, letting Bill

know when we are low on something, or fetching another platter of turkey.

I end up carrying a plate of food around and putting it down half a dozen times in between errands and talking (that's my portion control for the evening).

Bill insists that he does get out of the kitchen and talk to people, but I don't know how he manages.

I try to circulate between all the groups of people standing in the kitchen, hall, and diningroom or sitting in the living room, though once I sit down I don't generally want to get up, so I save that for last!

Things only settle down after everyone has had dessert. As the crowd thins I get to chat more with the late-stayers and I sometimes manage to get in a piece of pie. Bill tends to do a certain amount of cleaning up that evening and sometimes a guest will insist on helping out.

Me, I'd as soon leave it to the next day. I like to talk about how well the party went and share the conversations we had over doing the dishes.

1 comment:

A Spoonful Of Sugar said...

WOW - it all looks amazing! We had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving when we lived in Texas.I must say I developed a fondness for pumpkin pie. How wonderful that you are able to celebrate part of your culture in your adopted country.