Well, we had roast turkey, sausages, gravy, apple-celery-bacon cornbread stuffing with cashews and cranberries, Amish sweet potatoes with apple and mace, mashed potatoes, squash with crystallised ginger, green beans almondine, broccoli, cranberry-orange relish, the obligatory creamed onions (which, I understand, is an Upstate New York addition), and mince-peach pie, apple-cherry pie, and of course, pumpkin pie. The sweet corn, nestled in a glass casserole dish in the microwave never got heated, never got served. Corn, anyone?
This of course is not the whole menu. I should have put baby marshmallows in the sweet potatoes, crushed lemon boiled sweets [candies] in the squash, condensed mushroom soup and French fried onion rings with the beans. I should have served a “salad” of cottage cheese, mayonnaise and crushed pineapple fixated in a mold of lime gelatin. But I didn’t want to scare the foreigners any more than was necessary.
I tend to feel a bit weird at this time of year. Yes, I’ve lived in many countries, and, yes, I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in all of them. But it has always been with other Americans. When it was just me, it felt weird to say to people, “Er, uh, I’m having a Thanksgiving dinner, [mutter] national thanksgiving in USA, [mutter mutter] wondering if you …….” I felt so exposed, so Other, to the people I was trying to understand and be part of. I don’t know why I felt so strongly that the tradition should be celebrated. It seemed stupid to make such a case for it. It was only me, after all. I tried NOT celebrating it, saying “oh hang it, let our children be brought up British and be done with it.” But the niggling empty loneliness persisted. Perhaps it was important because it was the only day in the year that I had a right to declare my American-ness. Of course my Yorkshire husband was naturally supportive of the event, not only for the food, but for my sake.
But I’m glad I persevered. This year, the weird feeling was brief. Daughter Number One married an American and celebrates Thanksgiving in California. And now I have another daughter’s family nearby – a half American and two quarter Americans, which make up to one more whole American, doesn’t it? And, after deep reflection about selective additional guests, and with heart in mouth, I phoned. They probably do not know the joyful relief they gave me by saying yes to the invitation.
The evening began with the two quarter Americans, aged 9 and 11, playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on their newly acquired trumpet and saxophone. I gave my little introductory speech, that Thanksgiving was one of the few national (cross-religion) days of thanks in the world, that it commemorated the Puritans who sailed from Europe, on The Mayflower headed for Jamestown, but blown off course and landed in autumn in what is now Massachusetts; how the Wampanoag Indians helped them survive that winter, and the first Thanksgiving with Indians and Puritans together. And how the composer of the performed piece, Sarah Josepha Hale, wrote an open letter to President Lincoln requesting that he declare a national day of thanks. Which he did.
It takes longer to write about it than it actually took on the night. The whole talk only lasted half a glass of prosecco and a couple of cheese straws. One of the guests had seen the replica of the Mayflower in Bristol, and another had even done a painting of it, which brought great delight to me.
It was a glorious evening. So convivial was the gathering, in fact, that I forgot to take pictures for the blog. I also forgot another tradition – that each person had the opportunity to say what they’d been thankful for this year. But the positivity did come out in the evening’s bubbling conversations. One was relieved gratitude that we had a National Health Service (after hearing about crowd-funding pleas to finance chemo therapy for a sick woman in the States). Another, unlike my Puritan ancestors, was the freedom to worship – or not to – as we chose. We are blessed.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
What do YOU do with left-over turkey?
Mole Poblana Guajolote
A sort of Turkey casserole
Here’s a recipe adapted from my Better Homes and Gardens Mexican cookbook (1977). It’s great for all the tiny scraps that come with a Roast Turkey dinner. …. I served it the night the Bits of Americans and their English Dad came for supper. [The two quarter Americans had fish fingers.] Out of the four adults: one ate the casserole as served, one added salt, one found it too spicy, and one lavished the serving liberally with tabasco sauce. So, take your pick.
Grease a casserole dish (mine was 13” x 9”) and fill it with turkey, bits of bacon, and cooked sausage left over from the Big Meal. I didn’t try it, but cooked vegetables could be thrown in, too.
Chop a medium onion and a clove of garlic and saute them gently in 1 tablespooon oil. Then, in a liquidiser/food processor, whizz together: 2 medium tomatoes or a can of chopped tomatoes, the cooked onion-garlic, 2 canned chopped jalepeno peppers, rinsed, seeded, ½ cup blanched almonds, OR 2 tablespoons ground almonds, 1/3 cup raisins, 1 six inch tortilla cut up, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon crushed or ground fennel seed, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon ground coriander. Cover and process until smooth. Add about 4 cups turkey or chicken stock and 1 square unsweetened chocolate, melted. Pour sauce over the turkey, ensuring all pieces are well coated
Bake uncovered in moderate oven until bubbly, about 44 minutes.
The mole may be fine as a VEGAN or VEGETARIAN dish. If you try it, just tap a note onto this website so that others can try.