27 November, 2009
Our first Thanksgiving
Today we have been in the US exactly four weeks. Not quite long enough to get to grips with that typically New World holiday, Thanksgiving, so it was with a great deal of gratitude that we found ourselves invited to friends to be part of their family's celebrations. To make a confession, I had arrived in the US with the intention of getting us invited somewhere for a proper Thanksgiving, whatever it took, but in the end I didn't need to engineer this in any way - Americans are so hospitable.
It was very relaxed afternoon, unlike the frantic activity that usually surrounds my Christmas meal preparations. This may be a testament to the laid-back cool of the Californians we were visiting, or to the fact that no present opening was taking place. There is something lovely about a special meal devoted to being with family and giving thanks, and nothing else. Though we did have to answer a quiz before we were allowed to eat. I got the date right - 1621 - but apart from that know almost nothing about turkeys so thank you Henry (aged 9) for being my partner and filling in all the gaps. Now I know that a male turkey is called a Tom!
I was trepidatious that the meal might involve large quantities of maple syrup, cinnamon and the dreaded sweet potato topped by marshmallows (what is that about?) but instead a delicious and, yes, large meal of wonderfully moist turkey with all the trimmings awaited us.
Everyone had contributed something including me - homemade bread rolls and an apple pie from the Ballymaloe Cookbook which came out all right despite my issues with my oven. I am particularly keen to obtain the recipe for a wonderful corn pudding - not dessert in the British sense of the word - which was not quite a souffle, but light and creamy, served with onions, peppers and chiles. Also the cranberry sauce was much less jammy than any I have made in the past, and somehow both less sweet and less sour. Instead it was very fruity. For dessert, I naturally tried the pumpkin pie, light and aromatic. I'm not sure it'll be my favourite pudding but it was lovely.
Something else I've learned this week. As if to make up for the complete lack of commercialism on the day of Thanksgiving, America follows it with something called Black Friday - the biggest and busiest shopping day of the year. So having decided we might pop downtown to get some clothes, we decided against and pottered about our neighbourhood instead. Now I have a dressing-gown, a top to run in, and I know for definite my American shoe size because the staff at See Jane Run measured my feet for me.