As a Brit with no real American friends – at least, not for years since I fell out of touch with various people – Thanksgiving holds a real fascination for me. Not only because it’s at the heart of the American experience, but also because it’s both every where and totally evasive at the same time. Thanksgiving episodes parade on the TV all the time, always with a great big dinner slap bang in the middle of it, but precious little is ever really said about what the heck everything is. It’s weirdly like a roast dinner, but weirdly not, and this difference has always fascinated me. I remember watching a Thanksgiving episode of Friends where all the characters gather together to recreate their favourite meal, for me, the best part of the episode was learning about what actually went into a Thanksgiving dinner. Even after all that, there’s still plenty that mystified me… what the heck are tater tots, etc.
Ever since I started being able to call the shots in the kitchen and spend my own money on food, every year I’ve led friends and family alike in a crazy crusade to recreate a proper American Thanksgiving. Every year everyone has to suffer through bizarre concoctions which are distinctly unfriendly to the English palette*. And every year I still feel like I haven’t quite got to the real American heart of Thanksgiving. But it’s around this time of year that I start thinking about it again, and get my books out in order to figure out what I’ll be serving up in November.
In reality, I think the part that’s missing is the fact that the dinner, divorced of the holiday, is really not the Thanksgiving experience, but I’ve never been one to turn down the opportunity to roast a big chunk of meat and have my friends around to eat, no matter what the circumstances.
* I fully appreciate that most Americans will want to lynch me for this sentence, but bless you, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top is pretty bizarre this side of the pond… And should you feel disgruntled, just think about our fondness for eating yeast extract on toast and you’ll understand where I’m coming from…