My first experience of Thanksgiving was in elementary school in McLean, Virginia. My family and I moved in the summer between my fourth and fifth grade from Jakarta to McLean, a suburb in northern Virginia, due to my father’s assignment in Washington D.C. So the fifth grade was a year of American culture firsts for me: Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Groundhog Day, etc.
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated in Canada and the United States as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. It is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States.
At the beginning of every month, all the students’ families received a school cafetaria menu with the daily-changing menus for the month ahead. My mother pinned this menu on the refrigerator door in our kitchen, and I remember checking out the menu on a nearly daily basis and puzzling over the “special” Thanksgiving menu.
If memory serves me correctly, the school Thanksgiving lunch consisted of thin pale slices of turkey breast, waxy mashed potatoes, gravy, cornbread, and a slice of pumpkin pie. I love cornbread, I love gravy, I love stuffing, but I have been terrified of pumpkin pie since then. It was horrible, to bite into that pumpkin pie, expecting something sweet and instead getting a mouthful of gloopy spice overkill (I recall cinnamon and nutmeg). I’ve been untrusting of any dessert that has any kind of pumpkin or squash ever since and I only eat pumpkin and squash in savoury dishes.
Anyway, fast forward many years later and while I was in college in London, some of my close friends had also grown up in the States, and one girl in particular was really into Thanksgiving. So she’d rope us all in for cooking turkey and the gang every Thanksgiving.
That’s how I started celebrating Thanksgiving too; it was a reason to get together with friends, cook a lot of yummy things, experiment with recipes, and then eat everything together. Living in Europe though, means we don’t get the Thursday and Friday off, and instead we’d celebrate on the weekend. Not a bad thing, because this is how, for a couple of years, we ended up having three Thanksgiving turkey dinners in a week: the weekend before, the Thanksgiving Thursday and the weekend after.
This year, my good friend Phil from FlavorPhil was testing a new turkey stuffing recipe. Did I tell you that stuffing is the best and my most favourite part of the whole dinner? I was a happy test subject.
Phil’s recipe had Italian bread, chorizo, dried figs, apricots and dates, all mixed in with herbs and chicken stock. So yummy! Since it was a test, he used turkey breast and made a roulade in a bacon sweater. The first version was a bit too sweet for my liking and after a feedback round, he iterated his design and added more chorizo and candied ginger to the stuffing.
And that was perfect; the candied ginger added a new dimension to the rest of the ingredients. I hope he publishes his recipe soon.
Last Sunday, we were invited to an early Thanksgiving dinner hosted by our friend K, who runs Cookies And Cream. 20 people came to dinner, and we had roast turkey (a 14kg one that had to be split 2/5, 2/5, 1/5 to fit in the oven), buttery mashed potatoes, apple-and-pear sauce, cornbread and honey butter, a really delicious stuffing (did I tell you that I love stuffing the most?), a healthy green salad, a green bean casserole (“ding ding” as K calls it), and creamed corn. Afterwards, dessert was pumpkin pie and apple pie, with whipped cream. Naturally, I went for the apple pie with heaps of cream : )
This Thanksgiving, and all year-round really, I’m thankful for this life that the handsome-and-talented husband and I live, that we have generous and loving friends and family, that we are working on things we love, that food is plentiful at our table, that we have good health, that we have a warm and welcoming home. Thank you, alhamdullilah Tuhan.