Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving

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Our little family has made it a tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving has always been one of my most favourite holidays. The trick to celebrating holidays when you don't live in the country of your birth/nationality is to embrace new traditions. For my family this means that we don't go visiting pumpkin patches. We no longer annually run the Turkey Trot, a 5k put on, annually, by the local YMCA's in the US.

We get a dramatically smaller turkey which only takes a few hours to cook instead of a whole day. We don't get up early to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade, & we don't even have to think about the whole Black Friday/Thanksgiving Day sale debates. Of course, we also don't wrap up the holiday with a glass of eggnog & warm slippers. It's usually more like ice cold lemonade & a view of the blanket of stars in the clear warm sky.

There are a few traditions that we do keep, even though they mean going a little farther then we'd normally have to go. Turkey alone is one of those things. Every store in town is not selling turkey, & those that do charge an astronomical price. $60 is not abnormal for, what I'd generally call, slim pickings. You have to remember that in the US I was serving more people, & we often sent leftovers home with people. In fact, one year I distinctively remember cooking 2 large turkeys. For Morgan's first Thanksgiving {he was just shy of 12 months} the turkey was bigger then he was!

This year Mr S selected the turkey & I have to say I quite loved that. There was no debating sizes & prices for me. There was a quick shout out the door as he took off for work, "Don't forget the turkey or it won't quite feel like Thanksgiving." Followed by a harried call at his lunch break to say, "I don't know if I got the right one. I thought I had a 50, but I ended up with a 62." {That was in reference to weight, not price, & no it wasn't pounds. We had a 14 pound turkey.}

Other annual traditions are generally based around the food I prepare for the family we invite over. Dishes that I always remember seeing on the table at Thanksgiving. Fruit Salad {top left photo} has always been on the holiday table & use to be brought by my great-grandmother. In fact, the stories we pass down are always how she lamented not only the price of grapes but the fact that in the US at that time they always had seeds in them. So when my boys helped slice the grapes for the salad I told them how lucky they were because Buddy had to pip them.

The thing about the fruit salad is, there isn't much fruit in it. Just bananas, pineapple {tinned}, & grapes. You have to remember that in the N. Hemisphere there's not always a whole lot of pickings in regards to fruit late in the season. It's mixed with whipped cream & marshmallows. I can't have it because of the dairy in it, & when I considered not making it I was told that was just wrong. Which is why we made a last minute dash to the local IGA for bananas & grapes because while I'd remembered the whipping cream for the salad, I'd rather forgotten all the rest of the ingredients. See, the upside to Thanksgiving in Australia is that you don't have to worry about your local corner shop being closed.

Corn Pudding was another one always brought over by my great-grandmother, & over the years despite the many funny looks I get for mentioning the dish I've yet to feed it to someone who thought it was icky. All though this year I had to try & make it egg free & I think I failed on that attempt because it was a bit dry. What a shame that I'll have to make it again! Sorry, no photo because it came out of the oven & went straight on the table.

Cranberry Sauce {top right}. In America I use to go to the shop & buy a couple of bags of fresh cranberries. I'd make a regular sauce & an orange sauce. Or sometimes a new & random recipe I'd find in a magazine. Regardless it wasn't never hard to come by cranberries. I've never seen a bag of fresh cranberries since being here, all though OceanSpray does ship tiny little bitty jars of whole berry cranberry sauce here. Loaded with sugar & rather pricey. However, I discovered at my local health food shop that they sell dried, unsweetened, cranberries. As an experiment one year I purchased some & boiled them in water. Let them sit & low & behold they jelled right up. I was in awe. Every year since I've made cranberry sauce, but I generally give it a good whizz with the stick blender because my guys prefer the smoother consistency. Sometimes I even make maple cranberry ice cream & throw the sauce in it. It's really delicious, I didn't make some this year much to the annoyance of a little boy I know who loves cranberry sauce & maple syrup. I haven't told him I reserved some dry cranberries to make this later. Shh..

Cherry Pie {bottom right}. It was always the tradition growing up, once I was old enough, for me to make the pies for Thanksgiving. Mom said it was because I make the best pie crust, my husband agrees with her. Either way I always made apple, pumpkin, & cherry. Sometimes there were others, sometimes there weren't. One year I made extras & we sent them to friends. One year I decided I was making way too much pie & I should cut back. Especially since I'd found this recipe for a chocolate peanut butter pie & since Mr S doesn't like peanut butter I knew I'd have to make one without peanut butter. We were now on the verge of having 6 pies for Thanksgiving, not to mention the cookies the kids decorated. I sent an SOS out via email that year & said how I thought of not making the cherry & pumpkin pie. I got a reply back from Dad who vetoed the whole idea because he needed his cherry pie, & it would be untraditional not to have pumpkin. Mr S agreed with him whole heartedly. We had 6 pies that year.

The thing is, in the US you can buy pre canned Cherry Pie filling pretty inexpensively. You just make your pie crust, open the tin, dump it in the shell, bake. That's it. Easy peasy. You can't do that here. You have to actually make the filling, which is much tastier all though highly time consuming too. Not to mention Tassie cherries aren't quite ripe yet, even the earlier varieties which are rumoured to be ready in a couple of weeks! However, there were cherries in the shop this week from the mainland so I told the boys to keep guard while I snagged a bag & dumped the entire box of cherries into my bag before making a quick exit from the produce section. Then we came home & made cherry pie filling, along with a cherry pie. There were no complaints, even though I did not make a pumpkin pie this year.

As for the bottom left picture. That's pretty much how I cook Thanksgiving Dinner here. Barefooted, because it was too hot to be bothered putting on shoes.. with my pants rolled up, & demanding to know who closed the side door because know the pie wasn't cooling quickly enough. Or while darting across the kitchen to balance cooking a turkey & chicken.

The rest of our meal is pretty simple though because I tend to just make a variety of salads along with mashed potatoes. I actually considered canceling Thanksgiving one year, because you know.. we could just eat turkey sandwiches or something. My idea was vetoed, which is how we learned to make our own Aussie/American traditions, & I'm glad we did.

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