I’d hoped to be at C by the time mid-October rolled around, but I’m going about this rather slowly, like a turtle – or a slug, or whatever other animal moves really slowly. Maybe a sloth. We’ll re-visit C, and Canada, very soon, when we will discover why the almighty poutine is so awesome. For now, let’s talk a little bit about Thanksgiving, which is a very Canadian and/or American affair.
Canadian Thanksgiving takes place a month earlier than its American compatriot for one of two possible reasons. Option 1: It gets cold way earlier in Canada, and thus our harvest is in October, not November. It would seem a bit futile to try and celebrate all those wonderful root vegetables when they are frozen solid under the ground. Option 2: Canadians are just funny. I like this thought.
Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday, because it’s an excuse to get together with close friends and family and eat until you get sick, and it has no religious connotations whatsoever. The first Thanksgiving feast was celebrated by the pilgrims who were giving thanks to God for guiding them safely to the New World and, I imagine, to the Indians who had so much lovely bounty for them to pillage. Fact – they ate shellfish at the first Thanksgiving dinner. And eel. True story.
In Canada, Thanksgiving actually finds its roots in Martin Frobisher’s third voyage through the Northwest passage, when his convoy got trapped in a series of freak ice storms and he decided to give thanks for his deliverance. I’m not sure if there was a feast. We stole this from the Americans.
Thanksgiving is also an excuse to make hand turkeys. No one in Britain seems to know what a hand turkey is. How hard is this to understand? It is a turkey, made out of a hand. Like so:
Disclaimer: This is actually a hand peacock. Emma wanted to make a foot pigeon, but this didn’t really seem very traditional.
I actually brought coloured pencils to work on Monday and had my team join me in the making of the hand turkey. When Charles, who sits next to me, finished his up, he asked: “Do we hand these in to you?” I do miss being a teacher, sometimes.
The hand turkey award went to Marta, who understood that Thanksgiving turkeys wear hats:
Last year was my inaugural Thanksgiving dinner – this year I invited two of our good friends and their girlfriends for a meal, and got cookin’.
The Menu, or Le Menu, in Quebec.
-Chicken (I don’t actually like turkey that much. To make a nice turkey, you have to go to a farm. To make a nice chicken, you go to the supermarket.)
-Roasted sweet potatoes with pecans
-Brussels sprouts, stir fried with red onions and garlic
-Meat pie (bought from Newitt’s in Thame – in Quebec you’d have a tourtiere, but I don’t know how to make this yet)
-Homemade cranberry sauce
-Chocolate fudge brownie pie.
You heard me – I made my own cranberry sauce. If Martha Stewart can do this, I can too.
I actually used a Martha Stewart recipe:
1. Buy frozen cranberries from Waitrose. Who sells fresh cranberries in early October?
2. Put frozen cranberries in a saucepan with water and sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes until cranberries turn into cranberry sauce. Add about 1/4 cup orange juice.
That’s actually it. Two steps. Martha says that this keeps for about a week, but trust me, it won’t last.
Charles asked me, Monday morning, what I would be serving for my Thanksgiving feast. “I’ll be over at 7:30,” he declared. If only I could cook for everyone I know – but I only have six chairs. That’s not even true. I have four. And gosh darnit, I’m thankful for them.