In recent years Valentine’s Day has become a little bit of a thing in Australia, and Halloween is a novelty for children. Unfortunately, these events are usually relegated to America — though I like to point out that Valentine was a Roman saint and Halloween also derived from Europe. One holiday Aussies look at with kinder eyes is American Thanksgiving. Though the history is sometimes unknown the general sentiment is commended. I’m fortunate to have wonderful friends in Australia, and in New Zealand, who know that the holiday is a big deal for most Americans. They didn’t want me to miss out. Hence my having TWO Thanksgiving dinners this year!
In Australia, I made the dinner myself, since cooking is a relaxer for me. The Bongers had something on and let me have rule of the kitchen while they were away. As is my habit when cooking, I watched Gilmore Girls in between prep. (By the way, don’t even ask me how much the turkey cost. All I can say is, I hope you’ve never complained about the price of a turkey in America.) Ian and Josie, Kia and Kiana, Ian’s parents Carolyn and Hank, and Josie’s brother and his wife joined for dinner. We had our celebration the week before Thanksgiving since I’d be in New Zealand for the actual day.
Menu: turkey with herb-butter rub, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, kale with mushrooms, zucchini-green bean-carrot stir fry, homemade bread, corn, gravy, pecan pie, & pretzel “salad” dessert.
My Kiwi friends were just as considerate of my American-ness and planned a dinner that we could make together. Kiana C. had arrived from Melbourne to work with me the final week, so she joined Owen & Avalon (co-directors of OMS NZ) and I for the Thanksgiving meal. Avalon took care of veg, rolls, and the turkey while Kiana had a hand with the potatoes and I whipped together a pumpkin pie.
Menu: turkey breast with cranberry stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, rolls, corn, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
For many that not only consider America their passport country but their homeland, Thanksgiving is a difficult time to be away. Thanksgiving celebrates specific historical events and gratitude that occurred on American soil. Thanksgiving is commonly a family holiday; being far away can be both different-exciting and different-homesick. I felt a little of each kind of “different” this year. It was exciting to share food and celebrations with my friends in this part of the world, in my new home. It was homesick inducing when I thought of the usual chill in the air. The tablecloths printed with red, gold, and burgundy leaves. Every Thanksgiving I remember the year it flurried while we were at my grandparents’s house. I worried that my new, shiny black shoes would cause a slip on the sidewalk. Our kitchen table is crooked because the kitchen floor isn’t level, but most Thanksgivings we have a small crew seated around it. Sometimes one of us girls purposely claims or avoids the “sleepy corner,” so named when we were little because the heat from cooking gravitated there and made dinner a soporific affair. My parents never want to save the gravy, but I always insist. It’s a really good year when we get a smoked turkey. One time we had ham with cloves and pineapple since Mama hates turkey.
No family or holiday is perfect in temperament or execution of the meal, but in the end it’s nice to have a few people around a table of the same good food, looking out the same windows for snow or rain or sun, and yelling, crying, or smiling in the same room.
Happy Belated Thanksgiving!