One of the things I miss most about the United States is the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s always been my favorite. No gifts, no costumes, no obligation except to spend time with family and friends, and share thanks for what we have.
Expat Americans tend to feel the magnetic pull of fellow countrypeople around this time, and we usually celebrate the holiday by having a big celebration on the Saturday following the actual Thanksgiving Thursday – after all, kids are in school during the week, and here, it’s just another work day.
It used to be a challenge, or an impossibility, to find the right ingredients for a traditional turkey meal. Oh, potatoes are easy enough, but turkeys the size of a small car just weren’t to be had at any price.
Cranberries? What’s that?
Pumpkin pie? A sweet pie made of squash? Disgusting!
People liked the sound of pecan pie, but the nuts weren’t to be found, and Karo syrup is still an unlikely supermarket product. The pecan has since become a fairly standard imported product.
I’ve noticed that many of my friends Stateside have branched out over the years, trying new and innovative variations on the old themes. In my experience, long-term US expats are all about tradition – it’s a meal that reminds us of home, and is thus not available for much culinary tinkering besides alterations necessitated by a lack of ingredients. For example, I have found that a French squash, the potimarron, makes for a superb and velvety pie filling, while the regular pumpkins that look more like our own are too stringy and watery on this side of the Atlantic to make a decent pie.
Several supermarkets in our area, in response to the very large expat population, now carry just the kind of giant turkeys for which we Americans hanker – mostly fresh, but also frozen. Cranberries can be found if you know where to shop – information passed by excited word-of-mouth starting in late October.
We used to just celebrate with other Americans, but our daughter loved the holiday so much she told her friends, and the gathering last included large numbers of various nationalities who really wanted to try for themselves what they’d seen in American movies. Between her friends and the other families, we usually have at least 25 people sitting down to eat together.
So Happy Thanksgiving – I won’t be having mine until Saturday, but I can practically taste the mashed potatoes already.