It’s not just the meal. One can construct a Thanksgiving meal in Ireland pretty easily. But cooking a Thanksgiving meal does not Thanksgiving make.
Thanksgiving unites the entire country in a massive menu-planning extravaganza. America’s TV shows, print media and aisle caps all sparkle with the jewel tones of pumpkin and cranberry sauce. Ancient family recipies are unearthed. Turkey experts staff hotlines. For foodies it’s a glorious time when brining and giblets are legitimate topics of conversation. Grocery store parking lots swell to bursting. All energy is focused on 90 delicious minutes sometime on Thursday afternoon.
We eat millions of separate Thanksgiving dinners, but we are all sharing the same meal.
Having a national holiday helps as well. For the fortunate, it’s a four-day weekend that starts with a gastronomic bang, relaxes into turkey sandwiches, and then simmers along with turkey tortilla soup. Thanksgiving also kicks off The Holidays. The muzak and decorations may come out right after Labor Day, but after Thanksgiving there is no denying the holidays are upon us and we might as well jump into the fray.
Our first year in Dublin we made no attempt to observe Thanksgiving. Unless you have the day off work, it just didn’t seem worth it. Our second year we enjoyed a belated Thanksgiving in Indiana with the Bockelmans. Last year we were invited to share Thanksgiving with an American/Irish hybrid couple. Amanda took the day off and did most of the work and we showed up with a pan of cornbread dressing. That worked out great. This year Bill decided to create a mini-Thanksgiving.
He brilliantly captured the essence of Thanksgiving in about 2.5 hours:
- Roast chicken–quicker and much more reasonable for two people
- Brussels sprouts with rashers and shallots–a Food and Wine recipe (usually made with pancetta); a must-have for Gunter Thanksgivings since circa 2002
- Herb stuffing with Apple, Leek and Bacon–a savory bread pudding; this Cooks Illustrated recipe (which Bill halved) was the “something new” this year and we expect to see it again
- Roasted sweet potato wedges
- Jellied cranberry sauce (imported)–fresh from the can; an absolute Thanksgiving requirement!
We had some pumpkin (imported) pie from earlier in the week (more on that, possibly), but were too full to partake.
Not a full-throttle Thanksgiving, but I did smell and taste Thanksgiving–roasted fowl, autumnal sweet potato and apple, aromatic sage and thyme in the stuffing, the funky sprouts, tangy cranberries, and plenty of bacon–that was pretty great. And I made a new Thanksgiving memory on Wednesday night. We met as usual for worship team practice. In honor of Thanksgiving Sandra had printed sheets with Turkeys and a Thanksgiving cartoon and we all wrote down and then shared what we’re thankful for (among other things, me: diet coke, Bill: Skype). Giving Thanks can be more hilarious than you might think. It was a great evening of laughter, music and prayer and we left warmed by the fellowship. And we were thankful.
Note: Bill just observed that the cranberry sauce looks flecked with gold in this picture. It was. It truly was.