Thanksgiving: You Know You Want It
It’s two days before Thanksgiving. I’ve just returned from Sainsbury’s.
My anxiety levels are basically normal; I’m not in a rage. There are no bruises forming on my ankles. In fact, I didn’t even see anyone with a ‘trolley’ (ahem, shopping cart), let alone feel one aggressively punching me forward, used as a rolling weapon by the desperate to run down anyone who might compromise their ability to beat the matriarch at the other end of the aisle to the last few boxes of ready-made stuffing. There’s no one competing, no dirty looks… the shop’s not even busy.
No, I am calm and uninjured, because I am an island on an island.
Far away from Plymouth County, where the English pilgrims landed in 1620 and where I popped into existence more than 300-and-a-half years later, I’ve reversed their journey: I now live in Great Britain, and this week will face the first time that I’m not granted two days off in late November to eat, drink, shop and eat. Oh, and give thanks.
A brief backstory for those unfamiliar with the first Thanksgiving: when the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, they were in a little over their heads, unable to grow crops and unsure of how to catch the sea life that was in abundance around them. In a turn of events that would sadly be unlikely to occur today, the Native Americans already living in the area stepped in to help acclimate the newcomers to their adoptive land. They showed them which crops would thrive (like corn) and taught them how to catch eels and lobster. In the autumn of 1621, both groups, neighbours from drastically different backgrounds, sat down together for a three-day feast of thanksgiving, showing their gratitude to their gods and each other for the year’s particularly bountiful harvest.
The harvest wasn’t bountiful at Sainsbury’s. Nary a turkey was in sight; in Massachusetts, they’re just out back, in the woods behind the house I was raised in. Cranberries, my home state’s greatest export, were also relegated to my memories. I felt relief at a bright patch in the produce aisle – but alas, pomegranate seeds were all that I found. Of the traditional Thanksgiving fixin’s (turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn bread) I came away with a couple of sub-par sweet potatoes. One of my colleagues here at Copylab suggested I deconstruct a couple of Pret’s Christmas sandwiches to gain the ingredients I need. I bought a chicken instead.
I thought my next stop could recreate for me the atmosphere of a holiday spent cooking in the kitchen or alternating between the dining room and NFL games on TV. Another Massachusetts star, Yankee Candle, thankfully broke into the British market (here, however, they just cut the name in half and tacked ‘Scotland’ onto the end). I don’t know why I expected representation at Yankee Scotland. If people don’t appreciate pumpkin pie here, they’re not going to pay for melting wax that smells like it. I rifled morosely through the Christmas wares and deemed a ‘Cinnamon Stick’ candle good enough.
But the thing is, Scotland – you want Thanksgiving. I’ve lived here for a year, and I know your culinary preferences. Most Thanksgiving tables hold multiple types of potatoes. Many Americans now deep fry their turkeys. Maybe ‘neeps’ aren’t a thing, but I think we make up for it with turducken (a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, which is in turn stuffed into a deboned turkey). The holiday makes no religious distinctions. It’s the tastiest part of Christmas without the threat of credit-card debt.
I’ll spend Wednesday night cooking way more than my family of two can consume. But on Thursday, we’ll try our hardest.