I have been in the US for well over a decade. About 2/3 of all Thanksgivings we spent at other people’s houses, and the rest we either didn’t celebrate very much (e.g., I’d cook some turkey breasts, but not the whole bird), or we simply had a nice, but nontraditional meal (Thanksgiving is often close to DH’s birthday, so I cook his favorite dish, which is from the home country and quite labor intensive).
The last three years we went to friends’ Thanksgiving party. This year our hosts are indisposed, and we decided to stay in and not invite anyone over. Aside from Smurf, the world’s pickiest (and cutest) eater 4 years in a row, the family includes DH and myself, adult carnivores; Eldest, a teenager who swims 4 hours per day; and MB, an 8-year-old who eats (and expends energy) like an NFL linebacker; I figured we needed a whole turkey. Therefore, I decided to attempt a small-scale quasi-traditional Thanksgiving celebration, where “quasi” comes from neither DH nor me having been exposed to this tradition growing up, all our knowledge thus stemming from what we saw in other’s people’s houses or on the web. However, I generally consider myself a decent self-taught amateur cook (most people are), and with cooking, as with math and science, it you have a solid foundation in the basics and an understanding of how the fundamental building blocks interact, you can confidently embark on a variety of new fields of exploration.
I bought one of the smallest turkeys I could find, about 12 pounds. Since it’s just the family, I didn’t go crazy with the number of side dishes. Below is a picture of the meal (store-bough pumpkin pie and whipped cream we had for dessert not depicted).
Not bad for a first-time Thanksgiving cook, huh? The whole meal took 4 hours to prepare (+/- 5 min), from when I turned on the oven to preheat it for the turkey, until the moment I took this picture.
The turkey turned out heavenly (simple roasting, after having been coated in 3 sticks worth of melted butter; the cavity was filled with herbs, carrots, apples, and onions). The gravy (we obviously don’t own a gravy boat) was absolutely perfect in both texture and taste, and is probably my favorite part of the dinner; all that butter made for a phenomenal base. I don’t care for stuffing and have never understood the appeal, so I didn’t make any. The cranberry sauce was very simple and delicious, and a big hit with Eldest and DH. The mashed potatoes and stir-fried green beans are dishes I make often, and the gravy nicely played up both. The roasted yellow-flesh sweet potatoes with onions were OK, but would have probably been better with yams (in case you didn’t know, both sweet potatoes and what we call yams in the US are just varieties of the sweet potato, while true yams are something very different). MB was excited, “Finally, we have a normal Thanksgiving meal!”
Overall, it was yummy and we have enough left over for dinner today, and possibly a day or two beyond with some additional items. Aaaand, the cooking took about as much time as I usually spend when we have another family over, which is a great plus considering that I get no pleasure from slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end. I consider this little experiment a tasty step in DH’s and my continued assimilation.
Add a cinnamon stick to your cranberry sauce when preparing it. Trust me on this.
As far as assimilating into the US, you’re most of the way there. You even made an NFL analogy for your son’s appetite, instead of a soccer analogy. But to truly be an American you need to mash your sweet potatoes and cover them with marshmallows while insisting it isn’t a dessert.
Sweet potatoes with onions?!!! No, no, no. Brown sugar and marshmallows on the sweet potatoes.
Brown sugar and marshmallows on the sweet potatoes.
Baby steps for us, baby steps. DH does not take kindly to combinations of sweet and salty, or anything that’s sweet and not dessert. I think the cranberry sauce was about as much non-savory food that he could tolerate as part of the actual dinner.
For DH and me (and many other Europeans, so I am told), there is a lot of food in the US that simply tastes too sweet (e.g., most supermarket bread; I am sure corn subsidies are not unimportant here). There are also dishes that we were used to eating in savory versions, while Americans eat them sweet (e.g., corn bread, French toast). Palates are stubborn.
I have never understood the obsession with ruining sweet potatoes by putting marshmallow on them. Sweet potatoes can be served steamed, baked, or mashed, and brown sugar can be added to lower-quality ones to disguise the lack of sweetness, but good garnet sweet potatoes need nothing added to them.
We had dinner at my brother-in-law’s place. The sweet potatoes there were a mix of purple, Japanese, and garnet sweet potatoes, cut in chunks, which makes a colorful dish, though they did make the marshmallow mistake.
Yum! Happy Thanksgiving!
American here– marshmallows are an abomination on sweet potatoes. (My preferred version is pecan streusel, though we did have the yellow flesh onion version last week with the CSA and it was a nice change.)
Marshmallows on sweet potatoes are an abomination, but they’re a ‘Murican abomination!
My favorite: chop up potato, sweet potato, parsnip, carrot, and any other root vegetable you like. Salt liberally and throw in the bottom of the turkey roasting pan. So good.
Store-bought pumpkin pie is a crime against nature. Also, too sweet.
If you want a good pumpkin pie, don’t use pumpkin—substitute butternut squash instead.
What I am about to say is very un-American, but here goes: I don’t really like pie. I definitely don’t care for most “harvest meal” pies (e.g., pumpkin, pecan) other than apple. DH doesn’t care very much for them either. I was going to make an apple or pumpkin strudel, but decided I was too lazy and just bought a pie, because Eldest likes it (and DH and I will eat it even if not crazy about it). I should make that apple strudel on Sunday…
I never understood apple pie until I read that in colonial times it was a meal item. That makes sense! A double-crust apple pie is way too heavy to function as a dessert. It was then that I switched to making tarts. I think the Europeans have the right idea here: a thin slice of pastry and fruit to end the meal. Plus, the dough is easier to roll out.