Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkey down under

Australians do not celebrate Thanksgiving (my kids have asked if they do) - Canadians do share the American holiday, only on a different day - so when I mentioned to people that we were going to celebrate "turkey day" the last Thursday in November, I was showered by a flurry of questions. Such as: "Is Thanksgiving a holiday instead of Christmas?" "What does one do/eat/pray/NOT do?" "Why do you serve turkey?" "Must everyone celebrate the holiday?"

I will attempt to shed some light on the matter:

Nope, not intended to take the place of Christmas. It is a time for families and friends to get together and share a meal, in celebration of the first meal shared in peace centuries ago, by the Pilgrims and the Native Americans.

People who celebrate Thanksgiving usually prepare and eat turkey (an American bird which was so liked by the new settlers, that Benjamin Franklin wanted to make it the national bird), stuffing (goes into the bird when roasted), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (a tart little berry the sike of a small grape high in vitamin C, used like a side to the turkey) corn, candied sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and an array of other complimentary foods, which make for quite the feast, and leftovers-a-pleanty. My mom would always make two turkeys, because we would have so many guests over for dinner. We would have the usual foods (mentioned here) adding to the combination traditional Serbian foods as well. Geo's family incorporated Colombian dishes, like coconut rice... mmmmm.

A prayer is customary just before the meal. One gives thanks for all the good things in the year which passed. Thanksgiving isn't strictly a Christian holiday, it is widely accepted and celebrated by all people who live in the United States, what ever their religion may be. My family accepted it as "our" holiday the very first year we arrived to America. We felt it was a lovely holiday, and how great it was that a day was dedicated to saying "Thank you God for a great life!"

After the ingestion of the gargantuanly huge meal, Americans usually plop themselves in front of the TV and watch football, or they go out and play touch football themselves. Most stay on the couch and fall asleep. Turkey has a little something in it (tryptophan), which makes everyone who eats the bird, want to asleep... really, I'm not making this up.

What isn't done? One does not go to work on Thanksgiving, and most of the time the Friday after the holiday is a day off as well, so many people take the opportunity to visit family on the Thanksgiving weekend. I got engaged on such a weekend many moons ago. It was convenient for everyone to take some time off and come to NY for the celebration.

Since we are "Livin' la vida Australia" we were debating... to go to a restaurant (there's a place where they'll be serving buffet style Thanksgiving dinner here in Melbourne) or have our meal home made and enjoyed at... well... home. Back and forth we went and, finally came to the decision to indeed prepare our feast in our own little itsy bitsy kitchen. We had hoped to share this special meal with friends (you know who you are) but distance, or sniffling noses have prevented this, so our family unit will prepare and enjoy the meal alone this year. Thanking the Lord for a new life, a new job, health and new friends.

On the menu today are turkey drumsticks (six of them), since we could not find a whole bird at the market... I'm sure they have them, it's just not a meat you find readily, unlike kangaroo and lamb. Lamb is EVERYWHERE! I guess we could have prepared lamb chops instead of turkey. Nah! It had to be turkey on "turkey day" for goodness' sake.

I managed to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. I've never done this before. It's a little lumpier than in previous years. I couldn't find the canned puree of pumpkin, so I had to boil the pumpkin and then mash it up by hand, purchase the individual spices which go into the recipe separately (no little "pumpkin pie spices" pouches sold here) and since I don't know how to make my own pie crust either, I opted to make a healthier no crust recipe. I was one step short from gathering wood, making my own fire in the dirt and calling the local natives to participate in our first Thanksgiving in this new land which we call home. I didn't know where to find the natives, so no local animals will be roasted on an open fire. It would have been a more interesting feast - I'm sure - but we'll stick with what we know for now.

Photos of the kids and their father sleeping on the sofa will be shared to prove to you the effects of the "turkey sleeping pill."