Monday, November 22, 2010

Gobble Gobble Turkey Day

Thoughts on an Australian Thanksgiving. Every year a well meaning soul will ask me, in all sincerity, do we celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia? Well, actually the answer is no. Sadly the pilgrims didn't land in Australia. There were no Indians to share the corn. In fact I have a sneaky suspiscion that many of our first "settlers" weren't of a mind to celebrate their arrival on an annual basis let alone with an "all things cranberry and turkey" fest.

Since we have been living here in the US we have embraced Turkey Day as a day on which to gather our fellow expatriate friends, laugh, cook and eat together. Sometimes a little football will be watched but not too much! We stop for a moment to reflect on our good fortune and things for which we are thankful. It is like Christmas dinner without the stress of Christmas.

We have a fairly traditional Thanksgiving menu- Roast turkey with stuffing, gravy, roast vegetables, green beans, cranberry relish and jelly and a pumpkin pie. We are open to one day experiencing a deep fried turkey (if somebody else cooks it) but will most likely continue to draw the line at anything with marshmallows on top, candied yams, sweet potato pie or the tofu turkey.

We have a Thanksgiving tradition of our own... it's been about 7 years now so it's safe to call it a tradition. In our house the men don their chef hats and do most of the cooking whilst the women watch, heckle, drink wine and then ...eventually eat. Sometimes we women folk do a few dishes, find things that are in plain view, take photos and prepare appetisers and cook the greens.

The routine is fairly well honed. The turkey , around 12-14lbs, is ordered from Wholefoods. The same recipes are used every year. There's some pumpkin soup (butternut squash) to keep us sustained until the main event ( I cook a double batch of this at Halloween to freeze). There will also be a few little hitches. This year Breadwinner decided to store the turkey overnight in the esky (cooler). We have a bear in the neighbourhood, so he locked the esky in the car. Unfortunately it froze. The turkey not the bear. Our oven hasn't been fully functional of late and the spare part did not arrive until late on Friday. When I explained that we were doing an early Thanksgiving meal, the repairman made a special effort to come first thing Saturday morning to fix the oven. I am making huge progress in "Keeping Calm and Carrying on" because the fact that the oven was broken and the turkey frozen didn't bother me at all. In fact I was so relaxed (tired) I slept in until 10am. (Actually I am not well.)

A few small obstacles will not thwart our determined chefs, especially when they have visions of roast potatoes and gravy dancing in their heads.

So meet "Uncle Petey", and the Breadwinner, this years' Gnome Turkey Chefs Extrordinaire.

You can see one of their esteemed colleagues on the brie box.

These two work together like a well oiled machine...or not. Uncle Petey who comes from a short line of chef, is in charge of triumphantly finding the giblets, the potatoes, annual knife sharpening and carving. Mid preparations Uncle Petey will go for a run. Yes...he goes for a run. As he leaves he will sneakily turn the oven off. The Breadwinner, whose own father can barely make a cup of tea, is the expert in cranberry jelly, stuffing and annoying the turkey every 30 minutes. Pulling it out of the oven at every opportunity so it doesn't cook too fast.

Sometimes they move so fast it is hard to capture their speedy culinary moves.
Then they stop to consult Martha. Yes, they will not ask for directions but they will meticulously (ie fearfully) follow a recipe.
Martha requires this turkey be swaddled in muslin like a baby and then be basted lovingly with tons of melted butter and white wine. Every 30 minutes. For what seems like 2 days. Unfortunately the muslin doesn't taste so good.

Since the oven was repair wasn't complete until 11.30am that morning, lunch eventually became dinner.
Fortunately we had ample provisions to keep us sustained until everything came together in a delicious around 6.30pm.

TA DA ! Isn't he/she/ beautiful!

The kids kept themselves busy....chasing the Apprentice Gnome Turkey. This year he had no actual kitchen duties so no "chef" title. Actually there are two Apprentice Gnome Turkey Chefs... they had better study hard because their hats will be waiting for them next year!
The little people were very well behaved (mostly) , they went on a turkey hunt, coloured placemats, ate mac n cheese and then some turkey, and then settled to watch a new Disney Tinkerbell movie. Later they hid in the "cubby house" to tell spooky stories. 4 year old spooky stories.
There was orange jelly for the kids too ...and waaay to many candy canes.

My favourite thing of all ....the stuffing! Oh my, awesome sausage, apple, cranberry, herb and cornbread stuffing. I am thinking we might just have stuffing for dinner.

Now that our family includes two little US citizens we may well be celebrating Thanksgiving for years to come, at least as far as circumstances/ingredients will permit. In any case we have come to an understanding that there will never again be a hot turkey dinner at our house on Christmas Day. We are going to be having ours some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL AND SAFE TRAVELS from the keeper of the recipes.

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