20 October 2011 | Posted inBlog News & Updates
Posted by Deborah
Thanksgiving – it’s a time for family to get together and share good food. I wanted to make dinner on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (about seven weeks before the US) for my flat-mates, as they’re my family while I’m here in the UK.
Shopping: I knew there would be challenges to prepare the traditional meal, but was surprised at some of the ones I encountered. The oven we have is relatively small, so I bought a large chicken and made the bread stuffing. The day before I had a green garbage bag on my bed with a loaf of bread shredded into small pieces drying out to the right degree of staleness. The farmers market has wonderful vegetables so the menu contained cauliflower with cheese sauce, Brussels sprouts, mashed
potatoes and gravy. I also wanted to have squash and finally found one in the market, although I don’t know what variety it was. It was shaped like an acorn squash, but twice the size and a much lighter green colour. Luckily it was cut in half or I wouldn’t have even known what it was. It was also quite expensive, about the cost of all the other vegetable put together, which is maybe why they aren’t readily available here. The most difficult part of the meal was making a pie. I planned on making a pumpkin pie, but there were no pumpkins in the market (I was actually hoping to find pumpkin puree in a can, but was willing to go to the extra work of chopping and cooking a real pumpkin). It turns out that England’s cold wet summer has made it a bad season for them, so I changed to an apple pie. Every step of the pie making had a challenge: a) They don’t have pie plates; I never found one at any price; I went to pound shops, grocery stores, kitchen ware shops and high end department stores and never saw the angle-sided pie plate like we are used to, although there were many sandwich tins (I’m still not sure what they are as they look like a round cake tin), baking sheets, etc. I decided to forge ahead anyway and use one of the sandwich tins. b) Pastry issue #1: the recipe I use has a small amount of white vinegar in it and I could only find malt vinegar, great for fish and chips. I found a distilled white malt
vinegar and decided to use it; the fragrance was a little odd, but it didn’t affect the taste. c) Pastry issue #2: find shortening or lard. I looked many places and finally went on-line to see if it has a different name here in England. I found a blog entry asking ‘What is shortening – I see it in so many North American recipes?’ The response was from an American married to an Englishman and living in London who had found it only at Sainsbury. Without this there would have been no pie, so I was glad to run over to my local outlet and buy it. d) Cranberry Sauce: no chance of getting fresh berries and cooking it myself, but I lucked out and found it in a jar in Sainsbury and now know where to shop for exotic North American food.
Cooking: I made the pie first thing in the morning and it was successful except for the drips all over the bottom of the oven. Crimping the edges of the pie on a straight sided pan was not successful, so it was a solid ring of caramelized sugar below the
pan. I was afraid to start roasting the chicken until I cleaned it (the prospect or it turning to permanently imbedded burnt stuff was not pleasant), so I was off to the corner store to buy oven cleaner before cooking the main course. I made the stuffing both inside the chicken and in tin foil, so my vegetarian flat-mates could have a taste of one of my favourite parts of the meal. They
had never seen anyone make mashed potatoes, so right before dinner there was a camera flashing and I had a helper holding the pot and using the spatula as I was mixing them.
Eating: It was a novelty putting the whole meal together without all the normal pots, pans, serving utensils and platters that I have back home. I invited one of my class-mates to come for dinner as well and told her to bring her own dishes, flatware and glasses as we don’t have any extras. Living in residence means that everybody just has enough for themselves. I think the meal was a success, although they were all a bit hesitant about the strange food; however, I did see some of them go back for seconds and there were lots of questions about what the ingredients were and how I made the various dishes. I’m glad I did it and it was nice for all of us to sit down together for a meal not just be in the kitchen at the same time making a bunch of separate meals and under one another’s feet. There was plenty of food, even for the ones who only ate the vegetable dishes and there were still leftovers for me to consume over the next week, which is all part of Thanksgiving.
Next week is Diwali, so I’m looking forward to some great Indian food, but I understand that the specialty for this festival is a lot of
sweets. There goes my diet again!