Thanksgiving dinner: A dress rehearsal for Christmas

We cook up a feast for our first Thanksgiving in America.

Thanksgiving is a peculiarly North American holiday. In the United States it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November and in Canada it is the second Monday in October and is, I believe, more of a harvest festival. Perhaps readers can enlighten me on the differences between the two versions of Thanksgiving?

I have lived in the United States for less than six months, which means I have just celebrated my first Thanksgiving. Although it’s not “our” holiday, we didn’t want to ignore it now we are living here. I didn’t get invited to spend it with an American family and all my expat friends were out of town, so it was just the two of us. That was lovely as it meant everything was on our schedule with no pressure.

Thanksgiving morning

We slept in until late. Then we got up and made brunch. We had Scandinavian pancake – see recipe here. This dish looks impressive but is actually ridiculously easy to make, so it’s both stress-free and utterly scrumptious! We served it with white peaches that have been in the freezer since the end of summer, stewed and served with chopped almonds and a dollop of whipped cream. And freshly made coffee.

Scandinavian pancake

Scandinavian pancake

Scandinavian pancake

Scandinavian pancake with peaches, almonds and cream

Then we went for a long walk through Glen Canyon, along through the tangled overgrown gully and then up over the rocky ridges. We were gone about an hour and a half and we passed lots of other walkers, many with dogs but some without.

Thanksgiving dinner

Then we came back and started the serious business of the day – cooking and eating. It was a team effort and it was tricky juggling the timing of all the dishes especially as we had a shortage of cooking equipment (which we have now started to rectify). But we got there in the end. And we had leftovers for about a week, which was great!

We sat down at about 5pm, after about four hours of cooking. The feast included stuffing, roast butternut squash (pumpkin), mash potato and mushroom-miso gravy, brussel sprout hash and green beans with lemon and pinenuts. Most of those recipes came from Epicurious. As the meat eater in the family, I also had roast duck breast with cranberry sauce, and Italian sausage with my stuffing. There didn’t seem much point cooking a turkey for one person and even the turkey breasts were huge.

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner with roast duck breast and accompaniments

Mash potato with mushroom-miso gravy

Mash potato with mushroom-miso gravy

After dinner we went and snuggled up on the couch to watch a movie (we revisited a childhood favourite, The Dark Crystal). A little while later we had our sweet course. I also wrote some thank you cards.

Thanksgiving dessert

I had originally planned to make dessert and I’d even picked out a suitable recipe, but I ended up buying a pie on impulse. I was in Drewes Bros Meats, a butcher cum deli in Noe Valley. The plan was to buy duck breast and wine but I found they were selling gorgeous homemade pies. I bought a pecan pie for $15, simply because it looked so gorgeous. Then I bought vanilla ice cream from Mitchell’s to go with it. Dessert was lovely and certainly easy!

Pecan pie

Pecan pie from Drewes

Pecan pie and ice cream

Pecan pie and vanilla ice cream

Now I’m sure Thanksgiving with two people is very different to Thanksgiving with a dozen people of varying ages, just as Christmas with the two of us is different to Christmas at home with the whole family. But we still really enjoyed the holiday! It was fun and we felt like we were celebrating. It was a lot like Christmas only with fewer traditions – no tree, no carols, no presents. I think we might make the walk a Thanksgiving tradition.

For Christmas we are repeating some of the same dishes or concepts, but this time I’m going to do some cooking on Christmas Eve to minimise the work on the day. And I’m going to make a pie.

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Comments

  1. Next time, you have to have turkey — not duck — on Thanksgiving! Glad you enjoyed the holiday :)
    .-= Travelogged´s last blog ..Top 10 Trips I Wish I Had Taken This Year =-.

    LOL. Well next time maybe I’ll be cooking for more than just one person! One of these days I’m dying to make roast goose for Christmas Day (the traditional Christmas bird before the 1930s). It’s perfect for 6-8 people. – Caitlin.

  2. Yum, that food looks delicious! Too bad we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK. Peter

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  1. [...] Parts of this recipe can be done ahead. After my experience cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I certainly had good intentions about getting organised. I did do some food preparation the day [...]