Even though Christmas is my FAVORITE holiday of the year, I love Thanksgiving almost as much...so having Turkey Day twice in London made me feel as though I hadn't really missed out on the celebrations back home by being across the pond.

My double Thanksgiving began with a fabulous dinner at the home of fellow blogger Melizza.  She's such a fantastic hostess and her food is always incredibly delicious.  She even makes her own napkins!!!  We chowed down on juicy turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, zucchini casserole, homemade dinner rolls (mmmm!!), gravy, cheeses and homemade crackers!  My food baby was super happy...and then of course: dessert.  Let me tell you, chocolate chess pie? WITH an oreo crust??  Oh hell yes. Pumpkin donuts!!! And buttermilk pecan pie!!!  I waddled out of there, barely holding it together.

Then I decided to cook my own full-on Thanksgiving pretty well by myself.  I wasn't really all that worried about it since I've done 5-course dinner parties before, it's really all about the timing.  I think a couple of things needed a little more time in the oven (or I really should have used the convection setting), but overall, I think it came out ok! 

My stuffing recipe is my maternal grandmother's (Grandma) and it's always been my favorite (don't tell my other grandmother...).  Grandma is well into her 90's these days and hasn't made that stuffing in almost a decade, but I thought of her for days as I made the homemade biscuits and then the homemade cornbread which made up the base of the stuffing.

When my mom first divorced my dad, she and I moved in with her parents (my grandparents) and even though my mom is one of nine (yes...nine) kids, and there are 33ish or so grandkids from those nine, I'll always have a special bond with Grandma because I'm the only grandkid who lived with her for two years.  Making her stuffing was so bittersweet for me because it meant two things: one, that I wasn't with her and two that she can't make the stuffing anymore -- her cooking days are long since over and she lives in an assisted living home now.  But, I loved that I was able to take that recipe and it will always be a part of me and my new Thanksgiving traditions.

I made my other grandmother's Sweet Potato Casserole (because you have to be fair during the holidays!)  I think it needed just a few more minutes in the oven as it was ever so slightly watery and not thicker like it normally is.  Also, I have to say, English sweet potatoes are just not as flavorful as the American ones (or wherever we import them from...oy). 

I also had the added challenge of cooking in Celisius AND having to measure out my butter...as it is in grams here and not in handy labeled sticks.  I miss the sticks, I really do. Maybe the English way is better, but if you've never cooked that way, and don't have a scale, it's a lot of converting and that is a lot of annoying.  Just sayin'.  But, I totally did it and I had an absolute blast.

If you're curious, the menu was something like this:

Texas Thanksgiving in London Menu
Turkey (done brown bag style like Mujerboricua taught me!) stuffed with apples, oranges, rosemary, sage, garlic, chives, celery and shallots
Gravy (made with red wine and drippings)
Stuffing (or should be called dressing because it's not stuffed into the turkey)
Cranberry Sauce made with Winter Pimm's (I made this up...recipe to follow)
Alton Brown's Green Bean casserole with homemade fried onions on top (I also felt like this was too watery and I will adjust that for next year)
Sweet Potato Casserole
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Salad (with pomegranate, seasoned nuts and parmesan cheese)


and then for dessert:
Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake and
Scotch Pecan Pie with Scotch maple cream sauce drizzled over it
(made with Auchentoshan 3 wood scotch!)

Now for the Cranberry Sauce...
So, the cranberry sauce was kind of fun because I sort of made it up as I went along and it turned out delicious.  It is definitely a 'sauce' vs a thicker relish...if you boiled the syrup longer you could thicken it to relish style.  I wanted to have something that was uniquely 'English' at my table to celebrate the fact that this was my first London Thanksgiving and nothing is more English than Pimm's (my new FAVORITE drink in the world, in case you haven't been following the blog...)

Pimm's also has a 'Winter' blend which is kind of cinnamon/orange flavored...so I thought, "I bet that would be damn good in the cranberry sauce.  Oh yes. It was.  So if you're looking for something a bit more complex for your cranberry sauce, try this...and let me know what you think!

Also...because I have leftover cranberry sauce (and some pumpkin)...I'm making this Cooking Light recipe but adapting it for the sauce and changing the regular flour to whole wheat with a few other changes as well (no granulated sugar, just brown sugar...etc.)  I'll keep you posted on how it turns out!!


SARAH'S WINTER PIMM'S CRANBERRY SAUCE

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh (or frozen) cranberries, washed and dried
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1/4 cup Winter Pimm’s
  • 2 Clementines, one zested and both juiced

 

Directions

In a medium pot bring sugar and water to a boil. Add cranberries, stir to blend and bring the mixture to a boil again over medium heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the remaining ingredients.  Stir to blend and simmer for an additional 7 to 10 minutes (or longer if you want a thicker sauce). Some of the cranberries will burst and some will remain whole. Stir and allow to cool before serving.  This can be made up to a week in advance and best made at least the day before for flavors to combine.

 
Apologies for being a terrible blogger. Visitors, exams, another round of visitors, a trip to Paris, and MASSIVE construction on the house (the landlord replaced a bunch of windows) have made me a terrible blogger.  I haven't been reading blogs either which I am really missing these days, so today is my catch up day for all of it!
Now, where I left off...

I finished my exams and I was exhausted.  I wrote 100 pages, in 5 days, writing for anywhere between 14 and 18 hours a day with the final day writing for 21 hours.  I spent the entire day afterward  in bed mindlessly watching Season 3 of Mad Men (yes, I'm just starting now...yes, I know, I'm way behind)

As I was writing on train back from St. Ives on Sunday I encountered some passive-aggressive anti-Americanism which I've noticed several times but just haven't posted on the blog.  I've tried, for the most part, to stay fairly positive and not criticize my adopted home -- mainly because I'm here as a guest and I appreciate the opportunity to live here.  I try to accept most things as they are, and own that my way isn't always the right way, even if it's  the most familiar way. 

But people told me before I moved here that I would face anti-Americanism, and I just really didn't believe them.  My English friends back home are fabulous and the ones I've met here are truly lovely. But, I've encountered this anti-Americanism on enough occasions that I guess I just thought I should mention it since I'm now experiencing it and that is part of this expat journey.

The story went something like this.

I was sitting on the train, working on my exams, minding my own business (I know, this is rare, try not to act too surprised)  Exams were due in a few hours and I had specifically booked the 'quiet carriage' because I knew that I would need the five hours of near silence in order to actually get some work done on the train.

The 'quiet carriage', in case you don't know, is supposed to be a soft-talking, no cell-phone train car that you can specifically book if you don't like to hear people chattering away on their phone all the time.  I confess, I almost always book it.  If you need to talk on the phone you can go to the bar car or step into another coach.  Otherwise, read your book, write your paper...whatever. 

Now, people break the quiet carriage rule ALL. THE. TIME.  This annoys the Canadian to no end (he's a rule-follower, I'm a rule breaker).  I generally don't mind if they break the rules as long as it's not really loud and annoying but the Canadian believes in a well-ordered society and if you talk on your phone in the quiet carriage, you'll definitely get a dirty look from him!

So, on with the story.  A few rows ahead of me, a man starts talking rather loudly on his phone.  This is not a short call to say when he'll meet someone at the station, he is blathering on about football matches, various people, telling stories. etc.  I was far too exhausted to say anything, and I just wanted to get my exams finished BUT, the girl in the aisle across from me (who was in a business suit and clearly working on something on her computer as well) got up and walked up the aisle to where the man was sitting.  She said "Excuse me sir, this is the quiet carriage, would you mind getting off the phone?"

The guy immediately gives an exaggerated sigh and yells into his phone "I have to go mate, some American is yelling at me to get off the phone."  My head whipped up. Uh Seriously??  (and the way he said 'an American' was dripping with contempt).

A) She was not American.  Yes, her accent sounded kind of American but it sounded more like an American who had lived in England for decades, but, there was also something that was not quite American about it that made me know she wasn't originally from the States.

B) She didn't yell (I would have, but she didn't).  She used the quietest, most soft-spoken voice and was really polite and gentle. 

So I leaned over to her across the aisle, after she sat back down, and said, "Well that was kind of an asshole thing for that guy to say," (frankly I hoped he had heard, but I was trying to be quiet because I was in the quiet carriage).  She replied, "Yes, well, I'm not even American, I'm Canadian."  Ahh, of course. It all made sense.  We chatted for a bit and she had, at one point, lived in America (near where the Canadian grew up), but now lived over here, which explained the accent.

But let's rewind.  That guy never would have said "some South Korean is telling me to get off the phone"...xenophobia is completely acceptable with regard to Americans but not to other cultures?  Really?

Listen, I'm not pretending America has done everything right (by any means!) and I'm the first to criticize our government, but what was the point of using 'an American' as a perjorative to his friend?  It would have been more correct to say "some annoying person" or something -- who cares what her 'race' is?? 

Shortly after that incident the Canadian and I went to a secret supper club dinner (I've linked to an explanation if you don't know what one is) and it was WONDERFUL.  The two chefs were phenomenal and the food was more than outstanding...at one point though, one of the chefs and I were talking about craft beers and how most folks are under the impression that all Americans drink is Bud and Miller (uh. no.)  And one of the chefs works with an American craft brewer and was saying how amazing the beers were.  And then he said something like "These craft beers are the opposite of what we think Americans are -- I mean they are elegant and delicately flavored -- and we just think of Americans as crass and undignified, quite the opposite of this beer." 

Now, I laughed, and the chef is a friend of mine and he's a really good guy.  But, he accidentally gave away the secret -- they really think we are all a bunch of crass, undignified, loud, obnoxious fools, bumbling around the planet making messes.  The funny thing is, he was paying me/America a compliment. And I get that. But deep inside, I confess, every time I open my mouth to speak in a public place I am horribly self-conscious that people will hear my American accent and judge me immediately. 

So, it's part of the journey, and I'm accepting it...but I wanted to blog about it, not as a criticism to Brits, but as something that an expat life might bring with it.  It just is what it is.


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