Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Thanksgiving, Observed

As one of my most ambitious cultural experiments to date, I cooked a facsimile of Thanksgiving dinner for five all-British dining companions over the weekend.  As I have never actually dabbled in turkey myself, and now truly appreciate my mother for all the years of work she's amassed while entertaining us, it was somewhat daunting.  My mantra was, "It's just a large chicken."  Here was the menu:

Crudites with cream cheese chive dip
Fruit and nut mix
Mulled cider
Gingered cranberry pear sauce
Roast turkey breast
Turkey gravy
Honey glazed carrots
Green beans with bacon and shallots
Mashed sweet potatoes with a touch of maple syrup
Crockpot scallopped potatoes
Pillsbury croissants (what I would call crescent rolls)
Pumpkin banana mousse tart
Vanilla ice cream

As I typed that list, I suddenly realized what I had suspected all Friday and Saturday while doing as much ahead of time as I could: damn, that's a lot of food for six people.  I sent Evites and called it our "Totally Tremendous Thanksgiving."  Best not to disappoint, I thought.

I had no expectations of how the offerings would go down.  After a brief show-and-tell segment, the diners willingly queued at the sideboard.  Being somewhat of a foodie, I forgot decorum and got in line before some of my guests.  Whoops.  Overall, there were completely clean plates, both dinner and dessert.  I think the experience is best summed up in the words of the diners:

Re the fruit and nut mix:
Chumley: "What are those giant brown things in here?  They kind of look like turds. You can have those." 
Answer:  They were dates, Chumley.  Thanks for being so graphic.

Re Mulled cider:
Guest 1:  "That's quite quaffable.  What's in it?"
Answer:  Alcoholic cider, orange juice, clove, cinnamon sticks, oranges, a lemon, golden caster sugar.  Ed. note: the range of sugars here is mindboggling.

Re Gingered cranberry pear sauce:
Guest 2:  "I quite like the cranberry sauce.  It's not weird.  We have that, you know."
Guest 3:  "Guest 4 (her husband) has just dropped cranberry sauce all over the table.  Can't take him anywhere."  Ed. note:  the spot appeared next to Guest 3's water glass and while Guest 4 was still at the buffet.  I suspect a setup.

Re Roast turkey breast
Chumley: "Decent turkey, Claire."
Guests in unison (muffled): "Yes, very good."
Ed. note: documenary evidence supports these comments as none was left on plates and Guest 5 went up for seconds.

Re Turkey gravy
Guest 4 (commenting on my usage):  "We just pour it over everything."  Ed. note: he was behind me in line.  He looked hungry and is not a small man. 

Re Stuffing
Me: "I refused to roll it into little balls," commenting on the common English custom of serving balls of stuffing with a roast dinner.  Chaka Khan, man. This was Thanksgiving observed.

Re Green beans with bacon and shallots
Upon seeing a large pile of cooked bacon waiting in the kitchen, Chumley:  "Mmm.  Bacon." Starts reaching for a piece while doing Neanderthal impression until I shoo him away from meaty stack.
Guest five: "You mean shal-LOTTS!"  Ed note:  the emphasis is on the last syllable in British English. 

Re Mashed sweet potatoes with a touch of maple syrup
Guest 1: "I quite like the mash of yams, or sweet potatoes, or whatever."  Ed. note - no demerits issued for poor nomenclature.  I'm just happy they were adventurous enough to try them.

Re Crockpot scallopped potatoes
Chumley:  "Yes, they are ugly.  But they taste good."  Ed. note:  I would not make these again.  Mushrooms turned potatoes ugly brown, coupled with too much neurotic prep by me in cutting potatoes the day ahead without benefit of water submersion.  I was hoping their color would improve with cooking and soaking, but alas, no.  Rookie error.

Re Pillsbury croissants (what I would call crescent rolls)
Guest 5: "The only thing I was really surprised by in this dinner was the croissant."  Ed. note: Huh?  Scary dinner rolls jumping off the buffet at him?  Apparently, rolls with dinner were not customary to this diner.  This did not impede consuption, however.

Re Pumpkin banana mousse tart:
Chumley: "Hey.  Whoa.  I want that broken crust, please."  Ed. note: dessert was hard to cut, but crunchy faux graham cracker base is Chumley's favorite.  No luck in finding graham crackers, so had to substitute crushed digestive biscuits.  Chumley advised me away from hardcore pumpkin pie, so lighter, less squashy choice seemed well received.
Guest 5: "The crust is so crunchy!" Ed. note: Guest 5 appeared to have the same exuberance for cookie crusts as Chumley does.  He went up for seconds at dinner; otherwise, I think I might have forced another piece of tart down him.

Re Vanilla ice cream:
Me: "It's low fat... aw shit, who am I kidding?  That's like asking for a rum and diet coke.  Why bother?"

All in all, I deem it very successful and enjoyed the company of all dining companions.  Now Chumley gets to live through more of the authentic Thanksgiving experience: the recycling of the turkey.  Turkey noodle soup, anyone?


ChaChaneen said...

Mmmm, yummy menu, wish I lived across the pond. Lurved your editor notes... hilarious! Thanks for sharing!

Lolo13 said...

Too funny--I served nearly the same menu to my UK guests in Birmingham and got the same reaction with the croissants! I guess they are only ever used to seeing them as a breakfast food, and never something to be eaten with dinner.