Thanksgiving is one of the hardest holidays as an American-born expat. I’d say it is harder than the Fourth of July – it is getting close to winter and the daylight hours are waning, often pitch dark not long after school pickup.
It is that awkward time of year when the temperatures haven’t dipped low enough for Jack Frost to cast a shimmering spell over the rooftops, it is just cold and grey and gloomy.
Every year I make an effort to preserve the Thanksgiving tradition. When I was working fulltime, I would take the day off and spend it in the kitchen.
I’d order a turkey from the butcher, and sneak a Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix, Libby’s pumpkin puree and Oceanspray cranberry sauce out of my reserves of food from home – a stash of treasures that had travelled more than 6,000 miles in my suitcase, carefully wrapped between socks, pajamas and T-shirts.
Once my sister, who was living in Finland at the time, imported a 23 pound frozen Butterball turkey in her suitcase on a trip from New York. But those were the good old days of yesteryear, when there were no luggage restrictions and heightened security.
Imagine my delight when cranberry sauce started appearing in the grocery stores across England. Sometimes I even spot FRESH cranberries in the produce aisle – shiny red rubies amongst the green lettuces. Then Christmas turkeys started to make an early entrance, just in time for our Thanksgiving feast.
But the icing on the cake was when I was in Waitrose a couple years back. Tucked between the evaporated and condensed milk I spotted a straight line of Libby’s pumpkin puree. I felt like little Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I had found my golden ticket! But it was August, and too early to be thinking about pumpkin pies, so I tucked that bit of info in the back of my mind.
This year I am having Thanksgiving with an American friend. She is bringing her southern hospitality and I my pumpkin cheesecake, made from a recipe in the San Diego Junior League cookbook. We are planning a grand dinner, but no matter how hard we try, it just won’t be the same.
You can’t recreate the build-up that starts on the Friday before, the last day of work because you have taken the week off, or the traffic jams on Wednesday evening, as people shut off their laptops early and head to their relatives. The college football in the background, the family members you haven’t seen in ages, the nice weather. There’s a buzz in the air.
Here it’s just another day.
So I stopped off to pick up a few last minute items for our feast.
Who the hell bought all the Libby’s pumpkin puree at Waitrose?
Photo credit: Bigtimes