The thing is, one of my new friends in Bristol has never had a Thanksgiving. And she’s seen them on TV and in films, and rightly thinks it looks to be an exceptional holiday. When tasked with explaining exactly what happens at Thanksgiving to my British pals, I’ve always explained it like this: imagine Christmas without all the bullshit. Just a massive big meal. No presents, no faffing about, miminal stress.
Obviously, it’s the description that gets people interested.
Such was my friend’s enthusiasm that, being fortunate enough to have a Canadian and American friend, she felt that it would be best to have two Thanksgivings: a dry run, and then the real thing. Though the idea initially sounded like a good one, diaries were such that scheduling proved a nightmare. And I also suggested that two Thanksgivings would be a bit much. One is enough, I cautioned, and explained that this would be more obvious after she’s experienced one.
But her enthusiasm for the autumnal bounty that is Thanksgiving got me wound up a bit, so I suggested that perhaps we might make The Mom’s chutney, and perhaps also a cornucopia (fashioned from bread dough) for the table that could be used as a lovely display for some decorative gourds. I love a decorative gourd. The Mom used to do this – make the cornucopia and use it as a centrepiece for the table – when we were kids. I remember being, of course, fascinated by this thing. It seemed so odd to me, delightfully decadent, to make a whole bread thing and fill it with gourds (also an exciting moment because the word gourd is just fun to say).
Anyhow, our plan was to make a chutney. I went to the hardware store and got a bunch of freakishly expensive jars. Spare no expense, I thought, it’s freaking Thankssgiving.
However, my Crohn’s decided to get a bit worked up too, and so I had to postpone the chutney-making experience. This will allow me, I think, and I’m probably wrong, to acquire the requisite amount of fresh and ripe fruit. This will be tricky to source, but I feel confident: Bristol and the surrounding Somerset area is known for the apples (and cider), and so I feel confident we can get some of the fruit.
But substituting things for other things over here is not new to me. The first Thanksgiving I had over here, we had sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin, and I added fresh currants to the cranberry sauce in a jar. Granted, I was living in a little fishing village in the back and beyond of Cornwall so things on offer were already sort of restricted, but we made do.
Which I suppose in some ways is sort of in the spirit of Thanksgiving. I’m fairly certain the pilgrims didn’t just ring up Waitrose and order a turkey dinner to be delivered. We, however, will be doing something similar around American Thanksgiving. Our American friend here is quite the intrepid girl, and knows where to get a whole turkey (after it was suggested and obviously poo-pooed that we get a turkey crown, I mean, what are we? Heathens?), fresh cranberries, and tinned pumpkin (and not the overpriced stuff you can get from Harrod’s). And though I missed my Thanksgiving at the usual Canadian time, I can see the benefits in doing it at the Americna time: more chance of getting the right foods in.
Anyhow, the chutney. I’ve made it here before, just once. And it worked a treat, even though the peaches weren’t great and we had to substitute nectarines. As The Mom would say: it tastes the same.