Sunday, November 29, 2009
This week it was time to celebrate my third expat Thanksgiving. Last Thanksgiving I cheated my way out of cooking dinner by ordering food from my favorite local grocer, Rosslyn Deli. In lieu of attempting to shove a huge turkey into my tiny oven and trying to cook stuffing while lacking any culinary skills whatsoever, I left the dinner to the experts and gave thanks for being able to shirk out of my cooking responsibilities.
This year I once again managed to avoid most of the responsibility of hosting Thanksgiving dinner while still getting to have people over to my flat. A couple of friends in London organize a big Thanksgiving dinner each year and ask a different friend to host the dinner every November. This year it was my turn. The deal was sweet: they would do all the shopping, all the cooking, and all the cleaning if my boyfriend and I opened up our flat to them and their friends, and of course a few of ours as well.
Not being able to turn down the chance to get out of cooking dinner, I told my friends ‘yes’ as soon as they asked. After a month of preparations and a lucky deal in which I got Thursday off work, the big day finally arrived.
One friend arrived at 10am, as did the grocery delivery. The kitchen sufficiently stocked with raw materials for Thanksgiving dinner, my friend got out his list of dishes and we stared crossing things off. For the next several hours, I served as prep cook, wine taster (we had to make sure it wasn’t poisonous!), crybaby (chopping six onions will do that to you), and last-minute errand runner.
My neighbors had kindly agreed to let us use their oven for the turkey, so in the middle of the day we had our very own Thanksgiving parade through the streets of Hampstead with a butter-smothered, bacon-covered, stuffing-gorged bird. Four hours later, we returned with a golden roasted turkey and started preparing for the arrival of our 26 guests.
We covered every spare inch of table space with food: sweet potato casserole, mountains of mashed potatoes, stuffing, roasted vegetables, savory salads, cornbread, and of course, turkey. There were pies, tarts, and chocolate cakes for dessert, and it goes without saying that we washed it all down with a few bottles of wine. Our flat in no way has sitting room for 26, but the friends that came for dinner didn’t mind standing as they helped themselves to firsts, seconds, and in some cases (mine), thirds.
At the end of dinner we had a special post-gluttony treat from America. My boyfriend’s former roommate used his Slingbox to beam over some American football. Maybe it was just the tryptophan, but I really felt like the game lulled us all into a sense of peace and well being. At the very least, it made everyone feel a little bit closer to home in spite of being so ridiculously far away.
Dinner wrapped up around 11pm and a skeleton crew remained to mop sweet potatoes off the kitchen floor, pack up leftovers for the traditional post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches, and vacuum pie crust and cracker crumbs off the living room rugs. At midnight I fell into bed after washing my millionth dish of the day and vowing to never eat again.
While my vow only lasted eight hours—five of which were spent sleeping—I set a longer term goal to continue spending my Thanksgivings in London being thankful for the friends, family, and food (preferably that which is cooked by others) that make the holiday such a good one.