'Sharing the American culture', or 'Stuffing ourselves silly'

Brittany L. Strachota

I finally had a chance to feel culturally significant among my rather well-traveled friends here when, after a massive shopping trip at the store a mile away and approximately 14 hours of cooking, Thanksgiving came to Leeds!

Generally, I'm the token American in a gaggle of Aussies (with a couple Germans and a Frenchman thrown in for good measure). It was exciting to be able to share something from my home and background. Mom was instrumental in food preparation; she got up at 4:00am on Wednesday to give me family recipes and cooking tips over Skype. Now that's love.

TGiL recipes.JPGThe product of the Skype chat - scribbled recipes and ingredient lists (with metric conversions on measurements)

Thankfully, English Christmas meals share many components of American Thanksgiving meals. The grocery store just stocked whole turkeys, aluminum aluminium baking pans, and imported cranberries (from North America, of course). I was particularly worried about the cranberries, as the sauce is one of my favorite dishes. I've spent the past 21 Thanksgivings in the Midwest, often driving past Ocean Spray bogs, so they're a given. Easy to find. Fresh. Plentiful. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, cranberries are getting more popular in Europe, so Wisconsin exports quite a bit over here. It's a good thing, too, since even with this boom, the tiny containers of the fruit went for about $5 a pop.

Another reason to be thankful: Michael ('13) came to visit this week, and helped me lug everything back to the flat. Plus, he came with a suitcase that was perfect for Tom (our turkey). Fun fact: Tom weighed 5.26 kilograms. I've never seen a turkey weighed in metric units before. It's not right.

TGiL groceries.JPGMost of the supplies, back in the flat

Cooking commenced shortly after supplies were acquired, and continued into the night. Just another tradition to uphold.
On Thanksgiving day, friends came over to help set up, and we had construction paper waiting. Here's the real cultural part.

TGiL making turkeys.JPGEmbracing the tradition

Inevitably, the hand turkey exercise turned into a contest. I was shocked to see how quickly my friends jumped into this tradition; everybody waited for the scissors rather impatiently, eager to add a new feature to their own creation. These works of art included flames, teeth, princess crowns -- the works.

TGiL paper turkeys.JPGFinished creations, put on the bulletin board in our kitchen
Of course, this was also a stall tactic. Tom needed to sit for a while. (Turkey fun fact #2, courtesy of Wikipedia: When Europeans first encountered turkeys on the American continent, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guineafowl. Guineafowl were also known as turkey fowl because they were imported to Central Europe through Turkey.)

Now, the thing that makes me most thankful of all: EVERYTHING WORKED. I couldn't believe that I (or the St. Mark's kitchen) was capable of producing a passable Thanksgiving meal without ruining any of the dishes. But it happened. Here's the proof:

TGiL table.JPGEveryone gathered round for their first Thanksgiving

We had turkey, mashed potatoes, apple sauce, Irish stuffing, green bean casserole, maple cranberry sauce, and caramel apple pies for dessert. One of my favorite comments of the night came from a friend after taking a bite of pie: "You made this?"

Though it was my very first Thanksgiving away from home (and Mom's cooking), it still felt right. The smells and flavors were there, the Packers won (11-0 this season!), and the St. Mark's clan made for a fantastic substitute family, perfectly dysfunctional.

Posted in: Class of 2013