Preparations. Sweet potatoes, cranberries, kale, oysters, chestnuts, apples, maple syrup. It seems somehow odd, if you stop and think about it, that one day of the year (the last Thursday in November, as it happens) was chosen at random as a singular day to eat a singular meal. I can see where an outsider, someone visiting from another country, might really feel like an outsider if experiencing this holiday for the first time. It’s kind of like an insider’s club, the one time when seemingly every single person in this country is eating almost the exact same thing on the exact same day. In conversation with just about anyone – whether the cable repair guy, or the person ahead of you in the Supermarket check-out line, or in a phone call to your long distance aunt in another part of the country – we can discuss our shared history revolving around such things as mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie, or cranberry sauce, or turkey, or stuffing. Oh, and swap recipes too. I remember being in Chile for September 18th, their Independence Day, and feeling what I imagine is a similar feeling of outsiderness when suddenly all that was available was the national dish of beef empanadas (in addition to lots of other, mostly grilled, beef). During that long weekend, that was all that was eaten. Everywhere. By everyone.
Certainly, the inverse can be strange and disorienting as well. That is, spending Thanksgiving in another country. Luisa wrote a lovely piece about a Thanksgiving meal in Berlin that was posted on the Saveur website today. In it she eloquently describes a longing – on that one particular day of the year – for the traditional dishes she associates with this holiday.
I have always liked the traditions of Thanksgiving – both the food traditions and people traditions, both old and new. I’m looking forward to all of them on Thursday. And on that note, I ought to get back to preparations. Some of the things being worked on here, from top to bottom, sweet potatoes, kale and cranberries.