Wednesday, November 17, 2010
A British Thanksgiving
This month we’re remembering holiday meals of years' past. I don’t have a story about a meal that came out wrong. No one trusts me to cook. For example, this year I am charged with bringing fruit salad to Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve been told it’s because I do such a nice fruit salad. Uh-huh.
I do have a story about a memorable Thanksgiving. In 2000 I was in Leeds, England visiting a friend over the week of Thanksgiving. She’s an American and was without family that Thanksgiving. I wanted to get away because my fiancé had dumped me and called off the wedding a few months before…but that’s a different story.
So there we were in England. It was cold and rainy and damp as only northern England can be. I brought two cans of pumpkin in my suitcase, so my friend and I could have some sort of Thanksgiving meal in between visiting the home of the Brontes and stopping in every local pub in the greater Leeds area. I had an affinity for cider that year.
So Thanksgiving Day we walked to the grocery store. My friend didn’t have a car, and this might be hard to believe, but lots of English don’t have cars. They actually walk and take the bus everywhere. I’ve never walked so much in my life except for the other times I’ve been in England.
At the store, we were looking for pre-made pie crusts in which to dump the cans of pumpkin I had lugged all the way across the Atlantic. But there were no pre-made pie crusts to be found. Apparently, the English not only don’t drive, they make their own pie crusts. I don’t know where they find the time with all that extra walking they do. We had to settle for two tart crusts. I guess the English don’t make their own tart crusts. And remember, the UK doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so they hadn’t stocked up on Thanksgiving supplies like the stores in the US. We bought some other Thanksgiving essentials—I can’t remember what now—but not many because we had to carry all of it home on that long walk.
Back at the flat (love saying that), we started to make pumpkin pie, which attracted the amused interest of my friend’s roommates. They thought pumpkin pie sounded disgusting. Of course, blood pudding is so much more appetizing. Right away, we knew we had a problem. The directions for cooking the pumpkin pie—which we had to divide in two since we had two small tart crusts instead of one large pie crust—were in Fahrenheit, and the ovens in England were in Celsius. The metric system strikes again!
And now we had to make sure the pie was good or prove my friend’s roommates correct. Luckily, my friend was getting her PhD in geophysics or something smart like that, so she could do the conversions. We hoped.
We put the pie in, went and sat by the radiator where our jeans were drying (no dryers in England as far as I can tell), and watched “East Enders.”
Some time later the pie was done, and we invited everyone to join us. Much as the Pilgrims may have hesitated when the Indians offered them new fare on that first Thanksgiving, our British friends hesitated to taste the pumpkin pie—or were they tarts? But after the first bite everyone wanted seconds.
And you thought I could only make fruit salad.