A day dedicated to food, family, friends, and all thing to be thankful for. Did I mention food?
A holiday that doesn’t involve religion so can be celebrated by all? A holiday that doesn’t involve obligatory give exchanges? No silly costumes (I hate dressing up). No singing (I can’t carry a tune). A holiday where you just stay home and eat?
What’s not to love about Thanksgiving? It is without a doubt my favorite holiday of the year.
I love the food. I love the cooking. I love the eating. I love the company. I love the preparation leading up to Thanksgiving. And if I’m not cooking, I love helping out in the kitchen. I’m like the perfect guest 😉 – I’ll even eat all your leftovers!
Okay, maybe not so perfect a guest if you actually wanted leftovers. Oh, I won’t, however, eat your desserts. Did I just get downgraded from perfection?
It’s not that I don’t like you or your desserts. I’m just one of those people whose sweet tooth was replaced with savory tooth and perhaps even another-glass-of-wine tooth. So I will take a third helping of that turkey and all the sides, please (*holds out wine glass for refill*).
When Scotch and I moved to Dubai, I wanted to continue the tradition of Thanksgiving dinner. We are blessed with so many things in our lives for which we are thankful for every day. I miss celebrating this holiday with my friends back home but I have received so much joy in sharing it with new friends.
Here’s a look back on our Thanksgiving festivities in Dubai.
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I arrived in Dubai in November of 2007 and that year we barely had an oven nor furniture when Thanksgiving came around. We were stray and we were hungry for turkey.
Luckily one well-ingrained tradition involving Thanksgiving is to take in stray and turkey-hungry Americans. We were invited over to Scotch’s friend’s place and our turkey craving was satisfied with a Puerto Rican twist (the host’s heritage was Puerto Rican).
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Americans are in the minority here in Dubai so most of our friends are from countries such as (in alphabetical order so no one gets upset) Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, The Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, New Zealand, and the UK.
In 2008, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for about 20 friends. There was turkey, stuffing, creamed corn, mash potatoes, and jello shots. Yep, you heard me right. Jello Shots. Not a traditional item per se but traditional in our household now.
I struggled a little bit with the turkey that year. First, it crushed and broke my cell phone when I accidentally placed the turkey on top of my phone. Apparently 9 kg (19.8 lbs) is heavy enough to crack a small screen.
And the day before Thanksgiving, I realized that my heavy-duty turkey roasting pan from the U.S. didn’t fit into my small Dubai oven. So off we went in search of a suitable one and Ikea saved the day.
I recall that first year when my friends who had never heard of Thanksgiving asked me what it was. I replied, “You don’t know what Thanksgiving is?!!” Said with emphasis because I was getting all excited at being able to explain the wonderful holiday that is American Thanksgiving.
As I began to explain how it’s a day to give thanks and how it’s one of the BIGGEST eating and travel holidays of the year is, I also began to realize that I couldn’t recall how it all started.
Here’s what came out of my mouth: “Well, it’s a bank holiday in the US. Always on the fourth Thursday of November and so Thursday and Friday are national holidays and many companies, at least the ones I’ve worked for, often let us out from work early on the Wednesday.
There’s almost always turkey (although one year my mom made duck because she doesn’t like turkey) and stuffing, and cranberry sauce, and lots of awesome side dishes and as the name implies, we give thanks.
Oh, how did it start? Um, well, long ago there were pilgrims. Somewhere in the area that is now New England. And uh, they were starving because they didn’t know the land. And, the Native Americans saved their lives by giving them food like corn and pumpkin…and turkeys?”
Right. Whatever details I learned in primary school about how and when the first thanksgiving came about had totally leeched out of my brain and replaced by over-simplified stories perpetuated on American mass media (like the cartoons I’ve been subjected to lately).
But there’s always Wiki to refresh one’s memory:
- Thanksgiving began as a tradition of celebrating the harvest of the year.
- Modern Thanksgiving holiday traditions trace their origins to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth (present-day Massachusetts).
- While initially, the Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed half of the 102 colonists, the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the Pilgrims by providing seeds and teaching them to fish.
Foods traditionally served at American Thanksgiving:
- Roasted turkey is usually the main feature
- Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, various fall vegetables (mainly various kinds of squashes), and pumpkin pie
Because I hate making desserts, Thanksgiving ones are normally a group contribution. Scotch even made a raspberry pavlova that year (upper left):
By the way, Canadians also celebrate Thanksgiving, but what I didn’t realize was that their Thanksgiving is held in earlyOctober until I moved to Dubai and wondered why so many frozen turkeys started to make their appearance in grocery stores in October.
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In 2009, I was heavily pregnant with Wee Scotch who was due any day then. As much as I wanted to have a big Thanksgiving gathering like the previous year, I did not have the stamina to stand on my feet and prep and cook for 2 days straight.
Even cooking for our small dinner party of 7 was quite a strain on my back so the dinner was a group effort with our chef friend CB bringing his mashed butternut squash, sautéed asparagus with mushrooms, beets, and cranberry sauce.
We had a smaller turkey this year at about 5.5 kg (12 lbs). The men took over cooking duties with their matching aprons. Somehow I managed to burn the turkey…
I actually made dessert that year! Although I don’t like Oreo cookies, I do like Oreo cheesecake in an Oreo crust. So I made Oreo cheesecake with a Keebler ready-made Oreo pie crust which is a rare find in Dubai so when I saw it at Safestway, it immediately went into my shopping basket and dessert menu.
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2010 was another large Thanksgiving gathering of about 20 people at our place. Scotch bought me a Global carving set from Tavola and the knife was so sharp, I cut deeply into my left index finger while I was carving the turkey. ‘Til this day, there is still a noticeable scar.
And don’t forget that no Thanksgiving at my place is complete without Jello Shots. Last year, my friend RM brought some with vodka soaked pineapple. I can’t wait to taste what she has mixed up this year!
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So now that brings us to 2011 and Scotch and I are expecting about 30 friends over for Thanksgiving dinner and I hope the 10 kg (22 lbs) Goliath of a turkey that I found at Choithrams will be enough to feed everyone because my oven is too small to make two turkeys.
This year, inspired by reading fellow Dubai blogger Sheryn’s account of her Thanksgiving, I’m going to give French Bean Casserole one more try. I happened upon a dusty container of French’s Fried Onions at Choithams that was just at the end of it’s shelf life but as with most things in Dubai, I’m glad I was even able to find it.
The Ginger and Scotch 2011 Thanksgiving Day Menu:
French Onion Dip with Crudite
Crostini with Goat Cheese, Beets, Orange and Mint
Crostini with Crab and Wasabi Mayo
Green Pea Veloute in mini shot glasses
Steak Bites with Bloody Mary Sauce
Ginger and Scotch Pumpkin Nutella Squares
THE MAIN EVENT
Sausage and Cranberry Apple Stuffing
Truffle Mashed Potato
Green Bean Casserole with French’s Fried Onion
Salad of Roasted Butternut Squash and Baby Spinach with a Garlic-Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette
Turkey Gravy and Cranberry Sauce
DESSERT and DRINKS
Bring Your Own!
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Can’t wait to share this feast with our friends in just a few days…