We’ve been trying to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with our Friend-With-an-American-Husband for the last few years, but we’ve always been busy or they’ve been busy – which is probably related to is being celebrated a month before Christmas. But this year we got ourselves sorted and had the date booked out about 6 months in advance! Being celebrated on a Thursday (which is a public holiday in America), it didn’t really lend itself to a celebration on the day (people working makes it a bit tricky to roast a turkey and get there and celebrate before having to head home for work the next day), so we made it on the Saturday of that weekend.
Naturally, I was very excited by this. Any time I get to celebrate something cultural and foodie is always good (New foods! New recipes!). But Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that has seeped into my (and probably most people’s) subconscious, through years and years of American TV watching. This is what I had gleaned: there was turkey. There were Yams (whatever they were). There was pumpkin pie. You got together with your family and there may or may not have been fights. You ate lots and then had a nap in the afternoon while the men watched football (refer to Thanksgiving episodes of “Friends” (I love the one where Joey tried to eat a whole turkey), “3rd Rock from the Sun”, “Mad About You” and a dozen other movies). But I was also aware that with a lot of Traditions, each family will develop their own (like in the Friends episode where Monica has to make yams 3 different ways to keep everyone happy). So I was equally as interested to see what their traditions would be.
I had stumbled across a “spiced pumpkin pie” recipe in Delicious magazine about 6 months ago and had kept it safe for such an occasion; and was happy to be given the OK to make such an important part of Dinner.
Which gave me a good chance to think about Pumpkin Pie. Such a stalwart of American tradition (perhaps it should be “As American as Pumpkin Pie”), but still odd. There is a Sweet Potato Pie (which I’m sure is a song by Ray Charles) in my Jamie’s America Cookbook, and I have seen a lot of mentions of rhubarb pie with spring arriving, but pies are usually associated with fruit – apple, berry, peach etc. Pumpkin is a vegetable and one that doesn’t always lend itself to sweetness, though being an Australian child brought up in the 1980’s, I did partake of a few Flo Bjelke-Petersen inspired pumpkin scones. But I guess those Pilgrims just used whatever they had available, and pumpkin would have been something that would have grown and produced a crop in the first year (and is native to North America – thanks Wikipedia!) Good work.So Saturday morning, as I started out making my pastry and roasting the pumpkin I had an unnerving thought…
What if I was making it wrong?What if this Spiced version was a “twist on an old tradition” that actually made it Not the Way it Should Be? Would it taste wrong and thereby Ruin Thanksgiving (as Bart did in the Thanksgiving Episode of The Simpsons?). I had no idea as 1) I had never made pumpkin pie before and 2) I had no idea what Real Pumpkin Pie tasted like.
As I had already started, I vowed to go and Finish What I Had Started, holding onto the fact that these were dear friends who wouldn’t really mind if I bought the wrong pie. Bake on!
Pretty straight forward as baking goes – blind bake a sweet pastry case; roast your pumpkin pieces (drizzled in honey – smelled delicious!). The spices were nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves, which were added to warmed cream, along with treacle and brown sugar. Mix this with your cooled roast pumpkin puree and an egg or two, pour it into your pastry case and bake for half an hour or so.
Looked good coming out of the oven….
So we set off with our pie, and a batch of Peach Ice Cream, which I’m sure is NOT a traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but it IS from Jamie’s America, and as it was a 38 degree day in Melbourne, I was kinda glad I had decided to make it. (I had defrosted my freezer during the week, and so has room to put the ice cream machine bowl back in. Hubby heard this and was quite vocal in his requests for “Peach Peach Peach!” ice cream, so I did what all good wives would do and made it so he would be quiet). We studied up on the origins and controversy of the holiday on the drive over so we could have meaningful and intelligent conversations with our fellow guests (well, at least until we finished the first bottle of wine).We had decorations…
We had turkey (naturally), we had Yams (sweet potato – of course!!), we had mash (potato) and we had American Mum’s traditional bean casserole (complete with battered fried onion on top – so yummy!).
I tried not to eat too much (I didn’t have seconds!) but was still rather full after main course, which gave us all a chance to chat about Thanksgiving traditions (in which it basically sounds like Christmas without the religion and presents) and talk about what each of us were Thankful for (a lovely touch I thought).
“This tastes just like the real thing”.
I think I’ll stick with my version.But we all found it quiet tasty, except the Frenchman (who was also there), which his wife pointed out was probably because it didn’t have enough sugar (we had discussed earlier in the night his habit of having chocolate croissants dipped in hot chocolate for breakfast in France, so this was probably a good observation). It was savoury type of dessert, but still quite tasty – like a spicy pumpkin soup custard (which sounds worse than it tasted!).
But more importantly, I didn’t ruin Thanksgiving.
Which I was very thankful for.