Helloooo, blog land! And by that I mean, helloooo Mom (thanks for reading!). I had planned to do Blog-Tober, where I post every day. Then I was all “well, I’ll do Blog-Vember, since I missed Blog-Tober.” And then, I did nothing. Continue reading “Catchup.com – uh, November?”
I’ve wanted to do a Friendsgiving style dinner since maybe before I moved to Sydney. But I’ve just never had the wherewithal or the space to get it together. I mean, my first Thanksgiving here literally snuck up on me the day before, and was thusly celebrated with little fan fare. The second one was better thought out, but as we were in a tiny heat box apartment with only 3 plates and 2 chairs, there wasn’t any space to entertain. But, as luck would have it, at Joel’s exhibition, Hugh (our master chef pal) and I started to loosely plan a big Thanksgiving dinner.
In mid-October we remembered we were planning a dinner (actually, Hugh remembered, because I’m absent minded professor), so we picked a date, set a menu, made a plan, and on Friday night, we made it happen. With Hugh at the ham helm and the grill station, and me with the mayonnaise and bacon salad (America) we fed 17 of our pals and killed many 3 for 1 bottles of wine. It was fan-damn-tastic.
When I think of Thanksgiving food, I want cheesy green bean casserole, heaps of mashed potatoes and gravy, piles of turkey, stuffing, etc etc. But when I think of cooking and eating a meal of cream, cheese, starch and gravy in the air conditioner-less heat of an Australian November, it makes me want to curl up and die. So we adapted the traditional meals for something more light and summery — but still paid homage to the fat filled, cheese topped, heavy, heavy style traditional noshes. What we ate:
- Ham with pineapple/lime/chipotle glaze with a chipotle apple sauce
- Glazed and grilled carrots, and squash and broccolini (topped with pickled carrots)
- Green beans tossed with almonds and pickled onions
- Red Skin potato and bacon salad
- Corn bread from scratch
- Homemade pumpkin pie with spiced whipped cream
- Mixed berry cobbler
- Honorable mention but didn’t make it to the table – buttermilk rolls and mini bourboun pecan tarts.
The meal didn’t come together without its share of Audrey-style mayhem – I was meant to do a big shop on Wednesday night so my Thursday night would be totally free for baking, but Glued to My Phone Election Night Blues got the better of me.
I went to the store, but it was only to buy bacon for dinner and to cry in the aisles like a basket case. So on Thursday, I did my big shop. 90 minutes and 30lbs of groceries later, I was exhausted. At 8PM Joel took command and made most of the corn bread (ok, he really made all of it but I read the recipe to him and grated the cheese and pointed out that I forgot to add the creamed corn, so I’m taking credit, too). Around 9 PM I started boiling the potatoes and putting the pie together. By 10PM the pie corn bread was done, the pie was baking, and the potatoes were still hard, and I was counting how many hours of sleep I’d need to be up at 6:30AM and not feel like a zombie for work. By 10:45PM the potato salad was done, the pie was burnt to a crisp (fucking *F to *C), the buttermilk rolls were scratched, and I was all “fuck it.” and went to bed.
But, the meal was still a success! Hugh is a genius with food, and it’s a meal I wish I was still eating. Here are some moderately good pics – mostly blurry and mostly forgetting key elements like the green beans and the whipped cream gun, but some pics are better than none:
It really was a fantastic night – friends, wine, great food, laughs, and even some interpretive dancing. Thanksgiving is intended to be a day where you reflect on your good fortunes, and for showing gratitude for those good fortunes. I felt the gratitude. And I felt the love. It was a night to not dwell on the negatives (Trump), and it was a night of reassurance that not everything is dark and terrible. As I looked down the table filled with people and candles and conversation and food being passed around and everything just felt – good. If I were the Grinch, this is where my heart would break the frame.
I am incredibly thankful for my Sydney family, for Joel’s friends who have never treated me like a stranger and who I now consider to be my friends, too. I’m thankful for my life here. I’m even thankful for this year, even though it’s been so hard, it’s been so eye-opening and revelatory to support systems I didn’t realise I had.
I’m thankful for the life I live, and I am thankful for the people around me.
And I’m thankful for that ham. Seriously, it was damn delish.
So, on Friday, Joel and I celebrated our
Thanksgiving, ThanksFriday, Thankschicken. As noted earlier, I was determined to make this year’s dinner a good one, and as close to how we do it back in the States, and we succeeded – grandly! I had the planning under control – menu set and recipes bookmarked on Tuesday; shopping done on Wednesday; pie made on Thursday; on Friday, chicken cooked first, then potatoes when there’s 40 mins left, casserole and pumpkin when there’s 20 mins left. But when I got home on Friday I was hit with a wave of cramps and a PMS cloud (hooray) and everything felt out of control and I honestly felt like throwing in the towel and getting Pizza Hut. Thankfully Joel stepped in got the ball moving.
There was an overestimated guess of oven space which resulted in menu items being scrapped (so long, hasselback potatoes and take n bake bread); OMG CHICKEN WILL BE DONE IN 20 MINUTES AND I HAVEN’T MADE THE SIDES panic; panic when the chicken took an hour and a half longer than planned; a bit too much wine and a bit too much panic led to over-salting my famous green bean casserole and accidentally swapping the cheese and onion layer; a destroyed kitchen; feeling a food and wine coma so hard it felt like death was near. It definitely felt like Thanksgiving. The only things missing were a huge family fight and that one relative who gets drunk and says awkward things before he passes out in front of the football game.
And here’s what it looked like!
Thursday night pie prepping: I was going to make crust from scratch, but I decided to tone down the ambition and just use frozen. My grocery store doesn’t carry pre-made shells, but they do carry “short cut” pastry, which is square. So I just used two shells and melded them together in the corners. I didn’t get that fancy lattice look, but I had crust, so that counts. And Joel suggested we use the leftover crust and pie filling to make pumpkin pie rolls, which was basically the best idea Joel’s ever had.
I did have to run to the store at 9 PM in my pajamas and flip flops to grab eggs… sometimes planning doesn’t go exactly as planned. And sometimes the Woolies employees will look at you like you’re homeless.
First up on Friday: lemon herb roasted chicken. I’d never roasted a chicken before, so I was incredibly nervous about getting it right, as there’s nothing worse than dry chicken. So I was messaging my parents all morning for tips, when Joel mentioned that he’d basically roasted hundreds of chickens in his time, and is a roast master. So I let him take the chicken helm. #problemsolved
We set the oven for 90 minutes and went on to other prep! Including whipped cream – last time I tried to make it here, I used thickened cream and icing sugar and whisked it for 15 minutes with nothing happening – except me eating the mixture with a spoon.
Then it was time to drink wine and have some hang times!
When the timer for the chicken went off, we jumped up to hurriedly get the sides items made. And of course, in the time it took to get them made, put in the oven, and baked, the chicken still wasn’t done. OF COURSE NOT. And that’s when I learned a valuable lesson: roast chicken recipes tell you to tie the legs together not because it looks cool, but because it makes the chicken cook faster.
When the chicken was done – almost 3 hours after we put it in – the onions at the base were incinerated, every inch of our apartment smelled of delicious roast chicken, and it was almost 10 PM (no, I didn’t want to have dinner on Saturday when we had more time to cook. I wanted it to be as close to the actual holiday as possible… even if it meant eating super late. haha)
We ate so much between the time I got home and the time we finished dinner that there was no room for pie – something I didn’t think was actually possible.
This morning, I woke up at 4 feeling like I drank the Dead Sea, a blistering red wine headache, and the smell of roast chicken STILL hanging in every room, now making me queasy. It took a fair bit of time to clean up the kitchen (no way in hellll that it was getting done last night), but then it was time for tea and the best part of Thanksgiving: Pie for breakfast.
and later, the second best part of Thanksgiving: leftovers for days.
I always spent my Thanksgivings outside of the kitchen, wine glass in hand, hanging around with relatives and snacking. So I’ve always loved it and I never understood why people hate it and get so stressed out – but now I know. If you’re in charge of the cooking, it’s pretty stressful, as I had a couple of moments when I thought “fuck, it’s all ruined” and I had Joel helping me and it was just the two of us so there was no (obvious, company oriented) pressure. I imagine it’s easier if you have two ovens and a dishwasher, but yeah. I have a new found respect for people who host. And I kinda want to go back in time and help my mom more in the kitchen on the big day.
Maybe next year we’ll just have tacos.
I remain thankful for my supportive and loving family and friends, my new job, the roof over our heads, wi-fi, modern science, tooth brushes, the fact that I have yet to be slaughtered or kidnapped, and Joel, my biggest cheer leader and roast chicken master. I have more blessings than I can count (one being my parents sent me two boxes full of Thanksgiving food prep and two being Joel picked up both boxes from the post office).
I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving! And that everyone survived Black Friday (and didn’t steal anything out of the hands of children)
I feel like it isn’t November yet. In fact, I’m still thinking it’s early October and I’m confidently telling Joel I want to plan a big Thanksgiving party this year, knowing I have 8 weeks to get my shit together.
Well, well, Thanksgiving is actually this week, and I didn’t realize it until yesterday morning. I did what I always did and filed “Big T-Day Party” away in the “this will sort itself out” pile and went about my business.
Party or no party – I am bound and determined to have a better holiday this year. Last year, I spent the first three weeks of November fruitlessly going to job interviews and fretting every day about my shrinking savings account, and I finally scored a job in the week before Thanksgiving. Needless to say, planning a big dinner was the furthest thing from my mind. I was also deeply homesick, a bit hungover, Joel was working late and drained from it, and I had no idea where to buy stuff or what to cook. So I settled on a rotisserie chicken, frozen veg, mashed potatoes, packaged gravy and a subpar box of brownies with ice cream. And tap water. Joel got home around 8 and we watched American tv on my laptop because our TV was broken. He was super cheerful and the spirit of Thanksgiving was there, but the food wasn’t.
This year, though. This year will be different. I’m a bit more savvy in the kitchen, and a bit more savvy about where to shop. I’m still not at the “make an entire Thanksgiving meal by myself” stage, but yesterday morning we thought up an awesome meal that I’m pretty excited about:
- lemon herb roasted chicken (our oven is way too small for a turkey)
- spinach salad with feta cheese and roast pumpkin and macadamia nuts
- my famous green bean casserole
- sliced & baked potatoes (my own experiment – I’m pretty excited)
- Garlic Turkish bread with herbed butter (I thought about pull apart rolls with honey butter, but the salad is sweet and garlic Turkish bread is so good)
- pumpkin pie for dessert
Since it’s not a holiday here, I don’t get a day off, so we’re having Thanksgiving on Friday, so I have more time to cook and hang out. A late dinner on Friday, with wine and cheese and cracker appetizers while the chicken roasts and the other dishes bake. I’m also drawing up a time line of shopping and when to bake what and fantasizing about setting the table. I’m really excited!
Last year, I just let the holidays happen to me. It was my first year doing both Thanksgiving and Christmas without my family (i.e. I didn’t have someone making my plans for me), so between work and finances they both just kinda slipped on by. This year, we’re looking forward to making them count. I love Thanksgiving, and I’m bound and determined to make this an awesome day for us.
ALL THE FINGERS CROSSED that I can stick to this plan, and we don’t end up eating KFC.
Thanksgiving in Australia doesn’t exist, which is a pretty big drawback to living here. Just kidding. OR AM I.
I am a HUGE fan of Thanksgiving. Sometimes, I like it more than Christmas. It’s an entire weekend based around my favourite things: delicious home cooked food, family and friend hang times, lounging and napping, and autumn—and there’s no obligation for presents or non-denominational/non-offensive holiday greetings. Once you look past the whole “White People Tricking the Natives” thing, it’s a pretty harmless American holiday.
While I was preparing to move, I knew that October-January would be the hardest time to be away from my life back in the States. But I was surprised though, that my first Thanksgiving in Australia was a lot like my Thanksgivings in the States:
I went out on Wednesday night for Wendsgiving (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is notoriously the busiest bar night of the year, because more people travel home for Thanksgiving than any other holiday weekend, so there are mad reunions), and per Wendsgiving tradition, drank too much too fast and spent a good part of the night sick*. I did, however, have a fantastic night. Joel and I met up with a smattering of friends at a pub, and then travelled on to Almond Bar, which was probably very delicious, but I only remember eating beetroot and exclaiming how it was the first time I’d eaten beetroot and my life was forever changed**.
Additionally, per Thanksgiving tradition, I woke up on the day of to chilly weather (yay!), with a sore head and a sore realization that I didn’t do any food shopping. Womp womp. Joel has to work late on Thursday nights, and when I was unemployed, I decided that designing an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner for the two of us would be impractical, and maybe even suicidal given how hot the kitchen gets when the oven is on during the summer. Also, I haven’t been able to find any Thanksgiving staples in the grocery stores around me: canned French green beans, French fried onions, cream of mushroom soup, pumpkin pie filling, pie shells, crescent roll dough, a whole turkey. So hunting down the food would be an expensive feat. And there’s that lesser tidbit of “I have never hosted or cooked Thanksgiving dinner before.”
Normally, my lack of food planning or experience isn’t concerning. I typically just make the World’s Best Green Bean Casserole (totally true), no matter where I’m having Thanksgiving, and my mom volunteers to pick up the ingredients when she does her big Thanksgiving shop. However, I didn’t have my mom around this year to help my food bidding, and I didn’t have a big dinner to go to, so it was on me to make Thanksgiving happen. And as I combed the three grocery stores near my job, running out of time in the evening and desperate for a Thanksgiving style food and desert that I could make and enjoy without spending 4 hours of labor, my holiday flare died. I mean, I knew it’d be hard to miss sitting around and hanging out with my family, but I didn’t know how hard it would be to miss pumpkin pie. My chicken/vegetable/gravy mash suddenly didn’t seem good enough, like I failed Thanksgiving. And then it was just an ordinary Thursday night. I threw a box of shitty instant brownies into my basket and went home.
I got home, made the brownies, cleaned up, and started dinner, thinking of how I will plan differently next year, how this was just some collateral damage to living in a new country, etc. A short while later, Joel walked in, and he was beaming, excited for chicken mash, and singing nonsense and telling me what he was thankful for, and just being an awesome force in contrast to my pie-less grump. Like it always does, his good attitude overcame my bad attitude, and everything felt the way it should have–full and loved.
We ate our bowls of mash, and I thought that the night, while it did feel like a regular Thursday, was still really damn good. And I thought about how good it is to celebrate a holiday with my new family and new friends. And I considered my Poor American-style Thanksgiving dinner, our Betty Crocker dessert, and our glasses of water, and my holiday flare exploded. It didn’t look or taste or feel like Thanksgiving in the States, but I felt the gratitude. I felt the love, man. And that’s what the day is about.
So yes. Thanksgiving was lo-key and I had to work and it wasn’t snowing and there was no pumpkin pie, but it was still fantastic. This year has been huge, and I’m thankful that I am where I am. I’m thankful for Joel, for his patience and consideration. I’m thankful for my family and friends and how supportive they’ve been during my move. I’m thankful for technology that allows me to participate in holidays with my family (even if only through picture messages because they can’t figure out Skype 😉 ). I’m thankful for my new job and how much I love it. I’m thankful for meeting great new people. I’m thankful for sweat pants and public transportation and modern medicine. I’m thankful for the internet and for that thrift store Shaya took me to where you pay by the kilogram where I found the perfect chambray shirt I’ve been looking for for about a year. I’m thankful that I woke up with almost no hangover after getting so sick on Wednesday night.
There’s a lot of shit to be thankful for.
*I have never puked so much, so hard, and so violently all at once in my entire life. Not even when I was in my prime and killing bottles of wine and bourbon in the same night. This is 30.
**I don’t remember what it tasted like.