Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving from Scratch

We all know America is the greatest melting pot of all and everyone is of equal value and if you say they're not then you have to apologize but I can't help feeling that being Anglo-Saxon definitely gives one a leg up in the melting pot.

I felt this especially because I met Dr. Motes, Martin, teaching in Kosovo, southern Serbia, where three languages were spoken: Serbian, Turkish and Albanian,-none of them anywhere close to English. (Locals grumbling about learning Spanish - you have no idea!)

So, anyway, it was obvious that coming from southern Serbia to South Florida would be a piece of cake. And for a 'native speaker' as the English teachers call us, minor facts - such as "vest" and "knickers" in American English having nothing to do with underwear, or that "washing up" means cleaning your face rather than doing the dishes- were not things likely to throw me or make me have to stop what I was doing and call my mother.

But having finally arrived in Florida in October, almost the first thing I was told by Martin, not known as a family man, was that we would be on the road again, for Thanksgiving: to be with the parents. "Thanksgiving is more important for Americans than Christmas."

More important than ...More important than Christmas? It was then I realized I was in a foreign country, that I had married a stranger from a strange land and the child I was bearing would grow up with almost as lopsided an idea of the calendar as the children of my Yugoslav friends, who had their big day in November too, the Day of the Republic. But for them, that was understandable. They were not Anglo-saxon and all the more fun for that, but Americans had no excuse.

All that was a long time ago and as Lord Chesterton said about something entirely different: "The agony has abated." I have since learned the customs of this strange new land and now am proud to announce that when it comes to the turkey for Thanksgiving I yield to noone in my ability to serve up a tender, golden bird. I have become a champion baster. And I do stuffing - from scratch- (I like that American expression) even if it takes for ever. My secret? you ask. One just keeps on adding: the half jar of mango chutney, the last dollop of mustard, whatever's in all those little pots hiding at the back of the fridge, the last few crackers that got put in the freezer. Say what you like about my stuffing - it's definitely from scratch.
And I do cranberry sauce from scratch. In that, I may be being too American. I don't know if our family and friends are different or more lazy than most, but I discovered that making real cranberry sauce did not seem to be traditional. The first year at home, I bought a bag of cranberries, (a new fruit to someone from England) - read the directions, slid the berries into boiling water with a cup of sugar- simmered them till they popped, cooled them and put them in a pretty bowl. And this brought forth exclamations of surprise. Apparently the real American thing is to have some kind of a roll of coagulated berries that slide out of a can.

Now I am an American, finally, but only just. When asked, I didn't know how many stripes were on the flag and I had no idea which president was on what dollar bill. But if they had asked me about basting a turkey or making cranberry sauce from scratch - I would have aced it.


  1. Well, you are brave making cranberry sauce from scratch. We always just bought that cranberry jelly in a can. Hardly anyone every ate it. So a couple of years ago we stopped getting it. Now we make a cranberry jello salad that has fresh cranberries in it. It tastes great, has great texture, and is very healthy for you. Especially, if you use sugar free jello and sweeten the cranberries with Splenda.

  2. So I was right! Cranberry in a can! - Interesting to see how you got round the problem of sugar: a whole cup always seemed too much.My daughter advised Splenda too- this time I put half sugar, a dollop of honey and Splenda. Thanks for writing -and on to Christmas! Mary

  3. If you are interested in trying the recipe:

    12 oz of fresh cranberries
    1/2 cup of splenda
    8 serving size of JELLO Brand cranberry flavor (sugar free) You can substitute 2 pkg of 4 serving size. We have also used cherry flavored Jello sometimes.
    1 1/2 cups boiling water
    1 1/2 cups cold water
    11 oz crushed pineapple (sometimes I put 11 oz of mandarin oranges instead; or try half and half)
    1/4 cup chopped walnuts

    PLACE cranberries in food processor, Process until finely chopped; place in medium bowl. Add splenda; mix well, set aside.

    STIR boiling water into dry gelatin until gelatin is completel dissolved. Stir in cold water. Refrigerate 1 1/4 hours or until thickened. STIR in cranberries and pineapple and walnuts. Spoon into 6 cup mold or a 2 quart bowl sprayed with cooking spray.

  4. Oh my! I left out the last step.

    Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. Unmold, Garnish as desired.

  5. Interesting variations - thanks so much. Mary