(Published in Malay Mail Online Thanksgiving, 27 November)
I’m a big fan of Thanksgiving, so much so that we celebrated it last Saturday to ensure a good-turnout of mates rather than wait for the official “fourth Thursday of November”.
But today, Thanksgiving Day, people across America will be knee-deep in turkeys and pumpkin pie, enjoying their national holiday to the full.
Weird right? That a British family should be celebrating an American tradition in Paris. Even weirder that it’s our 11th. Each year, we get a little bolder on the festive fare front — I’m a dab hand at cornbread now and hubby cooks delicious pralines (or “pray-leens” if you’re Texan).
However, the major ingredient, the crowd pleaser, is always the same: deep fried turkey. A totally novel way of cooking a bird we were introduced to by our neighbours while living in Houston, Texas. It’s quite ceremonial: guests watch, from a safe distance, a 14-pounder (6-7kg) being lowered into a steel bin filled with smoking hot peanut oil heated by a roaring gas-burner. Fire extinguisher at the ready. Cats and small kids indoors. (Ladies — think the BBQ phenomenon where men and beers congregate, thus ensuring “him outdoors” does his share of the work.)
Deep frying turkey… this is how it’s done — Picture by Helen Hickey
My affinity with Thanksgiving increases by the year, so much so that I could quite easily ditch Christmas, and opt for just this instead. Here’s why:
1.You don’t need a “White Thanksgiving” in the same way that you need a “White Christmas”. I always feel shortchanged by a no-show of snow on the big day. That Bing Crosby has a lot to answer for.
2.Thanksgiving removes any indecision on what to serve. My in-laws always have goose, my parents’ beef or turkey or ham. Once, we even had a Turducken on the 25 December — turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken. Thank goodness Thanksgiving’s always about “turkey!”
3.You don’t send Thanksgiving cards like you do Christmas cards. Sometimes I think: “This year, I shan’t bother.” It’s a chore I could do without. Then, a beautifully addressed card from the grandparents lands on the doormat…
4.You don’t bother with presents save for flowers and a bottle of bubbly; always welcomed by the hosts, us, naturally. Like those English pilgrims four centuries ago, who cooked a “thank-you meal” with their first harvest for the Native Americans who helped them grow it, just say “thanks”. Thanks for anything you’re thankful for — simple — and it doesn’t cost a thing.
5.You can hang out with people you actually enjoy spending time with, avoiding grumpy granddads and strange aunts. That’s why some people call it “Friendsgiving” rather than “Thanksgiving”.
6.It takes the pressure off the end-of-year work thing, when businesses and accountants decide everything needs to be done before 31 December. You can therefore enjoy it a little more.
7.It’s over and done with in a day. None of this Boxing Day, Christmas Eve or 12 days thereafter palaver.
8.There’s no singing involved. Unless you’ve had too many margaritas. Christmas carols are never a good thing in our house. My hubby is tone-death and I didn’t inherit those famed Welsh singing genes. Bring on the Roger Creager and Dolly Parton.
9.There are none of the pressures associated with Christmas. People are less stressed, less tired, less broke.
10.It has absolutely nothing to do with religion.