Stories from Scotland: Thanksgiving abroad
Kirkcaldy, Scotland — In America, Thanksgiving is the kickoff to the holiday season. We haven’t been in North American for the past five Thanksgivings, but we’ve never let that stop us from celebrating, although it is significantly more difficult to recreate Thanksgiving in another country.
We spent four Thanksgivings in Italy. And Italy, a country known for its phenomenal food, has a lot, but it doesn’t have cranberries or pecans or canned pumpkin.
There are no short cuts like Pepperidge Farm stuffing or premade pie crust or convenient gravy mixes. And Italian turkeys are on the larger side. At our first Italian Thanksgiving, there was a mix-up with the pounds-to-kilo ratio, and we ended up with a 44-pound turkey, which had to be taken to the butcher to be sawed in half so that it could fit into two separate ovens and cook for three days.
Last year, our Thanksgiving went like this: Ryan and I, always the most determined celebrators of the holiday, were hosting at our house. I made a list of everything we would need, which, of course, didn’t include cranberries and pumpkin.
We decided to drive across the border to Austria, where there was a larger, well-stocked grocery store, because our local store in Cortina was so tiny that you could fit eight of them into Steamboat Springs’ City Market.
Austria is also known for having more exotic ingredients like frozen turkeys that don’t have to be sawed in half before roasting, cheddar cheese and buttermilk.
While shopping, however, we became overwhelmed with the German language, which, in the car, we had momentarily forgotten that we didn’t understand. As it turns out, Thanksgiving shopping is much easier if you know what you’re buying.
In any case, two turkeys were cooked, 20 cups of bread was shredded by hand for stuffing, the gravy was homemade, there were cherry preserves in place of cranberry sauce and all of the dishes had to be washed by hand as dishwashers are a luxury, not a given, in Italy. We were triumphant but exhausted.
This year in Scotland, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Thanksgiving was much easier to recreate.
For starters, what we Americans eat on Thanksgiving, the Brits eat on Christmas. And as the Brits don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, they seem to believe that Halloween is the kickoff to the holiday season and consequently they’ve started marketing Christmas in October.
If you think that the holidays come earlier each year, you have never been to Scotland.
Immediately after Halloween, we started seeing ads on the television for normal-sized Christmas turkeys that had arrived in all the local grocery stores. I couldn’t believe my luck when large displays of canned cranberry sauce started to pop up in aisle 10.
Pre-made Christmas gravy appeared too, and I made a pecan pie using a pre-made pie crust, just because I could. As it turns out, pie is so easy to make when you don’t have to make the crust out of butter cookies only found in Austria.
A few days after Thanksgiving, I received a postcard in the mail from the Imperial War Museum in London. It was of a poster from World War I that states “Victory is in the Kitchen.”
After five Thanksgivings abroad, I would have to agree.
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