Hannah Drake

Thanksgiving in England

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

I wrote about Fourth of July in England and Halloween in England, but Thanksgiving was the first major holiday we celebrated here. The first one I truly care about, anyway. A lot of people have asked me if I'm missing home and the answer is of course! I would love to be able to be with my family for Thanksgiving, but we had a great Thanksgiving here in England. And I got to practice for when all my family comes to visit us one year on Thanksgiving. (What could possibly make more sense?!)

Luke had to work on Thanksgiving Day (since it's not a holiday here), but we went to Canvas that evening for dinner. I made ginger cookies for dessert for their banquet, so I still did some Thanksgiving Eve baking, as per tradition. At dinner, a British guy told me he learned everything he knows about Thanksgiving from Friends! We had a great time and Canvas did a great job, but what's better than one Thanksgiving dinner? TWO!

We hosted some friends for Friendsgiving yesterday and I decided to do all the cooking so our friends could just so show up (with wine) and have fun! Selfishly, I wanted to be sure I had all my favorite recipes for my first Thanksgiving abroad. There was only one other American there, so maybe no one else knew any better? I started prepping on Thursday by arranging the centerpiece, setting the table, folding the napkins, and making the place cards. Actually I guess I started Monday with our first grocery store run for all the pantry items. Anyway, we wrote why we're thankful for each person on their placecards and then slipped them into the napkins (scroll down to see). It was fun to be able to surprise everyone because you couldn't tell there was anything else written on it until you pulled it out!

On Friday, we went to the grocery store again to get the turkey, the rest of vegetables, and a few other things. I made the rolls (from this recipe) and a pumpkin cheesecake (from this recipe) while watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. After I finished the cheesecake, I was too exhausted to make the apple pie as I originally intended. 

I also got a call on Friday morning about my crate. Earlier in the week they told my mom it would be delivered later in the week or early the following week. I was really hoping for later that week, but when they called me, they told me they would deliver it on Monday and there was no way they could deliver it that day. I was really annoyed because it has a ton of baking stuff that we've put off buying so we don't end up with doubles. A tart pan, muffin tins, a pie dish, measuring cups, my aprons, etc. And I needed the first three for what I was making. I was also annoyed that I wouldn't be getting my salt & pepper mill set, my Thanksgiving napkin rings, my cloth napkins, among other hosting things. Of course the plus side was we wouldn't have to worry about unloading a huge crate on the sidewalk and finding a place to put things (or really just locking everything away in the spare room to hide the mess from our guests). But it was super annoying. Then it occurred to me, maybe I shouldn't be focusing on having my pretty pie dish or my colorful tart pan, my copper salt & pepper mills or my autumnal leaf napkin rings to make a beautiful tablescape. For what purpose? Instagram? To get compliments on my napkin rings from my friends? Maybe instead I should focus on the fact that I get to host people whom I care about around our table. I get to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for our British friends. So when I was forced to use the big (ugly) container the salt comes in at the table, even though it doesn't even have an opening to sprinkle, I tried to remember why I wanted to open up our home to our friends in the first place and what Thanksgiving is really about.

We started Saturday at the hardware store. Luke had found some boards to build a buffet table for our dining room, so we went to get something for the legs. We ended up getting 48 bricks and Luke assembled the table when we got home. He had to saw the boards to be the same length and then sand them. He attached two pieces of wood on the bottom to hold the two boards together and then perfectly centered it all in our bay window. We're both so happy with how it turned out. It's seriously better than all the tables we considered buying and we only had to buy the bricks! It's perfect for a buffet and I'm excited I have some more surface area to decorate later this week for Christmas! Ha! Sadly, while he was building it--with the curtains open, I might add--someone came up to our front door and stole our two pumpkins off our steps. I was going to throw them away, but I figured I'd keep them for ONE MORE DAY for Friendsgiving!

Thanksgiving Dressing

In the afternoon, my friend Taylor came over to help me with some of the cooking. My plan was to make the dressing (from this recipe) and the caramel apple pie (from this recipe) on Saturday. BTW, apparently it's called dressing if it's not actually stuffed into the turkey? Does everyone but me know this? Anyway, Taylor was such a help! She expertly sliced the apples while I worked on the crust and then made the dressing while I messed up the lattice on the pie. First of all, I did actually mess it up by not layering the strips correctly, but then I realized I hadn't even put the caramel sauce in it and my mom brought it over from the States just for this occasion! I took all the lattice off, added the caramel, and then re-did the lattice. I would have spent twice as much time in the kitchen without her and Luke was able to assemble the table, pick up the house, and clean the bathroom. Later, while we were figuring out some timing, I decided to do the sweet potato casserole as well. That way the only thing I needed to cook on Sunday morning was the turkey and I could just warm up everything else.

Sunday morning went a lot more smoothly that I thought it would. We got up to put the turkey in the oven by 9:45 and then didn't have anything else on the schedule until 11:30. (We were aiming to eat at 1:00.) After some tea and a light breakfast, we were watching our show--30 Rock, currently--when we both just ended up in the kitchen starting on the last 2 sides we had to make that day, the mashed potatoes (from this recipe) and roasted Brussels sprouts (from this recipe). After we had chopped the veggies, I pointed out we were about an hour ahead of schedule, so we sat back down to finish our show. Later, we finished cooking, checked to make sure the turkey was going according to plan, and put out some veggies and hummus for our guests to snack on. By the way, I should mention that we ended up doing a frozen turkey breast (with herb butter and a bacon lattice top) because I was terrified that we would get a massive turkey and not be able to defrost it in our fridge or pull it out of the oven when we were ready to eat and it was still frozen somehow.

We made the apple cider cocktail I made at Halloween for our guests mostly because I love it so much and it just feels like the perfect fall beverage. Our guests arrived between 12:00 and 12:30 and Luke and I took turns in the kitchen and with our guests. Somehow, without even realizing it, we actually sat down to eat at 1:00 on the dot.

It was such an enjoyable meal. As the chef, I did really appreciate all the compliments about the food, but it was such lovely conversation and lots of laughter. The only problem is that I used a smaller, deeper dish for the sweet potato casserole so it didn't reheat all the way through in the morning. Everything else was perfect!

After dinner, we had dessert of caramel apple pie (from this recipe) and pumpkin cheesecake (from this recipe) and then played one of our favorite games, Mysterium. Later, we played Drawful 2, which if you haven't played, you need to stop what you're doing and play it. Or at least find a time to play it!

I think everyone left around 7:00 and Luke and I finished cleaning up before collapsing on the couch to watch some more 30 Rock. All in all, it was a really great day! Certainly cooking a few things on the two previous days made a huge difference, especially eating at 1:00. On Saturday night, I called my mom to tell her I have a newfound appreciation for her. Thanksgiving is a lot of work, to be sure, but it's so worth it when you get to be with great people and eat good food!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend, whatever that looked like for you!