London Thanksgiving Struggles

(Anna Seward)—If you ask most people what their favorite holiday is they usually say Christmas, their birthday, or both. Mine is Thanksgiving. My father’s family mostly lives scattered along the West Coast (with Tennessee as the major outlier) and when I was younger we always made the drive over to Boise, Idaho to celebrate at my grandmother’s house. It was basically the perfect holiday experience. I would fall asleep in the car as we drove through the Blue Mountains, bundled up in rough oversized blankets, and wake up to snow in my grandmother’s driveway and freshly baked ginger cookies. As I got older, my love for Thanksgiving only grew as it became the time to sleep off stress and for my relatives to say flattering things about how grown up I was starting to look. Our Thanksgiving traditions have moved to Portland in the last few years when my grandmother moved closer to our home and my mother’s family emigrated from Peru. Now our relatives come to us and I get to be more picky about how I want things to go. You know the term “Bridezilla?” Well, I’m kind of a Thanksgivingzilla.

It’s not my fault, really, I just seem to be the only one who understands Thanksgiving necessities. I can’t tell you the number of years my family has tried to change the meat from turkey. The only year we didn’t do a big family affair, my father got us a turducken despite some loud screaming and a small tantrum on my part (you don’t need to know how old I was. It’s not important). Yes, that is a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. There was also a particularly traumatizing ham incident when we still had Boise festivities that I don’t even like to think about. These are the only times they’ve succeeded but usually around late October I have to start to convince my mother that duck really isn’t the way to go.*

If you’ve read my earlier blog posts, you know this semester I’m in London. In my last few weeks at home, my parents kindly offered to recreate a Thanksgiving meal for me when I got back in December. However I was optimistic about finding other homesick Americans and that’s an absurd amount of cooking for them to do twice in one year so I declined. The first couple weeks of the semester every time I met an American we would both say, “Oh, my God, you’re American too? We should do Thanksgiving!” This turned out to be the study abroad equivalent of meeting people at orientation and saying, “Oh, my God, you’re a freshman too? We should hang out all the time!!!!!” Luckily I did make some more lasting friends and plans were made. One of my more food-obsessed friends and I took the lead and announced we were going to cook the turkey and stuffing.

We didn’t realize acquiring a turkey would be problematic. There are adverts** all over London for free range turkeys and turkey dinners at pubs, but it turned out that, of course, none of these were available in November. My friend and I exchanged rapid-fire facebook messages over the course of several days last week as we googled basically every farm in England and dubbed it the “turkey hunt of 2012.” Thankfully*** we found one closer to home and are picking it up today. It’s even small enough to fit in our miniature dorm oven. We hope.

The turkey didn’t end up being the hardest part, actually. Getting college-age Americans to cook things is like herding cats. So, yes, I was that jerk in the facebook group. It started really optimistic and peppy:

            Chelsea and I are doing the turkey/stuffing, everyone claim a dish!

But then after only a few people responded…

            …So we still don’t have any pie—if anybody needs any recipes let me know!

And then finally, on Sunday…

            So excited to see/meet everyone but remember, your entry ticket is your food…

That last one seemed to be the most effective and everyone closed on their dishes Monday night. In the immortal words of Tina Fey, “Bitches get stuff done.” Chelsea and I start cooking today and, well, a couple things are beginning to sink in. I have never cooked a turkey. I have never assisted anyone cook a turkey. I may or may not be skipping a lecture Thursday afternoon to babysit said turkey.**** Should be interesting.

But this is what I love about Thanksgiving. Even when it’s stressful, the stress is light-hearted. This is the first tradition that propels us into the holiday season and cold, crisp nights spent holding warm drinks and cozying up by fires. Despite the struggles I’ve had trying to recreate my favorite holiday in a foreign city, I’m so thankful to be in London with new and old friends, getting swept up in my Thanksgiving obsession yet again.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


*Ironically, Turkey usually starts to sound like a good idea to her by Christmas which, I’m sorry, is just wrong. Turkey is a Thanksgiving bird. No matter what my British friends may say.

**Excuse my non-accidental British slang. It just looked wrong to say “ads all over London.”

***Pun not intended (Can you tell I’m 200 pages into a David Foster Wallace story collection with these asterisk footnotes?)

****Haha, definitely joking. I would never skip a lecture if I wasn’t sick. …Wait, does my forehead feel warm to you?! Oh, no…