Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that is so uniquely North American that people in most other countries don’t quite get it. The Fourth of July? That’s easy enough, many countries have an Independence Day, or at least a day where they set off fireworks. (Everybody likes fireworks!) MLK Day? It’s also pretty standard to have a holiday to recognize an important historical figure. But Thanksgiving, as celebrated in the US and Canada, with its ritual foods, is just sort of puzzling.
When I lived in France after college, and worked as an au pair, Thanksgiving was tough because I got homesick. It’s always been a big deal in my family, and Skyping in just isn’t the same. So, I invited my new friends over for a traditional Thanksgiving meal! My little studio didn’t have an oven or a microwave, just a hot plate, so I baked the pie and the sweet potatoes in the family’s oven while the kids were watching cartoons, much to the parents’ bemusement when they got home from work. And, as you can tell from the expressions on my friends’ faces, they didn’t really know what to think about this weird food either. (From left to right, they are French, English, and Mexican. No cranberry sauce in any of those countries…)
Now, back in the US, we as a country are so in love with fall foods that it’s not enough to eat them on Thanksgiving itself. No, we need Friendsgiving too! I hosted one for the first time this year, and it was actually kind of fun to experiment with different dishes. For example, if you have vegetarians in your life, a wild-rice-and-mushroom stuffed squash beats a tofurkey hands down, in my humble opinion.
And then of course there is the main event. This year, for a variety of reasons, I officially co-hosted Thanksgiving, and I was responsible for the dessert and the green beans. I made five pies: pecan, pumpkin, apple, and two chocolate pecans. They were all a hit, so if you’re wondering what the secrets are: for a good chocolate pecan pie, use Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate and a splash of bourbon or grand marnier. For apple pie, add a pinch or two of chai spices to your cinnamon. And for pumpkin pie that is unbelievable fluffy, follow the Smitten Kitchen recipe, cook the pumpkin on the stove, and use a real whisk (forks don’t quite cut it).