Thanksgiving is the ultimate eating holiday, but not necessarily the ultimate “foodie” holiday. Seriously, would you ever have another meal with both mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and bread-based stuffing together? Even if you aren’t avoiding carbs, that is just a crazy menu with too many side dishes. But here is the cool thing about Thanksgiving, it is one day of the year when the menu isn’t driven by perfect balance and elegance, it is driven by family and traditions and enjoyment and love. One can’t eat like that everyday, but it is a lot of fun to eat certain things once a year because they remind you of your grandmother or your family back in the South or that time when my sister made some gnarly cranberry sauce at school and brought it home in a dixie cup. No one wanted to eat it but we did anyway and now we laugh about it every year.

Here is our menu. I’ll update with some photos tomorrow night, but I really hope you’ll leave a comment sharing your must-have Thanksgiving dish. The kind of thing that really makes it feel like Thanksgiving. I won’t bore you with the details, but I assure you that I never would have chosen this menu on my own.  I love it anyway because each dish represents a dear family member or friend, even if they won’t be at my table.

place settings

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November always brings cornbread.  Not only is it delicious, but the early colonists actually learned to cultivate and mill corn (or maize) from the Native Americans.  This is seriously historical Thanksgiving food.  But making it here in the UK led me to unexpected ex-pat confusion: even though cornbread is a simple quick bread made with cornmeal, eggs and milk, it is hard to find traditional cornmeal most of the year.  At Thanksgiving a few shops that cater to ex-pats stock up on Jiffy and Quaker Oats, but the rest of the time the recommendation is to substitute polenta.  After a little trial and error, I’ve been fully converted and don’t plan to ever go back to the commercial brands of cornmeal.
Skillet Cornbread

I spent Thursday at school.  People kept telling me “Happy Thanksgiving” as if it was my own personal holiday.  It was nice.  But melancholy.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  We cook, we hang out, we watch football.  No gifts, no guilt, no drama.  Just cooking and relaxing.  And the cooking isn’t perfectionist or ambitious.  It is nurturing, nostalgic, emotional, symbolic.  Everyone seems to need their dish that “makes” it Thanksgiving.  This leads to an incoherent menu with too much food and too many dishes.  But isn’t it generous?  To me the abundant Thanksgiving buffet includes a little bit of all of the guests, an influence from different regions, and it’s sum is greater than its component parts.

But cooking back home after a day in the kitchen at school was thoroughly unappealing.  So we delayed Thanksgiving to today (Sunday) and downgraded it significantly.  Even with only 4 mouths to feed and a simplified menu, I still spent all day cooking.  I knew it was worth it when my husband smiled at the end of the meal and announced that it was a smashing success. Read More →