November 22, 2015


Thanksgiving by those who know best (Suze Olbrich, 22 November 2015, The Guardian)

An estimated one in six UK residents celebrated Thanksgiving in 2014 and early sales figures indicate that even more will participate this week. US expats account for a fair portion of that figure, but it still leaves a hefty number of Brits aboard the holiday bandwagon.

Thanksgiving: why the Brits should embrace America's finest tradition (Kay Plunkett-Hogge , 20 NOVEMBER 2015, The Telegraph)

This piece was originally titled "In defence of Thanksgiving". Then I thought, hang on: what on earth am I defending it from? It is the most democratic of celebrations, non-denominational and multicultural. It features roast turkey and a lot of pies. Really - who is complaining? Is there some sort of movement I am not aware of? Perhaps there is, for year in, year out, I am asked the same question: "What's a British girl like you doing hosting an American celebration like this?" As if it's illegal because I've never pledged allegiance to the flag.

Well, I'll tell you. I grew up in Bangkok, where my father sold tractors for Ford, and where I had an American best friend. One of the joys of the friendship was our shared love of food. Thai food, Texan food, PX army treats, you name it. And the highlight was an invitation at the end of November to eat turkey and pumpkin pie at her family's Thanksgiving dinner: a joyful celebration of the harvest festival held by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621. It was like having two Christmases in one year, without the arguments.

Those Thanksgiving meals began my love affair with all things American. The excess, the enthusiasm, the multiple desserts. And I've done Thanksgiving ever since. Everywhere. In Thai rainforests for actors, back when I was a film coordinator. In New York, for a friend who was unpacking her new house. In LA, painting the walls gold and writing on them (it seemed a good idea at the time), much to the chagrin of our landlord. In Provence, just for the family. And in London.
Americans pine for Thanksgiving when far from home. So when I moved back here in the Nineties, I started cooking Thanksgiving for marooned US friends who had nowhere to go. (There were no hip American restaurants back then.) And it stuck. Rob Elliott Smith, a regular guest, who comes to Chiswick via Alabama, tells me: "The best thing about Turkey Day with British hosts is 'the thanks': the US tradition where you go around the table saying what you are thankful for. It's great fun to see reserved Brits struggle with the embarrassment involved." Limey eye-rolling aside, we all usually come up with something positive. And it's actually rather nice.

Posted by at November 22, 2015 7:38 AM