Confident BeginnerA Jack of no Trades
#FBF: Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone for this year. I ate homemade Greek food and didn’t thank ANYONE (just kidding, I thanked all of the good people in the world that I love). However, being that it is #FBF time and my Americano friends to the south will be having their festivities next Thursday, so I thought I would post my Canadian Thanksgiving post from last year on the blog today. I am also very hungry, and just wanted to look at delicious food for a few minutes. Hi there delicious foods. Remember me? It’s Natasha.
October 11, 2014
As Thanksgiving is this weekend, I wanted to give a shout-out to some of my most favorite Thanksgiving traditions. It never really occurred to me that I did anything “different” than normal folks on holidays; everyone gets together with family, eats an absolute ton of food, and then goes to bed with a raging food baby covered in alcohol (everyone does that…right?), but a little while ago while perusing instagram, I realized that other families were, well, not eating the same things as me!
Generally speaking, a traditional Thanksgiving meal includes: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, and a big-ass tub of gravy. I know this, because Martha would never lie to me.
However, my thanksgivings have always been a bit different. Growing up in a 2nd generation European household meant that my Mom and Dad brought a variety of their traditional recipes and customs from their childhood with my very heavily accented grandparents. Now, as well as a stout body frame and impeccable dictatorship skills, my German/Italian/Danish heritage also means that I got a lot of weird side dishes that always delighted or disturbed my Canadiana friends coming to dinner.
Spaetzle, or Spätzle, is a German staple, similar the all-american mashed potato or rice in Japan and China. It is a chewy, doughy, and delicious noodle that can be served post boiled, steamy and ready to eat, but is regular sauteed with onions and bacon prior to ultimate noms. In my home, this is the literal make-or-break of the Thanksgiving dinner. If there are no spaetzles, Thanksgiving doesn’t exist. God isn’t real. Everything is awful and everything hurts. Ok, well, not to be too over-dramatic or anything, but these were the best things to ever have been created by mixing eggs, flour, and salt together. My mom has spaetzle making down to a science: there was no need to have a recipe, all of the ingredients were eye-balled, mixed, and left to sit until my dad could push them through the spaetzlepresse. My parents didn’t bicker a lot when I grew up, but at every dinner prep, my dad would always pull out a “did you really need to make the dough this thick?” card while sweating through strenuous upper arm exercise. Manhood, in my house, would have been tested with a spaetzlepresse (luckily, I am not a man).
Red Cabbage, also a regular German (or Eastern European) side-dish, was a staple Thanksgiving go-to for my mom. She would start the cabbage the day before: frying up tiny pieces of bacon and onions in brown sugar before cooking the red cabbage to a sweet and delectable texture, and finally letting is stew in it’s own juicy juices overnight. If my mother is reading this (and she damn well better be!…just kidding), she will most assuredly be scoffing as I have never been a true fan of otherwise very intimately well loved red cabbage side-dish. It gets such amazing and positive reviews, I really should love it; every year, I assure myself that this will be the year that I like my mother’s red cabbage, and you know what: this may be the year!
Finally, post cooking and post meal, when everyone has disgustingly overfilled on all of the triptodeliciousness of the night’s meal, bathing in the final sips of that extra glass of wine, my father’s Scandinavian side takes over. Invites to my Danish grandparents, willing aunts and uncles, and almost-of-age teenagers who could ‘handle it’ are hollered out through the kitchen corridor. As a kid, I can remember lots of hoots and hollers, trepidatious laughs followed by coughs and exclamations of vigor and (quite possibly) regret. Pulled from the freezer to the shot glasses of willing parties, post-dinner time is Akvavit time. A quick wiki search informs me that this was generally a sipped digestif, so my childhood memory of the adults shooting these back could be slightly skewed (or my dad could have been very good at pushing frat-boy mentalities on unsuspecting great-aunts). Akvavit is a spiced spirit, flavoured with dill or caraway seeds and aged in oak casks, and is suggested to aid in digestion. If you are still unaware of the taste of this beverage, think about a cold shot of black licorice that will burn your throat all the way down. By no means am I suggesting that is a bad thing, however, each to their own.
I think the reason that holiday traditions continue on so well is their ability to create a sense of home, even when you are not in the setting of what ‘home’ is or used to be. I recall my first Thanksgiving on my own, out of the house; I was able to test out all of these traditions on my own, to see how I sized up to my mom, and my Oma, and my Oma’s Oma. I can remember calling my mom for days and days prior to, just to reaffirm I had my recipes right (if you recall, my mother didn’t use recipes in the first place, so this was trickier than imagined). When the day finally came, our dinner went almost perfectly. My room-mate/best-friend/hetero-life-partner and I had made many of our families Thanksgiving dishes almost as well as our mother’s would have. Now, if our turkey would have been fully cooked, instead of completely still frozen on the inside with a layer of deliciously crispy skin on the outside, I imagine I would have had a Thanksgiving to rave about for the ages. Hey, at least it was a thanksgiving memory…right?
(I apologize for the quality of these photos. They were taken in 2010 with a Blackberry. I know, people, I know, a fucking blackberry).
Did you think I was going to write a post about Thanksgiving and NOT MENTION PUMPKIN PIE?!
Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions? Let me know by tagging #confidentbegginer on Instagram or Twitter, or give me a thanksgiving mention!
And, of course, Happy Thanksgiving!