Celebrating Thanksgiving

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Source: Soe

A big celebration that occurs in autumn is Thanksgiving. Indonesians may be familiar with American Thanksgiving which falls on the fourth Thursday of November of each year, however, not many Indonesians know that Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on a different date: the second Monday of October of each year.

There are many stories on why American and Canadian Thanksgivings are celebrated on different dates, or on which country actually started the Thanksgiving tradition. Canada claimed to be the first nation to celebrate Thanksgiving way back in 1578 when the English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew gave thanks upon finding a “new world”, which, nowadays is Newfoundland. They dined on salt beef, biscuits, and mushy peas, and gave thanks through communion*. The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated by the pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation, Massachusets, in 1621, to give thanks for the end to a drought and a bountiful harvest. History mentioned that native Americans helped these pilgrims in cultivating their lands and after the first successful harvest the newcomers invited the natives to join in a celebration as a mean to express their gratitudes. No matter which country started this tradition, Thanksgiving is a celebration of giving thanks. Nowadays people give thanks for having families and friends, for the roof over their heads, for the food they eat every day, for having jobs, for health, happiness, and laughter .

Traditionally, Thanksgiving celebration means turkey dinner with all the trimmings: potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, and of course, the oven-roasted turkey and gravy. People who do not like turkey usually replace it with baked ham. Many big families have both, turkeys and hams. As autumn is a pie season, fruit pies are usually served for dessert.

Turkey is not commonly eaten in Indonesia. We may see turkeys waddling around in some people’s yard but they are kept as pets or, in some cases, used as “guard dogs” as turkeys make cluck-clucking sounds when strangers approach in suspicious manner. Therefore, many Indonesians do not know how to cook a turkey. So here are some pointers:

  1. First of all, you have to buy the turkey, either fresh or frozen.
  2. Frozen turkey is cheaper and easier to find — every supermarket in Canada will stock frozen turkeys one or two weeks prior to Thanksgiving day.
  3. A frozen turkey has to be thawed before it can be cooked. Depending on the size, it takes two to three days to thaw a turkey — time management is an essential point here.
  4. I usually buy my frozen turkey three days before Thanksgiving day and thaw the bird by soaking it in a brine.
  5. Brining a turkey will keep the turkey meat moist when it is cooked. A brining process is basically soaking a turkey in spiced water.
  6. For my brine I use cold water, slices of oranges, lemons and onions, crushed garlics, fresh thyme, bay leaves, brown sugar, and salt. The choice for spices may differ from person to person, however, every brine has to use water, sugar, and salt.

    Brining the turkey.
    Source: Soe
  7. On Thanksgiving morning the turkey should be taken out of the brine, washed, and dried, then prepared for the roasting.

    Ready to go into the oven.
    Source: Soe
  8. Some people stuff the turkey before roasting it. Some others prefer to not put stuffing inside the turkey but bake the stuffing in a separate dish.
  9. Baking time for turkeys depend on each bird’s size and weight. The basic rule is 20 minutes for each pound (1 pound = +/- half a kilogram). So, a 7 kg bird will need to be cooked for more than 4 hours. However, cooking time may vary depending on the oven.
  10. Once the turkey is cooked, it is time to carve it before serving. In the roast turkey “language”, the word “carving” basically means “cutting”. Traditionally it is the head of the family who has the honor of carving the turkey.

    Carving the turkey.
    Source: Soe
  11. When all food is on the table and everybody is seated, it is customary for the dinner participants to say thank you for whatever he/she is grateful for. Sometimes the saying of thanks can be mandated to one person only, especially when there are too many people at the dining table — imagine the agony of waiting for 30 people to say thank you while all the time the tantalizing aroma of the roast turkey and other delicious dishes temp your hungry stomach!!

* Communion is a Christian sacrament at which bread and wine (nowadays grape juice is used to replace wine) are consecrated and shared.

Just for fun:

  1. Find a recipe for turkey stuffing.
  2. Find a recipe for a fruit pie.
  3. Use a dictionary to find the meaning of the words you don’t understand.

    Let’s eat!
    Source: Soe

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