In New Zealand we had most of the holiday events that I found in Canada. Kiwis celebrate Easter, Christmas, Labour Day and Waitangi Day which like Canada Day commemorates the birth of the nation. One of the differences is Thanksgiving. I had seen pictures of dinners with beaming faces of families seated around a table that held a giant golden turkey but the actual event was foreign to me. .
Everything was strange in those early Thanksgiving celebration. The turkey was the main one. When I was a kid, all poultry including chicken was expensive to buy but since we raised hens, the odd one found its way onto our dinner plates. It was usually because the poor ting had stopped laying eggs. Before arriving in Canada, I had never seen a turkey for sale in a grocery store and the numbers in supermarket freezers were surprising. .
I had to learn about turkeys. How big should it be for our current family? How long did it take to defrost the bird? How long should it remain in the oven? Stuffed or not stuffed? I always seemed to get the defrosting time wrong and on many a morning my husband and I wrestled with a still frozen bird trying to remove the neck and giblets. I wanted these for gravy and it was only years later that my kids realized the flavour they enjoyed was provided by these innards. For some reason, they were not impressed.
Then what else did you serve at a typical dinner? Cranberry sauce of course. I developed a reputation for making the sauce and then leaving it in the microwave until after we had eaten the main course. Vegetables were not a problem. After all they are the same in New Zealand and Canada. But dessert was different. Kiwis used to eat more cakes than pies. Pumpkin pie was a whole new idea to me. I have never made one from scratch although I have bought them for the pumpkin pie eaters. I just don’t like the taste even though it is the traditional food to serve.
Thanksgiving dinners became more interesting as our family grew and we squeezed around our dining table. These days I have handed over the reins to my grown up children and this weekend have celebrated at my son’e place around a giant table of family, neighbours and friends. The meal was noisy and entertaining, the food which included pork and salmon as well as the usual turkey was delicious and the homemade cider was fairly potent. There were apple,peach and pumpkin pies for dessert.
I only truly understood the point of Thanksgiving when our kids were old enough to sit at a table and had learned about the holiday at school. They were then ready to express what made them thankful. Guess we should have more occasions to express our gratitude. Once a year it not really enough. My mother might remark here that grace before meals does the same thing. And she’d be right. I should say grace more often.