Friday, January 8, 2010

Thanksgiving 2009 (better late than never!)

It all starts here. With the port wine cranberry sauce. Beginning of a fabulous evening? Or our unsightly undoing? The verdict is still out. As the German expression goes, "the tone makes the music" and this cranberry sauce (and the bottle of port we drank while making it) set the tone for our third annual Hamburger Thanksgiving Fiascotm.

The mission: provide 25 Germans, a couple of Brits and two wayward Americans with a traditional Thanksgiving spread, complete with an historical overview and a few homemade cultural indulgences. But we'll get more into that in a minute. For now, we will focus on the culinary indulgences including the aforementioned port wine cranberry sauce and the green bean casserole preparation. Necessity being the mother of invention, the lack of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup on the German supermarket shelves led to a delicious homemade cream of porcini sauce for the crisp green beans - still topped with the requisite fried onions, of course.

Mmmmmm, a medley of wild mushrooms with dried porcinis. Mmmm.

Dessert steered clear of creative and erred on the side of traditional. Pecans are harder to find in Germany than one might think. After scouring four stores and two markets, I had the nearly two pounds necessary for thess amazing pies. Corn syrup is also an American staple that is hard to come by. I substituted with a sugar cane syrup similar to molasses.

The stuffing: Italian herbed ciabatta, dried cranberries, apples, shallots, and can you see how much love I have for celery? Big love.

Uncle Richard getting a little crazy (or at least looking a little crazy) with the birds.

Ladies, you may want to avert your eyes: this is what it looks like when a gynacologist sews your bird shut. Wait, that didn't come out right...My brother-in-law is a gynacologist. He stitched up the turkey. I don't think anyone got any of the stuffing out....wait...

Henry was slightly traumatized.

And the result (trumpet fanfare).

I unfortunately did not get a good shot of the entire table but upon it diners found: two six kilo turkeys, turkey gravy, two stuffing variation (one with sausage and dried apricots, one with apples and dried cranberries), my homemade green bean casserole, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole with marshmellows, corn bread, port wine cranberry sauce, broccoli gratin, Moroccan spiced carrots (a huuuuge hit), pumpkin, spinach and feta tart, brussel sprouts and roasted parsnips. It was representative.

I did a number of the dishes myself, with help from my kitchen crew, but half of what you see here was made by guests. This was not a free for all however but a strategic pot luck - I gave people recipes and they were strictly instructed to stick to them. No German variations on a theme but a traditional American Thanksgiving table. (Moroccan carrots? you are thinking, on a traditional table? I scraped the maple-glazed carrot recipe and the orange carrot recipe in favor of something less sweet. Everyone raved. They are now a Thanksgiving tradition in our house.)

Germans don't typically do turkey. We had to order ours in advance from the local poultry shop. Typical here might be goose or duck or other game but you would be hard pressed to find a turkey on a German table. Everyone loved it.

Full plates and smiles - what we like to see!

30 or so guests in our living room. Trying to avoid bumping their heads on my hanging wreath. Last year we put the table through the middle of this room and on into the next, which has since turned into our bedroom. We thought it a little more gemutlich to pack everyone in here. It worked.

At some point as people were finishing off second helpings and before dessert, Ingo pulled out a podcast of a short history of Thanksgiving from the German equivalent of NPR - in German. A brief historical overview that some enjoyed - others started to drift off into a triptoquinine (is that what's in the turkey?) induced coma.

And after everyone had a slice of pumpkin (my great grandmother's recipe) or pecan pie or both with the requisite dollop of whipped cream or ice cream, we started the much dreaded/lauded tradition of dankbarzeit. Literally broken down this word means "thankful time" and it's not really a word. I made it up. Actually, let me correct myself, I believed it was a real word and kept referring to dankbarzeit as dankbarzeit while the Germans stifled their snickers and went along with it. Someone finally told me last year that there is no such thing as dankbarzeit... well there is now, bitches!!!

As is common in many American homes, we go around the table and everyone mentions one thing (or more if they are so inclined) that they are thankful for. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes personal, sometimes not. But those who dread it (some of them alllll year long), always come up to me afterword to say, "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Actually, dankbarzeit is kind of cool." That's right, dankbarzeit is cooooooool.

With the last revelers packing their doggie bags at 3 am, we left everything as is and dragged our thankful asses to bed.

Pictured above: "As is"

1 comment:

  1. How can I get some of the recipes? Can you post? Sounds like a fantastic meal!