Two weeks ago, a small group of friends invented a new holiday. This is the kind of wonderful and hilarious thing that can happen when you are an expat… you share your traditions, you find they mold to fit both your surroundings and your lovely company. And in the end, you realise the combination might even enhance what you’d come to so firmly recognise as the original…
So it is without any further ado that a group of adventurous Brits and Kiwis, one American and a lovely representative from The Netherlands – randomly and proudly – present you the ingredients for a new “international” holiday.
#SinterThanksgiving – a mix of American Thanksgiving and the Dutch holiday of Sinterklaas.
Ingredient 1: Traditional American Thanksgiving dishes
I would like to state for the record that there have never been any sweet potatoes (yams) with marshmallows on top of them cooked in my family. But having expats ask me in horror if I’m going to serve them is secretly one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving. Every family has a different dish or a different recipe that revolves around the one essential ingredient: a turkey. Finding space in the fridge is like putting a puzzle together and the cat meows its face off for five consecutive hours while the turkey cooks.
On the menu: following an amazing starter of baked brie with rosemary & garlic, followed by cheese, cheese and some more cheese, the main course featured turkey (I cook it upside down, with oranges, apples, onions, celery and fresh thyme stuffed inside and then baste it with chicken broth and white wine), gorgeous sausage stuffing, mashed & roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and the most important ingredient: freshly made cranberry sauce. No, you can rarely eat too many kinds of potatoes. If you’re looking for a gravy recipe, this one is fantastic (thanks Mom!) And let’s not forget the pumpkin and pecan pies.
Ingredient 2: Sophisticated beverages
Surprisingly, when people asked me what the traditional beverage was to drink at Thanksgiving, I didn’t know what to answer. I’ve almost always served red wine. So when the nice folks behind this blast of a wine tasting asked if we’d like to try something which some might find unconventional, we thought it might be fun. The challenge was to pair what would usually be considered to be summer wines with a winter holiday meal.
Thanksgiving being the only holiday I am capable of cooking, I thought why not? A white 2012 Bougrier Muscadet went really well with our turkey! Call me silly because turkey is a white meat but for some reason I’d never thought of drinking white wine with it. The muscadet was cold, fresh and crisp and contrasted nicely with the masses of warm food we found ourselves surrounded with, without competing with it. We also tried a fruity 2013 Bougrier Rose d’Anjou, though to be honest, I felt it struggled to compete with the more traditionally festive champagne which we had on hand.
The only problem (and I cannot believe I am saying this) with having too much wine in your house is that when lovely guests bring you two bottles of US & New Zealand Pinot Noir for a friendly international “wine-off”… you don’t have enough people to drink them. (silly problems, I know, but this needs to still happen.)
*Ahem* Focussing issues…
Ingredient 3: Gift bags
I am being incredibly rude in this post and not running through a list of the gracious contributions everyone brought to this dinner because I will never stop gushing about it – nor will I stop contemplating how to turn my entire living room into a gigantic dinner table so we can more than double the numbers for next year.
But I do need to give two very special shout-outs and thus hint at the superiority of our new holiday…
Rarely have I ever seen someone more excited at the idea of Thanksgiving than the adorable and wickedly smart Rebecca aka Runaway Kiwi who convinced me this whole thing needed to happen. She made everyone fun little gift bags, filled with sweets, heart-shaped toothpicks, mustache-shaped wooden laundry pins and – here’s the real winner – lovely necklaces she makes in her Etsy shop. (A sucker for cute packaging, I loved the little envelope of old English maps she’d made to keep them in.) I’ve been wearing mine ever since.
Ingredient 4: Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the Dutch blow it all out of the water
What do you do when you reach the point of the evening where everyone who isn’t Dutch thinks they’ve already seen it all? You bring out cookies and gift wrapped chocolate. And this is where #SinterThanksgiving is truly born. My favorite moment of the night was when Jacintha shared the traditional Dutch holiday of Sinterklaas with us and I watched faces across the dinner table light up with smiles.
I’ve argued with some precious Finnish friends over the years about where Santa Claus comes from (thank you, Thanksgiving 2005…) I argued The North Pole. The Finns claimed Lapland. The Dutch on the other hand, say Sinterklaas arrives on a steamboat from Spain and I absolutely love it. Celebrated on December 5th in The Netherlands – the eve of St Nicholas Day – she explained that the holiday is almost bigger than Christmas, with gifts exchanged.
We ate pepernoten, kruidnootjes, taai-taai poppen, chocolate coins, and marzipan potatoes and then were presented with giant chocolates in the shapes of our initials. I have been delightfully chipping away at a giant “J” for days.
Not even the piles of dishes could have kept the smile from my face at the end of the night.
#SinterThanksgiving is a keeper for sure.