Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The London Thanksgiving

FOR any American, this Thursday is the blackout date we've known about since birth, Thanksgiving. A dinner traditionally celebrated with close family it commemorates the time Pilgrims came to America and celebrated their first harvest with the Native Americans.

Not only is this holiday confusingly close to Christmas, the main course is traditionally turkey. My advice: with nearly 200,000 Americans living in the UK, make sure to get your turkey early so you don't miss out. Christopher Suarez, CEO of Nicholas Kirkwood, will be picking his up from Allens of Mayfair. "It's just across the way from the shop on Mount Street and they give you a masterclass in butchery while you wait," he says. Like the icing on the cake, no turkey is complete without its stuffing. Vogue  contributing editor Calgary Avansino  suggests a delicious healthy alternative to the usual stock-soaked breadcrumbs - chestnut gluten-free stuffing: "That's the core and then we add green beans." Happily, unlike 25 December when the feast is wrapped up with a brandy-sodden fruit pudding (that no one seems to like), Thanksgiving dessert is pumpkin pie. And it's delicious.

Cultural specialities often feature on Thanksgiving menus as Americans so often have a diverse geographical heritage. My mother is Swedish-American and you will always find red cabbage on her Thanksgiving table. Avansino serves "marinated antipasto that is a tradition from my father's Italian family which we carry on". Fashion designer Alexander Lewis  - who is half-American half-Brazilian - prepares "a glorified farofa [toasted manioc flour] - a popular Brazilian accompaniment forfeijoada [Brazilian bean stew]."

Since most Americans living in the UK are without immediate family during this time, their friends become family. "We started out hosting a dinner to bring all the other American waifs and strays together," explains Bodas founder Helena Boas." It has now grown to include our closest friends here. It's a time to celebrate friendships and reflect on the good things that happened in the past year." Jewellery designer Diane Kordas  has lived in London for more than 20 years and enjoys hosting friends of all different nationalities and religions around her table - you don't have to be American to celebrate Thanksgiving. She explains, "It's an important time to come together and reflect upon what we do have, not what we don't."

Thanksgiving is also an excuse to dress up. At Lewis's house guests get to choose if they are going to be a pilgrim or a Native American, and wear either hat and shoe buckles or a feathered headdress - all handmade, of course. Suarez is looking forward to his daughter's first Thanksgiving: "It's the perfect opportunity for her to wear the Minnetonka moccasins that were originally mine when I was a baby." A holiday rich in traditions, giving thanks and eating until you feel you might burst (and then eating some more). A word of advice - make enough food so there will be leftovers. Everyone would agree that is almost what's it's all about.

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