This past Saturday, The D.E.B. and I celebrated Thanksgiving with our friends,“The Songstress” and “The Music Man.” They are an amazing couple. The Songstress is a little dynamo, a bundle of energy, who embodies little pieces of 'home' for me. The D.E.B. reckons she reminds him of Angie Dickinson, who played Pepper Johnson on the American, 1970's TV show, Policewoman. (How does he even know about such things?) I think she's Nancy Sinatra. Anyway, she’s fab. A singer and photographer, who moved to Warwickshire 4 years ago. Still here, still happy and still in love with her man and her new country. They are an awesome couple.
And they were to be our first “Dinner Party Guests” here in Barford. My first dinner party! I shocked myself with how well organized I was. No fretting, no swooning and no tantrums! Shakespeare suggests, “The readiness is all,” I’d say: “The planning is all.” Not to mention Sainsbury’s, and the importance of having a helping hand.
The D.E.B. was an extraordinary help as sous chef and general, all-around dogsbody, and that made a huge difference. We cooked all day. The D.E.B. brought tea to me in bed at 8:00 AM, and we were cutting, dicing and dancing around our little country kitchen by 10:00 AM. Our 8lb turkey went into the cooker at precisely 11:30AM. It was clockwork, and loads of fun. Even that lovely Jamie Crick at Classic FM did his part. He kept us going with beautiful music, and played a bit of Aaron Copeland by request, with a dedication from me to my D.E.B. for being such a stellar American Thanksgiving sous chef! (That made the D.E.B. blush.)
Dinner wasn't until 6:30-7:00PM-ish so we had plenty of time. Even had time to take the Princess Pup for big walk around Barford in the afternoon, even though we had planned a huge meal, pulling out all the stops, and doing almost everything from scratch. Traditional Thanksgiving spread: Turkey, dressing/stuffing, gravy, roasted veggies (carrots, potatoes and parsnips), candied sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cornbread, mulled wine…
I made Cranberry Relish for the first time! Used my trusty Easy British Classics cookbook and BBC Good Food Guide. I made myself proud. Realized that much of cooking is down to instinct. AND!!! I finally, finally, finally licked the infamous Yorkshire pudding! (Bite that, Nigella Lawson!) Yes, Yorkshire puddings for Thanksgiving, a gesture of thanks and concession to my new homeland. (Besides, I have no doubt that the folks who celebrated that first Thanksgiving back on Plymouth Rock still thought of themselves as English, and England as their homeland, so why not?) I was so pleased with myself, I could hardly eat! My greatest discovery in all of this was: la truffe graisse d'oie (goose fat). I’m not kidding. How did I ever cook, or live without it?
The Songstress and The Music Man were the absolute best dinner guests a hostess could hope for! They arrived on time and bearing gifts of chocolate profiteroles and pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is my absolute favorite. It is not Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas without Pumpkin Pie. And The Songstress made a pumpkin pie that tasted like home, and made me want to cry. We gathered round the table and Songstress gave me a nod. I lifted my glass and declared a toast. That wasn’t what she meant, and I knew it. I don’t know why, but I do get shy about praying in front of other people. Partly because I find words sometimes lack the ability to express my depth of feeling.
And, as an Episcopalian, I’m utterly unless on the spot without my Book of Common Prayer. I challenge anyone to find a more eloquent expression of thanks than the BCP’s beautiful “Litany of Thanksgiving”. Unfortunately, as much as I love that Litany, I have yet to learn it by heart. So here I was, speaking to God on the fly. Over turkey, stuffing and homemade cranberry relish, we lowered our heads, closed our eyes, and I spoke. In that moment, a discovery more profound than goose grease. From the heart. That is all that matters. In cooking, writing, praying, and living. Start from your heart.
I was thankful for each person that was sat around our table, and thankful to finally make use of my pink Wedgwood china! Probably no surprise that the pattern I own is called “Old Britain Castles”…
The meal was declared 100% “Yumsch!” by the D.E.B. After pudding/dessert there was more mulled wine and music. I’d had my iPod playing ‘American tunes’ over dinner, and at one point, as we were tidying up, there was a magical moment when the four of us paired off and slow-danced around the tiny kitchen to the Dixie Chicks’ “Landslide”. Very appropriate. (I should have put a warning at the start that this posting is not advisable for the hard-of-heart or under-romantic.)
The Songstress and I sat in front of the little fire in the front room. We sipped whiskey, and chatted while the D.E.B. and The Music Man took out their guitars and played. The Songstress and The Music Man treated us with an amazing duet, a song he wrote for her voice. We had a little folk music sing-along to the wee hours of the morning, until we were too tired to sing anymore. A beautiful way to end an unforgettable English-American Thanksgiving.