24 November, 2006

I can't believe I ate the whole thing

Well, our first Thanksgiving in London, as parents, has come and gone. I really did want the little scrap to have as much fun as possible, given her feelings about being away for Christmas and how holidays are meant to be spent at "home." So the most homelike thing seemed to be to have people over! It was perfect, I must say, except that I think we all ate much more than we have ever eaten before. Ooof. Nobody even made a stab at dessert! Except for the children, who have the good sense to stop eating when they're not hungry anymore, unlike we adults who just kept on filling our plates.

I raced home from my screenwriting class to find Mr Turkey much closer to being done than I had expected, looking golden and luscious on his bed of fresh sage and rosemary. So I did a sort of novel thing, with the twofold purpose of freeing up the oven and keeping him warm: I put the whole roasting tray on the burners of the hob and turned all four of them on really low. The liquid that was eventually to produce the most delicious gravy I have ever had (sorry, can't summon up any false modesty) bubbled sweetly away while I peeled massive amounts of potatoes. I used up all three varieties I've been experimenting with: King Edward (rather a forgettable, white potato, suitable, as they say, for mashing), Lady Balfour, and Nicola, which are both sweet and yellow, and waxy. As they boiled, I listened to a voice mail from Becky saying she wasn't sure if I had wanted her to bring her green bean dish, and if not, what green vegetable would we have? I panicked for a moment, realizing I probably wouldn't reach her in time, and then remembered John had bought a bag of brussels sprouts. Not, as my favorite culinary mystery author Katherine Hall Page would say, normally a vegetable to make people stand up and cheer, but I felt sure I could remedy that. (And use them before John could make me drink them for lunch, I have to admit.) So here's what you do (people did stand up and cheer, pretty much):

Brussels sprouts with Pinenuts (aka "Good Brussels sprouts")
(serves 12 if you have seven other side dishes!)

2 tbsps walnut oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts (in England you can get them on the stalk, lovely)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup toasted pinenuts
salt to taste

Prepare your sprouts by cutting off the bottom of each, and pulling off any leaves that look damaged. Then shred them by cutting each into four lengthwise slices. Throw them in the skillet with everything else, and saute over super-low heat until they get a bit caramel-y. Of course you can turn them off and tend to other things, like mashing your potatoes with copious amounts of cream and butter, and then turn them back on to heat up at the last minute.


People began arriving as John lit the candles and Avery changed out of her riding gear (although you can see the gorgeous birthday gift from our Connecticut friends Anne and David, on her dress: tiny pewter riding boots!). Becky and I looked at the kitchen table where I'd thought we could fill our plates, buffet style. "Where on earth are we going to put everything?" she asked in alarm. She had brought two kinds of sweet potatoes, one topped with brown sugar and walnuts, and the other with... marshmallows! To feel truly American. Claus and Susan arrived with Sophia, and immediately the girls closeted themselves to practice their blessing song. So hard to believe that these girls could ever be anything but angelic, but children are nothing if not inherently unpredictable, I reflected, as memories of last spring floated through my mind. Got to stay on our toes. But Thanksgiving brought out the best in them, and aren't they moments to dwell on? Darling, gentle, dreamy Anna, dramatic and beautiful Sophia, and Avery, how did she ever get included in such august company? I felt incredibly lucky to have, not even a year after moving, such heartwarming friends and their children. They sang "We Gather Together," in their little English girls' school accents, and I think even super-sophisticated Ashley and little Eleanor were impressed.

We raised our glasses of champagne, ginger ale, Pimms # 3, Winter, and toasted the girls on their beautiful song, and tucked into food!

I'm headed out to dinner with John at the Mandarin Kitchen, so must tell you more about the dinner later, including a couple more recipes. I can't believe I'm hungry. Avery's spending the night with Anna, and I think Becky is in for an early night for those two: between Thanksgiving (Mrs D reported today that all the American children were trashed!) and running in Regent's Park at gym ("Mummy, it's child abuse! It really is," was Avery's comment), they will be down for the count pretty soon.

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