Expat Thanksgiving: Homesickness, Gratitude, and Greed

It has been years since Tom and I made it back to America for Thanksgiving. It comes at a time when we're already beginning to feel overscheduled with Christmas invitations and to-do lists, Tom’s busy at the office, and let’s face it: who would be crazy enough to spend two full days in transit and jetlag small children for the sake of 48 hours in the States? Not us. Yet I’m always a bit homesick at this time of year, missing our families and the prospect of a long weekend of hanging out with them and cooking—even the smallest rituals like taking a walk before the pumpkin pie and doing the dishes together after dinner. But as every expat learns, holidays away from home are what you make of them. They become as much about the family you choose as they are about the family you were born to.

When we first moved to London, we lived in a flat with a dorm-sized refrigerator and a freezer that couldn’t even fit a pint of ice cream. We were thrilled to be invited to friends’ homes for Thanksgiving and our friends were generous with their invitations. Some years, we celebrated Thanksgiving twice—once on Thursday and again on Saturday.

We didn’t start hosting it ourselves until a few years ago when our cousins Tris and Tori were passing through London, visiting their daughter Louisa who was on her junior year abroad and sightseeing with their teenage son, Graham. I was a little bit nervous about the cooking (especially since Tori used to work for Gourmet Magazine and her parties are amazing), but Tom’s mother reassured me it was just another meal, and I relaxed. The next year my parents came, and each year since, we have had a full house.

I’ve just started thinking about the menu for this year, which will start with kirs made from Tom’s homemade cassis and include a turkey from our favorite butcher, The Ginger Pig; a Brussels sprout salad (Amanda Hesser's version of one she loved at M. Wells); a butternut squash recipe from London favorite Ottolenghi, an apple and blackberry pie (Nigel Slater's recipe, a deep dish of fruit topped with a single flaky crust); and a combination pumpkin and pecan pie made by our friend Alexis, which sounds like heaven. We’ll share it with wonderful friends who could go anywhere, but choose to spend the afternoon with us. And if that’s not a reason to give thanks, I don’t know what is.

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