I can pinpoint on a timeline the times I have been most exhausted in my life… my college football bowl game internship in 2010 (Christmas, parade float construction, and two bowl games within 6 days), NFL training camp in 2010 and 2012, and Thanksgiving 2014. On Thursday I surprised Ben with his first ever Thanksgiving my cooking a romantic holiday meal for the two of us – it was an all day cooking event; followed by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (at 1am Australia time), and then the Eagles game at 8:30am Friday. To say I was exhausted Friday night would be an understatement, but at 8pm I started the cooking for our First Annual Friendsgiving.
What is Friendsgiving?
Friendsgiving is basically Thanksgiving but with friends typically held the day before or after Thanksgiving. Because we are in Australia and everyone works the day before and after Thanksgiving I opted to host our dinner party on Saturday night. The original plan for friendsgiving was to invite several couples over to our house and eat outside as the sun was setting… but in the end we decided to spend our holiday with our housemates. A small gathering of four, but enough food for 12 – isn’t that how Thanksgiving is supposed to be?
I started planning the feast a month in advance, and recruited my mom and cousin for help. My mom packaged up a box from America that included all of our families traditional Thanksgiving recipes as well as the Publix Pilgrim Pair; and for the next few weeks I made decorations, cut placemats, dyed napkins in preparation of the holiday.
Three weeks prior to Friendsgiving I notified the house of the event and the boys (Ben and I live with two other guys) were so excited. None of them had ever experienced a Thanksgiving before and I was excited to share my families food and the American tradition with them.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t plan out to a T how the day was going to go. Working in reverse order from the time I wanted to serve dinner Saturday (6pm) and then counting backwards through the morning. Following that I made a list of what days the food would be prepped on (in advance or day of), and what everything would be served in or on. It was a huge task but I knew organization was the key to a successful dinner.
The Wednesday before Ben and I went shopping for all the groceries, leaving me 3 days to get everything prepared – just enough time.
Our menu included:
Green Bean Casserole
Candied Sweet Potatoes (my grandmothers recipe – which we don’t have a copy of – so I made one up and it tasted exactly like hers!)
Hot Fruit Compote
Cranberry Sauce (the only thing not homemade on the menu)
and Pumpkin Pie
That menu paired with all the cooking I did Thursday for Surprise Thanksgiving (a completely different menu) kept me busy morning to night for two days until Saturday. With just a few hours to the dinner, Ben and I prepared our first turkey, Gobbles.
Naming the turkey is a tradition in my parents house.. After all before you shove your hand up a turkey bum you should at least learn your birds name… Or in this case give him one. We are continuing that tradition in Australia now as well, and continuing to come up with terrible names (we named our stuffed koala bear Koali).
As Ben cleaned out Gobbles, I prepared the stuffing, which got a little messy.
As the turkey was roasting, I showered, made the mashed potatoes, and set the table outside.
And our super cute Pilgrim Pair makes an appearance for the last time this season.
Once the turkey was done we rested the bird and finished up the sides…
Dinner is Served
For the most part this meal was exactly like the meal my family in America had on Thursday… with one slight difference.
My dad (who always has turkey duty) carves the turkey, and the slices are served on our buffet. Ben decided that the whole-turkey would look better in photos and he would carve it individually for everyone. We left the stuffing in the bird as he carved and every slice of turkey had a bit of stuffing right along with it.
Even he was impressed with his carving skills.
As all the boys all filled their plates they started to pick out what they were going to get second helpings of before they had even tried the food.
I laughed in my head, knowing that with their full plates there was no way they could eat all the second helpings they were talking about.
When we sat down to eat, I read the history of Thanksgiving, and why the holiday is celebrated in America. All of them found the story fascinating, as they couldn’t recall one story from Australian history where the English colonists were nice to the Aboriginals. I kindly reminded them that there are several times in American history following Thanksgiving where English Americans do not get along with Native Americans.
We then went around the table and said what we were thankful for from the year. There was a lot of “I’m thankful you cooked us this meal!;” while I was very thankful to be living in a house with such a kind group of guys who have helped me manage my first 9 months of living in Australia.
So about those second helpings…. there weren’t any. The boys were full just off one plate – shocking for a bunch of 25 year olds. There was however, a debate over which dish was the best.. votes for the hot fruit compote, and pumpkin bread seemed to top the list… but I was told there wasn’t a bad dish in the lot. Thank goodness!
After dinner I warmed up the pecan pie for dessert and served with vanilla ice cream.
I may have gotten a marriage proposal after that pie. Not a real one, obviously, because then this would be a totally different post… but at least I know that I have locked in Ben just based off the pie…. and he hasn’t even tried the pumpkin pie yet!
As our night concluded I couldn’t help but smile as all of the hard work put in over the month had come to fruition and my vision for our first Friendsgiving in Australia was a success. We finished things by watching holiday movies and passing out on the couch.
I am already looking forward to next year – same menu, more friends!
Have you ever had a Friendsgiving? Or introduced a cultural tradition to a new group of people?
I’d love to hear about it.