Pumpkins, pies and yams: My first Canadian Thanksgiving
Most of us are familiar with Thanksgiving in the United States. Everyone has a day off work at the end of November to give thanks to the Native Americans for looking after the Pilgrims when they first arrived in New England. Ironic? Yes. Celebrated in Canada? No. Canadian Thanksgiving is totally unrelated to US Thanksgiving, and history suggests it pre-dates its American counterpart. In Canada, Thanksgiving takes place on the second Monday in October, and is more of a glorified harvest festival than a colonial tradition. Everybody still gets a day off work (well, all of the Central and Western provinces) but the focus remains very much on the food. And food there is a-plenty.
The Thanksgiving menu is very similar (alright, basically the same) in both countries: turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, yams (otherwise known as sweet potatoes), vegetables and the infamous pumpkin pie. For our first Thanksgiving in Canada, we decided to cook a small yet civilized meal for us and a friend and make the most of our new kitchen. Rather than roast an entire turkey for three people, we went for turkey breasts instead. We stuffed each one with garlic, mushroom and cranberries, covered them with prosciutto ham, roasted them until tender and served the skin separately on top. Our vegetables consisted of broccoli and cauliflower with bacon sprinkles, accompanied by a mix of potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash. All covered in gravy, of course.
Dessert was also traditional, as we chose warm pumpkin pie with fresh fruit and cream. And then went back for seconds. It was a delicious meal, and an extra special mention goes to my culinary talented boyfriend for doing the vast, vast majority of the cooking. I’ll take the credit for warming the pie, cutting the fresh fruit and opening the carton of cream, but that’s about it. The final accompaniment to a perfect meal was a bottle of local rose that I bought at a winery in the Fraser Valley on a wine tour in August. I’d been saving it for a special occasion, and it was worth the wait.
As amazing as the Thanksgiving dinner was, my favourite thing about the holiday was just that – the holiday. Those three days off work were very much needed after a tough few weeks at work, and I loved being able to relax and enjoy the start of fall in Downtown Vancouver. Although Thanksgiving in Canada isn’t as big a deal as in the US, it’s still an occasion to celebrate and spend time with friends and family. Participating in such a long standing tradition made me feel one step closer to being a ‘real Canadian’. In the meantime, I’ll just keep on eating that pumpkin pie. I’m sure it’s helping.