Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Scottish Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving week has arrived! No break from school here, though. This week was full of firsts for me, and lots of hard work too. I had a group meeting on Sunday for our big presentation on Tuesday. Monday I attended my weekly yoga session, then went out to Jackson's pub with my friend from Ireland to pay for our tour ticket to St. Andrews and to see what this pub night was all about. Each week there is a national theme, and this week's theme was America, so of course I had to check it out. We got there and saw a few familiar faces from the tours we had been on, and had ourselves a little Peroni. We stuck around for the pub quiz with questions about America (very tricky! I did not win...), paid our guide, and headed out.

Tuesday brought about the angst of having to deliver a group presentation. I was fortunate enough to have had wonderful group members, and I think we did a really good job. It was a debate format where we had to present for 25 minutes, then debate with the team that was assigned the rebuttal. I counter argued one of the opposing team's points so well that they all nodded their heads and agreed that I had a good point and that I was right. Score. We celebrated afterwards at The Counting House right off of George Square with burgers and beer.

The fun doesn't stop there. Wednesday was full of classes and a group meeting, but I managed to squeeze in a nice lunch at La Lanterna, near Glasgow Central Station,with my local. Then I was off to go food shopping for Thanksgiving. Boy, was I in for a surprise. I was planning on making turkey, corn bread pudding, pumpkin pie, and buying cranberry sauce. The good thing about shopping for Thanksgiving in a different country is that no one else is really shopping for Thanksgiving, so, no mad crowds at the store. The bad thing about it is, lack of necessary ingredients to make the "traditional" dishes. Hence, "Scottish Thanksgiving."

 I walked to Morrison's which is about a half mile from my hall. Turkey breast was out-of-this-world expensive (25 GBP = $40), so I settled on two chickens for a fraction of the price. I got carrots, celery, onion, rosemary, and garlic to stuff them with. I could not find corn bread mix, or creamed corn, so I bought a couple cans of corn instead. (That's ok - less work). I wasn't finding canned pumpkin anywhere, so I asked, but no, they do not carry it. The lady was sweet about it though. She asked, "Oh, were you looking to make something traditional from home?" I replied, "Yes, pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving :( " (Yes, I made the sad face.) So, I had to think quickly what I could make that would show that I was actually once a pastry chef, with the ingredients I could find in the store. Baking aisle = tart shells.... hmmmm ... tart shells..... fruit tart!.....pastry cream? What is in pastry cream......creamy stuff - cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla, maybe milk. Ok. Fruit was in abundance, though out of season, but it would have to do. Blueberries, strawberries, grapes, and kiwi. Good color balance. I did make an attempt to find apricot jam but I was not successful. That's alright - it wasn't a key component to the dish.To my surprise, Oceanspray smooth cranberry sauce was super easy to find! When I got back, I realized I needed corn starch for the pastry cream, which meant a quick run to the nearby shops. Neither of the closest had any, so I ran over to Aldi, where they had Corn Flour. It said it was good for thickening, so I assumed it was the same thing. It did the trick, but I had to add lots of extra cream to get the floury taste out.

It's a good thing I brought my backpack with me and two extra bags to schlep all of this back to the halls. I felt like a mule with sacks thrown over my back, walking with my head down, taking one step at a time. It's all a part of a fond memory now though. I think those who really love food, really love and appreciate every thing that goes into the preparation too, not just the final product.

Thursday was the first Thanksgiving that I ever had to attend school, and I had a big group presentation that day as well. I was presenting with my group, a human resource 20 minute training session, geared towards a hypothetical flight staff for a cheap airline company, in which we had to teach the tutorial class 2 phrases in 3 different languages. I thought we did a pretty good job, and when it was over, I felt like a kid on Christmas - it's time to go cook for Thanksgiving!!!

We had Thanksgiving pot luck style and each person contributed something to the meal. We had not just what I made, but also mashed potatoes from my Irish friend, sweet potatoes from my Norwegian flatmate, honeyed carrots from my Chinese friend, rolls from my German friend, and dressing from my Canadian friend. I was quite impressed with the spread!

And in between cooking, I had to run over to a meeting with one of my teachers so she could look at my book, a newer addition of what she had, to let me know which chapters coordinates with which lectures. Then it was a mad dash back to the flat to get the chickens in the oven!

I was thrilled with how beautiful the chicken came out, considering I cooked one in a casserole dish and the other on a jelly roll pan. The skin crisped up beautifully, and I could taste the fragrance of the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, and rosemary in the chicken.

Here we are! Ready to eat! There were only two of us who had ever celebrated Thanksgiving before, myself and my Canadian flatmate. I was so thrilled to introduce one of my favorite holidays to my friends.

My favorite moment was seeing my two Chinese friends eat their Thanksgiving dinner with their chopsticks. Never would I have thought I would see this at a Thanksgiving dinner! I loved it, so cute! :)

Time for dessert! My very quickly made masterpiece. (I know, don't look too closely at how unevenly the strawberries are sliced - I threw this thing together at dangerously high speeds, and was intoxicated by the amount of extra pastry cream I had "tasted" during the cooking process.)

My French friend made a very nice apple tart, one of my Chinese friends brought vanilla ice cream, and my German flatmate whipped a bowl fresh cream to go along with dessert as well.

Don't worry everyone, I won't make you destroy my creation. I'll take care of it!

We all had such a wonderful time; everyone pitched in with the food, and everyone helped clean up. We even had a latecomer to the party, my wonderful yoga instructor who is vegetarian, but I think we were able to accommodate him nicely. To have so many different people from such vastly different backgrounds coming together to celebrate an American holiday with me was such a special, touching, and memorable experience. I love how food helps to bring people together. Thanks again girls!

I had a paper due on Friday, and I felt good about it when I submitted it. Ah, the weekend is here! Sunday meant another Student Tours Scotland Tour with my favorite professional tour guide, Gary Brown. My Irish friend, French friend, and German friend were all on this tour as well. Stay tuned for St. Andrews! 

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