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Giving Thanks

Celebrating American holidays in a foreign country and on a little island can be a bit of a challenge but at least it’s not as difficult as it used to be.

Timing dinner is a minor issue. A Thursday in November is not a holiday on island. That means that if we invite any working friends to celebrate with us, we can’t sit down to eat at the traditional 3 or 4 0’clock in the afternoon. That was the case this year when we didn’t start eating until a very late 7PM. My brother pointed out that 7PM in Anguilla is 3PM in California which helps from a philosophical standpoint, but it still precludes nibbling on any leftovers later on Thanksgiving Day. On the up side, we did have the opportunity to watch the Packers/Lions game while we were finishing our dinner preparations. (I’m a die-hard Steelers fan, but if they aren’t playing the classics will work.)

Now, when it comes to Thanksgiving Dinner, I am a traditionalist. I’m all for trying new recipes when we have every day dinner parties or even when I’m looking to pair up ingredients I find in the pantry just for me.  I am certainly no stranger to Foodnetwork. However, at the holidays, I never switch out my pumpkin pie with a pumpkin cheesecake let alone an apple or pecan pie. You will not find a single clove of garlic in my mashed potatoes. On occasion, Michael might mix up the ingredients for his dressing (pecans vs. walnuts, dried cranberries vs. raisins, that sort of thing); but basically the menu is always the same. My Thanksgiving dinner has been the same for over 50 years. It is not going to change now.

I think that tradition is a good thing, but it wasn’t always easy here. When we first moved to Anguilla, skim milk and diet coke were hard to come by. You can imagine the challenge finding candied yams and stuffing cubes, Libby’s canned pumpkin (who remembers ‘if it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s on the label, label, label, you will like it, like it, like it like it on your table, table, table…?) or Reddi-Wip (no Cool Whip in my fridge). Back in the day, everything wasn’t always available. Early on I had to make my candied yams from scratch which was a problem since the local yams look like yams but are white and very, very starchy. I always had to ask Lee at Ashley and Sons Grocery store which ones in the display were ‘American’ yams so I would be sure to buy the right ones. And marshmallows. Marshmallows were impossible to find.

Of course, now you can reliably get everything you need for a great Thanksgiving feast (except maybe those plain stuffing cubes Michael likes so much but he can make do.) I even came up with an island cornucopia-esque centerpiece this year using a big aloe, cactus frond and a coconut pod for the tray. I filled it with tiny baby coconuts (they look a lot like acorns), bright colored, croton ‘fall’ leaves, papayas and avocados.

A pretty centerpiece, a great traditional meal, good friends and a lovely evening in a tropical paradise. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

So Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to everyone – wherever you are.

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