Celebrating an All-American Thanksgiving in New York

Of course this post was a must! I didn’t get to write one last year, so suffer this year!

Officially, this year was my third year I had the chance to take in one of America’s biggest holiday celebrations in the Big Apple: the one and only Thanksgiving Day. Informally also known as Turkey Day, Stuff-my-Face Event and under other symbolic nicknames.

The two occasions before really did not count: Last year had been quite depressing with a friend flaking out on me, leaving me stranded in a theater and with a depressing movie, and a burger meal at a local bar. The year before last year had been exclusively German as two high school friends showed up, dragged me to the highly overrated Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and cooked a meal. Therefore, this year offered what I had waited for so long: An All-American Dinner surrounded by friends, good booze, and the chance to contribute in some sort of way.

For fellow Germans, this holiday has no great meaning other than Americans gaining yet another 15 pounds, bragging about being in the kitchen all day long, and watching TV with the whole family. For my family, it has more of a meaning, as we celebrate it regularly, thanks to our bi-cultural household and keeping American traditions alive in a foreign country. The traditions were known to me; celebrating it with anyone except for the family rather not.

I probably would have been a bit more anxious had I not received an invitation to my friend’s party well in advance: Thanksgiving Extravaganza, hosted by three people at a Crown Heights apartment. Needless to say, I was very excited! How could I not be? 10 people had said they would be there, the invite looked great, and the concept was simple: Do not show up empty-handed! True vegetarian as I am, I opted for a veggie casserole and a few bottles of sparkling wine. A reason to celebrate, after all!

Labeling my glass with name and images – hooray!

As the date drew closer, the recipes and plans became more extensive. Typical New Yorkers as they were, half of the guests decided to flake out last-minute with some really lame excuses. “I can’t squeeze in another dinner, I am invited to two others already,” one guest wrote. “If my dog is not invited, I cannot come either,” were the words of another. The list goes on, but in the end, it looked like it would only be 5 meager guests with a shitload of food that had been prepared for way more people than expected.

True enough, as I got to the apartment yesterday early afternoon, the huge turkey was baking in the oven, two sorts of stuffings had been prepared the night before, a huge dish of homemade Mac’n’Cheese was waiting to be eaten, chopped potatoes were about to be fried, collard greens were sitting in a dish…. The list of pure deliciousness goes on! And I had yet to create my casserole out of vegetables meant for more than 5 people. Somehow it all was accomplished, though, with the help of the hosts: A self-proclaimed chef, a hobby baker, and an experienced pasteles creator (this is a Puerto-Rican dish).

Wine and eggnog party

While waiting for the food to cook itself, we started off with eggnog made by one of the friends. Supposedly she had mixed it according to a recipe that was more than 200 years old (or “something ridiculous like that”, as she herself expressed it). Quite strong in taste but nonetheless delicious, this must have been the highlight when it came to drinks. And boy, did we have enough of those! 2 bottles of sparkling wine, 2 bottles of red, 2 bottles of white, eggnog, and more to come as the non-cooking guests arrived, happy to hand over a bottle instead of food.

In the end, it truly did turn into an All-American Dinner: A guy from Baltimore, two girls from Pittsburgh, and a Native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent. Her idea were the pork and veggie pasteles according to a family recipe, which in the end were never eaten out of lack of stomach space.

Surprisingly, my casserole turned out to be quite tasty, as were the other dishes mentioned above. While the turkey of course could not be amiss, I must have missed somewhere along the line that Mac’n’Cheese is a must when it comes to Thanksgiving. And somewhere in the background, almost forgotten, two pies and home-made peanut-butter fudge cookies waited patiently for their turn to be devoured.

The one and only pumpkin pie!

After two plates I was officially full. My friends tried to squeeze more in by taking turns in lying on the living room floor and waiting until their stomach would magically empty out for the next round. We must have eaten for three hours straight, slowly stuffing ourselves until the point of no return, when three more guests showed up with, alas, more wine: A North-African guy and two French girls. So we had a multi-continental evening after this one, which turned the party around another 180 degrees.

Friend lying on floor

At 11 PM, most of us were simply exhausted. The leftovers, about two thirds of food, were packed away or bagged up, to be taken by some of the guests. Half of the group decided to end the evening in a bar, while the other half had enough. After all, Black Friday was happening and some had to work (including me).

To read more about the ultimate craziness happening during one of America’s most insane shopping days, go to last year’s post. It certainly is still valid today, especially after I carefully evaded the masses at Herald Square when walking to work!

I guess I should ignore the fact that on this day, as on July 4, some friends are sensitive towards the real meaning of Thanksgiving and see it as hypocritical that America celebrates the day extermination was brought upon the Native Americans.

handmade decoration – you trace your hand and cut out the form to get the turkey