Canadian Thanksgiving Abroad

Canadian Thanksgiving is something that I love to celebrate each year. Though both Canadian and American Thanksgiving have morphed into seemingly identical holidays celebrated during different months of the year, the root of the holiday differs a bit more than would be generally assumed. Originally, Canadian “Thanksgiving” was more of a frequent celebration associated with bountiful harvests, much needed rainfall,  or anything else positive that had happened within the community, and was used as a day to thank God for the abundant blessings that had been provided. This celebration took place multiple times a year, and included some of the Indigenous Peoples who lived nearby. At this time and in this region the French settlers (colonists) and Indigenous Peoples were peaceful, thanks to the generous Indigenous Peoples who aided the new French settlers (colonists) as they adjusted to the significantly colder winters. It slowly began to be celebrated less frequently, taking place primarily in October after the annual harvest was completed, mimicking the traditional European Harvest Festival. It was later declared by Canadian Governor General Vincent Massey in 1957 that there was to be: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the second Monday in October.”

Brief history lesson aside, in our modern days, it is a day set aside for families and friends to gather together to be thankful for the year that is behind them, for each other, and for the other blessings in their lives. I’ve always loved getting together with family and friends over a meal and spending time together, which we may not have done enough of that year.

This Thanksgiving, Kellan and I are still in London, and we wanted to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with some of our friends out here, and we made a lovely feast of things to share! I love to chat while I’m cooking, so our guests arrived early and we dined on a few different cheeses, with an assortment of crackers and chutneys to match. Of course, who can have cheese without wine? Not me, so a bottle (or two) of wine was popped open, and the evening was underway.

Quorn has the best meat-free turkey, and we’ve been guilty of having it many times when it was not a holiday. I find that the leftover pieces (if there are any) are great with some Dijon mustard on a scone – it’s the perfect ‘leftovers’ snack! The fake-turkey (as I like to call it) only takes about 50-55 minutes in the oven, which isn’t bad compared to how long a real turkey takes! We made 2 of these ‘turkeys’, along with some caramelized onion gravy, which is a fabulous and tasty non-meat gravy option!

Who could have Thanksgiving dinner without a lot of mashed potatoes? We certainly couldn’t, and so we made a lot of (admittedly pre-packaged) mashed potatoes, not to mention some sweet stuffing! Veggie-wise, we went for the classic roasted vegetables, with some baby aubergines (eggplant) and courgettes (zucchini); they’re the perfect addition to any Autumnal table! With the vegetables being the last to finish, the table was set, and away we went filling our stomachs with every bit that we could.

Post-meal, I made a very simple Italian dessert; Affogato. This was a bit of a last minute addition, since I had initially wanted to make pumpkin pie, but lo-and-behold out in the UK they don’t have pumpkin pie filling, and I had yet to see an actual pumpkin in stores to make my own. Affogato is a great palate cleansing dessert in my opinion, and consists of two things; ice cream, and espresso. This can of course be varied, but that is the gist of it. To make one at home, simply scoop one (or two) scoops of your preferred dairy/non-dairy ice cream into a short glass, and pour 1-2 shots of espresso (I used decaf) around the circumference of the ice cream, with just a tiny drip on top so as not to melt it right away! Viola, a perfect and simple dessert.  

Another hot tip, is if you find yourself with a ton of leftovers (like we did), you can make a roasted leftover casserole! Simply use a casserole dish that fits the size of your leftovers, layer slices of turkey (or fake-turkey) on the bottom, spread around a few small spoonfuls of cranberry sauce, throw on some stuffing and mashed potatoes, shred some cheese all over it, and then finally pour some gravy on top! I put mine in the oven for about 30 mins at 200 (approx 400) but ovens will vary of course.

More than anything, this year Kellan and I have so much to be thankful for. We got married at the start of this year, we moved to a new country, we were able to work steady jobs in the UK, got a chance to travel different parts of Europe, met a lot of great new friends, and will be heading home soon to the open arms of our family and friends. While we are sad that we weren’t able to celebrate with our families in person this year, it was great to have the chance to celebrate with some of our friends out here! There’s always a reason to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!