Turkey time

Last Sunday marked the launch of the first World Obesity Day and it felt slightly uncomfortable to me as I was about to spend the entire day cooking and thinking about food in our preparations to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Technically, we celebrated it one day early but living in the UK means we have to just fit it in when we can. Therefore, in order to produce our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, it takes forward planning and military precision to do it amongst the regular sports training and fixtures, homework and unexpected time wasting activities of the weekend. In effect, it starts the week earlier when I face the challenge of trying to source some of the Thanksgiving ingredients to actually make it.

Like that ‘other’ Thanksgiving you may have heard about, central to our Canadian Thanksgiving dinner is the big turkey with all the trimmings. However, trying to find one in the UK in October is probably the biggest hurdle I have to overcome every year. It is impossible to find a fresh turkey at this time of the year so you would think that this would be an easy online click & collect 5 mins over a coffee to find a supermarket still selling frozen turkeys. But for some reason, I just can’t risk it. I don’t know if it is because my past bad experiences of receiving supermarket orders with frankly, comical substitutions of vital ingredients in time has made me a bit sceptical. I think it is more likely to be because there is something about the Thanksgiving turkey that makes me truly believe that I have to check out its worthiness, in person, before committing to its purchase that you just can’t do online.

I am, of course, making a rod for my own back because this means I have to scope out various supermarket frozen foods aisles until a turkey of sufficient size but without the pre-basted nonsense is found. In addition, being frozen means that I have to get the timing just right so that when I buy the turkey, our fridge is depleted enough so that it will accommodate it in time to defrost sufficiently before we need to cook it. I cannot describe the feeling of relief I get if I have bought the turkey in time and also managed to fit it in the fridge. Like a massive turkey weight has been instantly lifted from my shoulders, I know that everything is going to be ok now because there will be Thanksgiving turkey.

Luckily, I have become more adept in the annual turkey hunt because there have been some close calls in past years when it seemed impossible to find a frozen turkey in time. I remember an especially desperate time when my teenagers were toddlers and the absence of any frozen turkeys reduced me to considering constructing a turkey out of the only parts available in the shops—turkey mince and legs. Fortunately, a last-minute visit to long-forgotten supermarket that must have only existed to house the last frozen turkey in the UK meant that we managed to avoid roasting a mutant-like turkey beast and possibly mentally scarring our 3 children.

The second main player in the Canadian Thanksgiving dinner is, of course, pumpkin pie. Unsurprisingly, it requires some pumpkin and in October it is not difficult to find pumpkins on all of the supermarkets shelves, especially since they have readily adopted the lucrative Halloween market. However, to make a pumpkin pie, you have to peel, scoop out, cook and mash a fresh pumpkin and can be very time consuming, not to mention, messy. Growing up in Canada, I was spoiled by the availability of canned pumpkin which is as ubiquitous on supermarket shelves as finding tins of baked beans in the UK. And the truth is that in pumpkin pie, it tastes exactly the same as using fresh pumpkin but without all that work. Therefore, whenever I knew someone was travelling to North America, I used to ask them to bring me back a couple of cans of pumpkin until in recent years I began to notice that occasionally in a couple of supermarkets, cans of pumpkin would appear. Ever since, whenever I shop at those same supermarkets, I routinely visit the aisle where the cans of pumpkin normally sit lined up, expectantly. As soon as they arrive, I buy a couple of cans for Thanksgiving and Halloween pumpkin pies and maybe another for some pumpkin muffins. Admittedly, I buy the odd extra can just in case there is a pumpkin shortage or last minute pumpkin pie disaster. Alright, I might buy another extra can if they’re still there the next week—you can never be too sure.

The only problem this created was finding a place to store the cans but then I found the perfect place—an old wardrobe in our garage where we stored other miscellaneous items. However, I was soon replicating a supermarket shelf of canned pumpkin, all lined up. It wasn’t until the cans of pumpkin had comfortably reached the double figures and I saw the look of incredulity on the face of one of my children who had accidently cracked opened the wardrobe that I realised that I had reached a pumpkin tipping point. When the said child asked if their father knew of the pumpkin wardrobe and I found myself saying ‘No, and don’t tell him!’ that I realised, it had to stop. Of course, my secret pumpkin stash was eventually exposed but I have since restricted myself from storing above single digits, if only to avoid adding canned pumpkin unnecessarily (and some would say, inappropriately) to recipes simply to beat the use by date.

But this year we seemed to have found everything in time and Thanksgiving was pulled off without a hitch. Although it was ironic to be producing a meal of biblical proportions when it happened to coincide with the first World Obesity Day, at least we were doing it to celebrate the harvest (and not obesity, as some sarcastic teenager might have suggested). And to continue the celebration, we will be eating the leftovers for days to come…until the remains are magically transformed into a final turkey vegetable soup.  But before then, another Thanksgiving recipe and since my supplies are up, it has got to be Pumpkin Scones. These scones are perfectly suited to eat as a before sports breakfast or snack or you may want to fuel up for your own turkey hunt…

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