Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving in London

Once again we will spend Thanksgiving in London. We don't do this every year, but often enough that it has become a bit of a tradition. We will see some theatre, maybe even a movie and of course eat. As I have noted in the past, London and the UK are not the horrible food deserts many people suppose.

Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday and is not celebrated in Europe. If you are there and it is Turkey day, you are on your own.

This got me thinking about what other Americans, who may be abroad on Thanksgiving, do for a meal on that day?

Do you seek out some place that may actually serve Turkey and the fixings? Do you find a way to join with other Ex Pats and cook for yourselves? Does some British family take pity on you and try to provide a traditional Turkey dinner for you?

My guess is, for the most part, the answer is no. And for me that answer is definitely no. If I wanted to do traditional Thanksgiving, I would have stayed in the US.

I never travel overseas with the idea of seeking out the nearest McDonald’s (I don't do that in this country). For me part of the joy of travel is experiencing the local culture and food.

So, it got me thinking about what kind of meals would an American Ex Pat seek out in a foreign country on Thanksgiving.

I am going to list some of my thoughts but am interested in yours, whether you have found yourself in this position or not; maybe just speculate what kind of meal you would seek out.

The first time I was in London for Thanksgiving two other couples from Colorado were to join us and we had agreed that we would all meet on Thanksgiving at the Fuller's Pub next to the Tate Modern. We were there but since this was in the day when cell phones were not ubiquitous, we had no way of knowing that both other couples had serious travel difficulties: canceled flights.

So we waited. Eventually we decided that there had been a problem and, being hungry, we ordered. I had Bangers and Mash, with Mushy Peas and a pint (okay a few pints) of Fuller's London Pride.

Over the years, I have had that same dish as well as a wonderful steak, mushroom and Guinness pie at Brown's in Mayfair during thanksgiving.

In the UK, a roast of beef is always great. You can usually find this in a Pub, but usually only on Sunday. I suppose I could do one of my favorites which is the Polish-Mexican place in Shepherds Market. I will undoubtedly eat there, but choosing a local favorite would seem to preclude this. Actually, maybe a trip to the Borough market is in order. British sausages, and local cheeses – Stilton, English Cheddar – and some bread back at the room.


What of one of the great food cities in the world? I am going to opt for Bistro food. Boeuf bourguignon? French Onion Soup with a wonderful baguette? Mussels? Steak Frites? Any of that will work for me. Of course anything I choose will need to have a country pate to start. I'm thinking a Cotes Du Rhone for wine.
We spend a lot of time in southeast Asia. We particularly like Singapore. It has a very diverse population, including significant numbers of Chinese, Malays and Indians. There are four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. This diversity is reflected in the food selections as well. However, my number one choice will be Chilli Crab. The crabs are stir fried in a tomato and chilli sauce and can be very spicy – read HOT. They are great.

Mexico City. People often talk about 'Mexican food' as if it were a homogeneous cuisine – tacos anyone? The reality is that Mexico has a wide variety of regional cuisines. The food of southern Mexico is different from that of the north which is different from the food of the two coasts. The good news is that you can find those various foods served in Mexico City, so take your choice. Chicken Mole is good (it is a bird after all), but I am fond of Pibil. In this dish from the Yucatan, pork is marinated in citrus, then slowly roasted wrapped in a banana leaf. I'm ready now.

So, if you are away from the U.S. For Thanksgiving, try something local.

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