Well, it was officially Thanksgiving back in Canada on the weekend. You know, that time of year when we give thanks for family and friends… and that there’s no snow on the ground yet (we hope!)… and for all the amazing food that we’re going to stuff ourselves with over the long weekend. Ah, Thanksgiving… Interestingly, this wasn’t something that we really celebrated in Edmonton, since our families were back in Ontario. Some years we would get home and enjoy our moms’ home cooking. But, most years, we would do “alternative” Thanksgiving dinners with friends (i.e., other Edmonton “orphans” who couldn’t get home for the weekend), often involving Indian or Lebanese-inspired meals.
Well, that all changed when we moved to Australia! Here, there is no Thanksgiving. Well, except in the minds and memories of we expats (including the Americans, though they don’t celebrate their event for another 6 weeks; sadly, that will get a bit of media attention… but the Canadian version goes by without much ado). Our theory here is that since food grows year-round there’s not much point to a “harvest festival” – well, every day is harvest day, we suppose! And if there were such a festival here, it would fall around Easter time, which seems a bit silly. Well, except for the wine harvest of course; but we digress…
The strange thing is that when you live in Canada, where turkeys are advertised in the grocery store flyers at 99 cents a pound for weeks and you don’t really see what all the fuss is about (except you get a long weekend – and who doesn’t love that?), you can take or leave the holiday most years. But here in Australia, where you can’t find a turkey to save your life (well, we’ve been told you can order one at the butcher, but it will probably run about $200 and may only be available closer to Christmas), the cravings are deadly. Turkey… stuffing… cranberries (Lisa edit: Ew! We never ate cranberries in Canada; you can’t crave that now, Dan)… mashed potatoes… turkey skin (you know, the super crispy stuff)… and don’t forget about the “leftovers,” turkey soup, hot turkey sandwiches… oh my!
Oh, wait… did I mention pumpkin pie? This has to be the cruelest twist of all in the “Australia’s just like home in so many ways!” mantra. There is “pumpkin” everywhere; it pops up on menus and is served in every home. You can get pumpkin as a side with your lamb, as a soup, on pizza… but by “pumpkin” the Aussies really mean “squash”. But can you get a real, orange pumpkin here? You know, appropriate for making Jack O’Lanterns at Halloween… oh shit; they don’t celebrate that either! What’s wrong with these people?! All the good holidays are missing!
Okay, but back to pumpkin. Look… you can’t make a good pumpkin pie with Butternut [Pumpkin] Squash. You just can’t! And pumpkin pie is the one thing that we really, really want. You know, with Cool Whip on top? Well, you can’t get Cool Whip here either. Help… send food! Oh wait, quarantine will just confiscate it at the border. They say it’s because of worries about pests, but we know the truth; the quarantine officials understand how wonderful these treats are and they take them home and eat them with their families, while Canadians die of starvation… Okay, we’re getting carried away here now. But, seriously, these are the types of strange cravings that you get when you are in a country where you can’t easily go to any Mac’s Milk and buy a case of canned pumpkin pie filling, a crate of maple syrup, a dozen boxes of Kraft Dinner and all the ingredients needed to make Nanaimo bars. All the things you swore you didn’t care about and really didn’t eat on a regular basis (we haven’t eaten KD in years… and actually, we don’t crave that at all; but still, it’s the principle damn it!). We can order some delicacies online at O Canada — but they charge $12.49 for a can of pumpkin pie filling! It may come to that, in time… Anyone want to invest in some gift cards to make a couple of nostalgic Canadians really happy?
Now, we know what you’re thinking. Thanksgiving isn’t all about food, it’s about getting together with family… yadda, yadda. Well, that’s true. But the memories of family, of spending time at Pike Bay and the house in Owen Sound, are closely linked to family meals. Yes, we also miss everyone; this is the first Thanksgiving without Dan’s dad and many of our memories are of the amazing spread of food in the kitchen – pots warming on the stove as we filled our plates, put up the TV trays, and talked and laughed with family that we hadn’t seen in months or years. We would go for a walk, enjoy the changing colour of the leaves, shiver at the first biting winds that told us that winter was just around the corner. We would take a drive with Lisa’s parents to look at Inglis Falls or have lunch at the Inn in Harrison Park during these visits… then, returning home to the long weekend and all the pie we could eat.
So, while there are so many things in common between Canada and Australia (you can still buy Valentine cards and Christmas lights down under), Thanksgiving is a tough one for us. In another 5 weeks we’ll see that the Uni staff club is hosting an American Thanksgiving lunch… with turkey roll and cranberries (Ew!)… But it’s not the same thing. Nope, for that we’ll just have to make the long trek home and hope that the family doesn’t suddenly decide to shift gears and go out for Chinese food on Thanksgiving weekend. So, families if you’re reading this, take note… Lisa’s coming home for a visit soon and she’s DYING for a piece of pumpkin pie. Can you please help a girl out?