One thing that is hard to get used to when living in another country is holidays. I’ve gotten used to the Kiwi holidays such as Anzac Day and the Queen’s birthday, but the harder ones are holidays that I would celebrate in the U.S. but nobody pays attention to here.
Halloween is one – there are people here who get into it but for the most part I forgot all about it this year because it isn’t really a thing here like it is in the U.S. I’ve heard it is becoming more popular over time, but nobody at work dressed up and they would have laughed if I’d suggested it. I think the commercialization of it all bothers many people here who see Halloween as a gimmick for the stores to make money and think of trick-or-treating as begging for candy. Some of my friends put up signs on their doors telling the few trick-or-treaters that do come by that they aren’t participating. And I can’t blame them to some extent – when my stepsons were young I loved taking them door-to-door on Halloween. But as they got older, it became a chore and something they did just for free candy so we stopped.
Thanksgiving is different though because it is a purely American holiday. So when Thanksgiving came around, I went to work just like any other day. Facebook lit up with everyone back in the U.S. getting together for turkey and spending time with family for the long four-day weekend and for us it was just another day.
I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving at all last year but this year I decided it would be fun to introduce my New Zealand family to a nice Thanksgiving meal the weekend after Thanksgiving day. It wasn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be. It hadn’t occurred to me that there are things that are needed for Thanksgiving that are hard to find in New Zealand. Turkey for one! Turkey is not at all common in New Zealand and since they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving the selection is small and the turkeys are expensive. We had to pay $48 NZD for a 4 kilo turkey.
I wanted to make a green bean casserole as this is a staple for my family. It’s relatively straight forward — you mix cream of mushroom soup with green beans and cover it with Durkee’s Fried Onions and bake it all together. But when we asked about fried onions at the grocery stores here, they looked at us completely lost. A trip to the American store provided the cream of mushroom soup but apparently every other American in NZ was doing the same thing and they were flat out of fried onions. Not to worry, Google to the rescue and we found a recipe to make them yourself at home. They were yum and barely made it on the casserole as we kept eating them.
I’m from the southern U.S. and we always make cornbread dressing instead of stuffing for Thanksgiving. But that requires cornbread which requires cornmeal. We found what we thought was cornmeal at the grocery store and used that but it was more like corn flour and the cornbread resembled cake more than cornbread. Cornmeal the way that I’m used to it isn’t common here and you never see any kind of cornbread-type products in the stores.
And lastly, we usually make sweet potato casserole. We tried that as well but substituted kumara for the sweet potato. Not bad. But not quite like mom’s.
I wouldn’t say it was the best thanksgiving meal I’ve ever had but it was the best Thanksgiving meal I’ve had in New Zealand :-).
You can substitute instant polenta for cornmeal. Failing that, Martha’s Backyard will import special requests. They also offer jet puffed marshmallows and a few other turkey day items.
As far as turkey, it’s expensive but we were able to special order a bird from Farro.
I hope you and your family enjoy your upcoming turkey day!