Growing up in the UK affords you little to no exposure to Thanksgiving. When it did cross my path one day, in an elementary school ‘history and culture day’, I genuinely wondered what the fuss was about – it’s a glorified roast dinner, right?

During my mid-twenties I met an American girl and this is when things changed. I was introduced to Thanksgiving and everything that comes as part and parcel of this wonderful occasion.

Any self-confessed food lover, foodie, whatever-you-want-to-call-it probably shouldn’t label themselves as such without having had an authentic, belt-busting, American Thanksgiving dinner. The kind that goes on for hours, with leftovers turned into sandwiches the next day (Ross Geller’s patented ‘moistmaker’ anyone?) and potatoes eaten as a late evening snack, from a bowl, drowned in gravy with scraps of this and that.

Why wouldn’t every country fabricate a reason to have this sort of occasion? If the Canadians can have a version, why can’t the rest of the world?

Sadly, there is currently no Thanksgiving dinner equivalent for Brits. Perhaps it would fly in the face of the Pilgrims and their mission? A punishment meted out by the first New Englanders – “no thanksgiving delights for those philandering idiots back home” they thought.

Yet, why not mix a traditional roast dinner, the kind served up across Blighty every Sunday, with a Thanksgiving feast? A Transatlantic hybrid mega meal, if you will. Lots of decisions to be made here of course like turkey or roast beef? Whipped or roast spuds? Cranberry or horseradish sauce? Here’s how my Frankenstein of a meal would shape up:

I’d keep the bird over the beast. Roast beef has its place but it’s not at this (ginormous) table. Turkey is too symbolic a centerpiece, not to mention, utterly delicious when prepared properly with perfectly bronzed, crisp skin and moist, flavorful meat. It feeds plenty of hungry family members, to boot.

Unless you can roast a large cow in one go, turkey is definitely the way to go.

Moving onto the starches brings us to yams. Candied yams were, in fact, the hardest Thanksgiving dish to wrap my head around when I gave up my Thanksgiving virginity. “You actually eat the marshmallows?” were the words from my mouth, in between shoveled mouthfuls.

Funnily enough I quite liked them. However, from a culinary and dental point of view, I’m going to veto them. The closest British equivalent in terms of sweetness, at least, are roast parsnips. We’ll take a sizzling batch, drizzled with a little good-quality honey straight from the oven.
What about the heavyweight battle of the potato dishes? It’s extremely tricky to separate because both are so, so good. Even though roast potatoes are as decadent and indulgent as it gets, especially when done in duck fat, they don’t spread out and act as culinary glue quite like whipped potatoes do.

Whipped potatoes are somehow simpler, more wholesome. They hold everything together, binding flavors and textures. Not to mention, logistically much easier to prepare compared to tray after tray of scalding hot duck fat going in and out of the oven.

Stuffing is another integral part of both meals; one side of the Atlantic traditionally cooks it in the animal and the other side does it in a separate dish. I’ll plump for both in this instance and award a tie/draw; we’ll make a sausagemeat, onion and parsley stuffing that gets packed into the turkey’s main cavity and under its breast to help protect it from the heat of the oven.

Alongside that will be a tray of bread stuffing with celery, pecans and dried herbs to give the turkey, you know, some oven company. We’ll also get some additional sweetness from the cranberry sauce, which wins the battle over horseradish – it’s just too strong! It’s another win for Thanksgiving dinner and the score is now starting to mirror events from the 1950 World Cup when the USA beat England at soccer/football. Yes, that really did happen.

By my count, American is kicking ass. There’s turkey rather than roast beef, whipped potatoes over roast, even cranberry sauce is a better fit compared to horseradish.

However, the British do have a proverbial ace up their sleeve; Yorkshire puddings. Those round, savory baked batter puddings are perfect for our Frankenfeast because they act as a vessel for gravy, meat, veggies, and anything else your heart desires.

If you run out of plate real estate, start spooning food into the Yorkshire puddings and you can start building up rather than out. Invaluable, wouldn’t you say?

The British also do vegetables very well. Did you know that celery, potato, and carrot producers in East Anglia (look it up on a map) are world class? It’s not much to boast about, but when it comes to this meal it counts.

All in all, I think it might be an even score. This is undoubtedly a weird amalgamation of two kinds of different meal and I readily acknowledge it. But it should work because it thrives on many shared points, most notably culinary.

Meat, starch, gravy, and a few vegetables form the basis of both meals and that is a tried and trusted formula. Crucially, it succeeds because both the British roast dinner and American Thanksgiving put backsides on seats around a table in the company of family and friends.
Thanksgiving is the one time of year I will forgive an overdone turkey or a lumpy forkful of potatoes. It’s great when you nail the cooking and you get the quiet murmur of people enjoying their food, no one speaking for a few moments.

For the chef inside me, I get a kick out of that, for sure, but it’s not what matters most. It’s the bringing together of cultures and international families to share food.

Food is one of the few universally shared things and my version of Thanksgiving might not be traditional, but I promise it works. This year, I will be enjoying my Yorkshire pudding filled to the brim with whipped potatoes topped with both kinds of stuffing and slathered with gravy. I might even start humming God Save the Queen as I look out over suburban Philadelphia.

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