With each year, Britonss appear more and more enamoured with American festivities.
As an increasing number of children across the UK go ‘trick of treating’, with shoppers fully leaning into ‘Black Friday’ – another import from the Western Hemisphere – it appears that Thanksgiving is the newest kid on the block.
The celebration is rooted in a 1621 meal which was believed to have been shared by English colonists of Plymouth, and the Native Wampanoag people.
However it has, alongside many winter festivities, become less about the historical background and more about the food and family it brings together.
The event is now celebrated every year on the last Thursday of November – and this year, will be happening on 24 November.
As an increasing number of children across the UK go ‘trick of treating’, with shoppers fully leaning into ‘Black Friday’ – another import from the Western Hemisphere – it appears that Thanksgiving is the newest kid on the block. Stock image used
Type ‘Thanksgiving in London’ into Google and you’ll find articles compiling the best eats for the festivities in the capital, from the likes of CN Traveller, Evening Standard and Bloomberg.
Last week, the Guardian even shared a selection of ‘Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for Thanksgiving sides’.
Here FEMAIL reveals all you need to know about the holiday with the help of Former Democratic State Senator turned cookbook author Capri Cafaro.
She is now spending more time in the UK and is keen to bring a slice of US food history to UK shores.
She explained why Thanksgiving is making its way across the pond – and her top tips on how you can put a festive feast of your own on.
WHAT IS THANKSGIVING?
According to Britannica, Plymouth’s Thanksgiving happened after colonists, who were hunting for poultry, were suddenly faced with a visit from dozens of Wampanoag, who appeared at the settlement’s gate.
Former Democratic State Senator turned cookbook author Capri Cafaro (pictured) tells FEMAIL her thoughts on why Thanksgiving is making its way across the pond
Despite initial tensions, it is understood that they enjoyed socialising together and eventually shared a feast, with the turkeys, geese and ducks from the colonists being offered up, as well as venison from the Wampanoag.
Fish, eels, vegetables and beer are also thought to have been spread out during the meal, and despite a huge language barrier, the group enjoyed shooting and drinking liquor together.
It is understood that a treaty came to be known between the groups – which was from 1675 – 1676 broken when King Philip’s war broke out following tensions between the sects – resulting in the loss of thousands of Native Americans’ lives, as hundreds of colonists too died.
The conflict is named after Metacom, a Wampanoag chief who used the name Philip following friendly relations his father Massasoit established with the Mayflower Pilgrims.
This year the festival will be celebrated on Thursday, 24 November.
Capri explained: ‘While Thanksgiving is known as a North American holiday (Canadians celebrate in October, Americans in November), I can see how other countries and cultures may want to adapt what has largely become a food holiday that extends the festive season, while also being lower pressure than Christmas to many.’
She explained that while the link to its colonial past has been hotly debated – especially so in recent years – it has also made room for a time of teaching about the nation’s violent past.
‘There are certainly painful, complex and culturally insensitive elements to the historical context and depiction of “pilgrims and Indians” stereotypes that have unfortunately plagued Thanksgiving,’ she said.
‘I for one, am glad that we are now using Thanksgiving to have honest conversations about the way indigenous people have been subjugated throughout history in North America.
‘Thanksgiving has also become an opportunity to be a teachable moment to discuss decolonising diets and highlighting foods that are native to North America, such as corn and squash, by incorporating these into the Thanksgiving meal.’
HOW IS THANKSGIVING USUALLY CELEBRATED?
While familial Thanksgiving celebrations are as personalised as Christmas ones, Capri explained that her own family takes part in traditions many families across the US do.
‘We use the day as an opportunity to slow down and focus on gratitude for all blessings, big and small,’ she said.
‘We usually all write what we are thankful for on slips of paper and put it in a jar to then read later and reflect.’
She added that, at the core, the day is ‘also all about food’.
We make the stuffing separately rather than stuffing the turkey, and we always use a roasting bag to keep the turkey moist.
‘My sister and I cook. She takes the lead on the turkey, and we always make stuffing with dried cranberries and chestnuts, which is a take on the stuffing our Grandmother made.’
However Capri – who is now based in the UK – has also had her fair share of Thanksgivings across the pond.
‘I actually made Thanksgiving dinner in an Air B&B a few years back,’ she revealed. ‘We brought canned pumpkin in our suitcase to make pie!’
However this year, her British Thanksgiving will be a touch more cosy.
‘We now have a flat in London and will be celebrating Thanksgiving in London again this year,’ she explained. ‘So Thanksgiving will largely be the same as we do it at home in the States.
‘I have already been looking through the holiday flyers in UK supermarkets for turkey ideas, and have even noticed that some actually offer items billed as “Thanksgiving food”.’
While she added that authentic pumpkin pie and yams may be difficult to track down here – retailer Partridges are quite good.
Capri also revealed that despite the glamour of the turkey, her favourite Thanksgiving dish is actually Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, which she has dubbed ‘her favourite starter’.
‘It’s easy to make and it involves a few of my favourite things all together…cream cheese, mushrooms and crab meat,’ she revealed.
‘I also love our family stuffing recipe because it reminds me of Thanksgiving as a child.
HOW SHOULD I DECORATE MY HOME FOR THANKSGIVING?
Meanwhile Capri shared a number of different ways to decorate your home for the holiday.
She suggested bringing the outside by opting some autumn leaves and flowers, and fresh pumpkins for the table.
She advised creating a warm tablescape palette, using colours on your table that are warm, inviting and natural.
She said: ‘Try interspersing candles of different heights to create dimension and perhaps integrate the seasonal theme with pumpkin shaped dishes and ramekins.
‘We also print out menus to fit in with the colour scheme too.’
Meanwhile the chef also advised making a ‘Thanful Jar’ for guests to put the things they feel most thankful for inside.
She said: ‘Don’t forget to add this to your table ready for your guests to pop their notes of what they’re thankful for into.’
Capri Cafaro’s Tips & Tricks for throwing a Thanksgiving celebration
While familial Thanksgiving celebrations are as personalised as Christmas ones, Capri shares that her own family takes part in traditions many families across the US do
It’s all about the prep
Cooking for a group can be daunting, so I always try to look at what I can make ahead to save time and stress on the day. Dishes like the mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce can be easily made a few days ahead. The microwave + freezer should also be your friends as these will really help with getting ahead with prep, and then reheating on the day.
Try adding a dollop of sour cream and chives, and bacon bits if you really want a loaded option. Alternatively, you can add a bit of sharp cheddar for a different kind of tang and bite. In the US, we would probably use a russet potato, but in the UK, I think a King Edward is the perfect potato for making mash.
I recommend adding some maple syrup for a mild sweetness, and a swirl of melted dark chocolate for a hint of sophistication. I also like to make a gingersnap crust for an additional kick.
For a fun, easy and seasonal drink, I make a Cranberry Sangria with a garnish of fresh rosemary for more flavour and flair.
The more casual option
If you’re planning a more casual get together, think about making fun, single serve items like mini pies in a muffin tin.