The Festive Bird

For anyone who doesn’t happen to know this, the traditional Thanksgiving meal in the United States is very similar to the traditional Christmas meal in Britain. The turkey, stuffing/dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce — it’s all there in November in the States and December here. The big exceptions are that in the US there would probably be sweet potatoes, while in the UK there would be brussels sprouts. The desserts are different  too, of course — and just as an aside, Janet was delighted to find ground cloves this year, which has never happened before. Whole cloves are well and good for curries and mulled wine, but she never was able to grind them quite finely enough for her pumpkin pie, much to her annoyance. This year she found them tucked away amid some Caribbean curry powders. Maybe she should have been looking for ground cloves as “laving powder.”

laving powder

We face the “what to serve with turkey” question quite regularly this time of year, so we’ll share our go-to answer. We favour the increasingly popular approach among holiday hosts and hostesses of choosing a sparkling wine, a red wine and a white wine to offer at Thanksgiving dinner. There are always guests who insist they *only* drink red or white, and sparkling wines, with their bubbles and acidity, suit most holiday fare, from party foods and first courses through the main course. The wines need to be good all-rounders that will pair well no matter which foods end up on a guest’s plate.

For white wines, skip the oaky Chardonnay and try instead food-friendly Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. The balance of slight sweetness and acidity in a good, dry Riesling cuts through what can be a very heavy, fatty meal and refreshes the palate, as do aromatic Gewurztraminers.

For red wines, try for a lighter Italian red or a Beaujolais, both of which pair beautifully with festive meals. Pinot Noirs can also be quite good for holiday meals, especially if ham is being served alongside the turkey, as often happens. A Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône is also a popular choice, or you might try its neighbor, Lirac, or a Côtes du Rhône Village wine for a similar taste of the southern Rhône for a more agreeable price.

And what did we have this year for Thanksgiving? Well, as it’s an ordinary Thursday night in Britain and not a national holiday, we tend to keep things simple, with just enough festive touches to make Janet feel like she’s celebrated, but not such a meal that we are left drowning in leftovers a month before we’ll be drowning in the same leftovers again. We had a roast chicken with a few of the traditional Southern sides Janet loves best.

And much to our delight, a friend gave us a bottle of already-chilled Prosecco to add to the occasion. It was such a lovely gesture and the wine itself was very good. But even if it hadn’t been, we’d have drunk it and felt pleased about it, because that is ultimately what Thanksgiving is for. There’s no potentially contentious religious angle, and no gift-giving. It’s just enjoying food and celebrating, and being thankful that you can enjoy yourself and celebrate, wherever you are and whoever you are with. And even over a chicken in Hertfordshire.


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