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American Thanksgiving


Hello! My name is Shannon, and I'm an American who lives near Washington, DC. I previously showed you my day with Russian villagers in the Kostroma region, but today I want to show you how an ordinary family celebrates an important U.S. holiday - Thanksgiving.  If you ask any American what their favorite holiday is, the top two answers will be Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are the most popular celebrations in the States, and on both occasions even distant relatives gather together for large feasts and companionship. Now, let's take a look at how my family celebrates in the small town of Manassas, Virginia. Enjoy my Thanksgiving day and happy eating to all readers who celebrate this day in the USA...:)

1. It all begins the evening before, when one of my mom's sisters starts baking the turkey in the oven. We generally have several turkeys as about 40 relatives and friends gather at the same house for the meal. My mom always cooks two of my favorite dishes for this feast. The first is a broccoli casserole, which consists of cooked broccoli, cream of mushroom soup, lots of cheddar cheese and onions, all topped with bread crumbs. The second, macaroni 'n' cheese, is an American classic. Known as "comfort food." Delicious! Noodles, heavy cream, lots of cheeses and sour cream thrown in for extra richness.


2. We always separate dark meat from white meat. Here, a bowl of dark meat turkey. I don't like it, preferring only lean, white meat.


3. Meat, meat and more meat! My family also makes a ham because not everyone likes turkey, and in America we love choices!


4. For the first time, we're eating wild game! My cousin's boyfriend shot the turkey, gutted it and fried the breast meat. In recent years, it has become popular for Americans to deep fry turkeys. Here's an iPhone pic of the kill. Shot with a bow and arrow, about 20 yards away.


5. So how do you prepare a fried turkey? It's an artform and takes precision and skill. :) First, the hunter injects the breast meat with a garlic butter and herb marinade.


6. Next, sprinkle the breasts with spicy Cajun seasoning, or any other type of seasoning which makes your mouth water and tongue dance!


7. We also fry a whole turkey, which is prepared and seasoned the same way. Poor creature, looks so hopeless but very tasty! I was confused why we didn't fry more of the wild game. According to the hunter, the legs and wings of wild turkeys are too tough because they're running around in the wild and thus have much tighter muscles than traditional caged turkeys who are less mobile.


8. Deep frying a turkey is some kind of precise science. It's necessary to determine the proper amount of oil, temperature, etc. There have been a lot of serious injuries and severe burns from people improperly cooking them, having oil overflow from the deep fryer and even turkey explosions from being cooked at temperatures too hot. This turkey required 3 gallons of peanut oil. About 1/8 of the oil is lost when the turkey is done. It's necessary to watch at all times to ensure proper cooking, which usually takes 3 1/2 minutes per pound. Very fast way to cook a turkey!! This one took about an hour.


9. Finished product. If it's not cooked properly, the outside will be charred and inside raw. But we had a master fryer and the meat was perfect.


10. What else do we eat? Each year, one of my cousins makes this dish consisting of crushed pineapple, condensed milk and cinnamon. It's a great side dish with the ham. Lots of traditional autumn vegetables like corn, green beans, squash and sweet potatoes also are served.


11. Salad consisting of cucumbers, onions and tomatoes in a vinegar type dressing. Almost everyone in my family likes cucumbers, except me! In the back, cookies and traditional cranberries which are served at almost every Thanksgiving dinner in America.


12. My favorite part is always the dessert! We have a full table of them. My mom makes this dish called "lemon lush." Filled with lemon pudding, cream cheese, and layers of whipped cream. The crust is brown sugar, walnuts, and flower. Topped with more nuts. It's everyone's favorite sweet at our holiday gatherings.


13. My cousin's wife always brings a basket of homemade chocolate chip cookies to all family gatherings.


14. Pumpkin roll. Basically a type of spiced cake, with rolls of cream and topped with white icing. In the background, pumpkin pie and some fudge.


15. Yellow cake topped with strawberry glaze and whipped cream. Coconut pie and brownies also in the frame.


16. Here's my contribution to the feast - homemade peanut butter pie! How can Russians live without peanut butter? It's the most delicious food. :)) The pie crust is crushed Oreo cookies mixed with butter, and the pie filling is very simple. Peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and whipped cream.


17. My father's first plate of food. My family eats off of paper plates, not fancy china. We prefer casual gatherings, where people are free to get up and move around, talk to a lot of different people, and visit everyone. And who wants to do dishes for forty people? It's enough time and effort to prepare the feast and clean all the dishes used during meal preparation. You will see on his plate another traditional Thanksgiving food - mashed potatoes and gravy.


18. One of the tables before everyone gathers. We love to decorate for the holidays, and the most beautiful decorations will show up in a few weeks for Christmas, when American homes are lit with colorful lights, snowmen, reindeer and wreaths.


19. Seasonal decorations at my aunt's house.


20. My mom and sister were first at the table.


21. The room fills very quickly. Some people eat outside on the porch, some on the sofa. There's not enough room for everyone to be gathered in the same spot. My mom has ten siblings, so we have a lot of relatives - aunts, uncles, cousins and brothers and sisters all gathered together to celebrate the day.


22. At almost every family gathering I meet someone new. We always welcome strays, people who have family living out of State or even overseas and nowhere to celebrate. This year a pleasant surprise when I discovered this guest is from Slovakia! He's going to school at the University of South Carolina with one of my cousin's friends. He previously studied in Moscow and is now getting his Master's in international business. He speaks good Russian. :) Interesting to chat with him about his home country, which I recently visited.


23. My aunt's house in Manassas, where the feast has been held every year since I was a child.


24. Before and after the meal, everyone hangs out in the yard, in the house and other gathering areas to chat.


25. Young boys play football.


26. Gymnast and future family Olympian.


27. Family gypsies selling handmade bracelets for $1. :))


28. Cousin Tim and his peach moonshine from Lynchburg, Virginia. He promised to bring strawberry moonshine to the Christmas gathering.


29. Relaxing in the living room, a typical gathering spot in American homes. After our bellies are full, we watch football games for the rest of the day.


30. More cousins, yes I have a lot of them!


31. Our turkey fryer and hunting enthusiast! Thanks for the tasty wild game.


32. At the end of the day, people start thinking about "Black Friday." This is the busiest shopping day in America, with many retail stores offering huge Christmas discounts for buyers arriving in the early morning. For the first time, the sales started on Thanksgiving evening last year. Some electronics like TVs and laptops are reduced by 30% - 40% on Black Friday, but there are a limited number available for this price. So people line up hours before the stores open, hoping to get their hands on one of the discounted items. Here, my sister and cousin make lists and map out their shopping route for the next two days. This is some type of chaotic scene in the stores!


33. Typical Black Friday scene. I do almost all of my Christmas shopping online now to avoid crowds like this. Horror! Reminds me of the Moscow metro! :)


So what do you think? See any tasty foods? :) Happy Thanksgiving to all of the immigrants celebrating in the USA or abroad!

P.S.: My Russian is very bad, so if you know English please leave comments in this language. Otherwise, we can communicate through online translators. Please check my blog for more stories about the USA, my travels in Russia and other countries, and many other interesting topics!


( 154 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:54 am (UTC)
Hello! My name is Anastasia. Originally I am from Russia. Now I live in USA (Gaithersburg, MD) with my family.
Every year we celebrate Thanksgiving with friends. This year I try to make turkey by myself, and it worked! I like Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, it my favorite holidays too.
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:05 am (UTC)
Hello! You are very close to me, as I live in the Washington, DC area. I've been to Gaithersburg, Maryland. :) Congratulations on the turkey! I've never tried to cook one myself.
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:28 am (UTC)
And we, normally, have the cassoulet. Some in my family are crazy on duck! And by December we are tired of turkey.

Hope you've had a joyous holiday!
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:36 am (UTC)
My family has never eaten duck at any gatherings. For Christmas we usually eat ham. My Thanksgiving was great, thanks! I cut my Christmas tree this weekend and it's now decorated. Apartment looks festive. :)
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2013 04:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:36 am (UTC)
Poor creature, looks so hopeless but very tasty! - I'm laughing!
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:39 am (UTC)
Raw meat scares me. :)) This is the reason I can't cook a turkey, but I will eat it when it's done! I can't see any blood or pink, so I eat my burgers and steak well done.
(no subject) - real_marsel - Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:39 am (UTC)
I've knowen new word - moonshine.
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:50 am (UTC)
Oh, moonshine! :) This is a very strong distilled alcohol. Now you must taste it, although I have no idea where you can find it in Russia. Next week we'll visit Tennessee. Maybe we'll find a moonshine maker there and I can write a report.
(no subject) - real_marsel - Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2013 04:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2013 04:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:41 am (UTC)
Wow :) Your feast looks fantastic!

We've moved to States from Russia just a month ago but nevertheless caught our first turkey :) Thanks for the long holidays we were able to drive from our place in Arlington, VA, to visit my old friend in New Jersey. I really fell in love with the traditional celebration of Thanksgiving here.
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:53 am (UTC)
It's a great holiday. Christmas in America also is wonderful. Maybe you've already seen decorated houses in Arlington? I live there also. We are neighbors.
(no subject) - tombormor - Dec. 2nd, 2013 04:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Dec. 2nd, 2013 04:20 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:46 am (UTC)
Oh, I like Thanksgiving! It’s really family holiday and a lot of tasty food! I’ve bought a part of turkey in Costco and cooked it in accordance with instruction. It was really delicious!
Shannon I like your family. You know it reminds me my childhood when all my grandparents were alive and we always gathered with all my aunts, uncles and cousins.
Thank you!
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:54 am (UTC)
Olga, a big family is great as you know. So grateful that we all live close to each other and can have frequent gatherings like this. Did you go shopping on Black Friday? :)
(no subject) - rider3099 - Dec. 2nd, 2013 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:47 am (UTC)
I've knowen second meaning of word "lush". I always suppused, it means drunk man, but here see another meaning - something soft, easy, like a cloud.
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:50 am (UTC)
Yes, it has multiple meanings. Today you get an English lesson with my post. :)
(no subject) - real_marsel - Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:56 am (UTC)
Thanks! Very interesting to read because every family celebrate little bit different. I like casserole, I do almost same but use cauliflower instead broccoli
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:57 am (UTC)
You're welcome! It's always interesting to see normal families and how they celebrate things. Some people also make that dish with cauliflower here, but I don't like this vegetable.
Dec. 2nd, 2013 04:30 am (UTC)
I hate you, Shannon.
More and more dishes, more and more meat, cakes, rolls and fuckin' peach moonshine!!!
I'm on fuckin' diet and can't keep calm when I look all these delicious things.

I'll go shoot myself.
Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:36 pm (UTC)
How can you be on a diet during the holidays? It's impossible! Come to Virginia for Christmas. We have the same type of celebration and we can drink strawberry moonshine! We will be happy to welcome another Russian to the party. :))
(no subject) - fareastener - Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fareastener - Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fareastener - Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2013 04:44 am (UTC)
You have such a big family! It's great!
Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:40 pm (UTC)
The main thing is that we actually like each other, so the family gatherings are pleasant. No punches or fights. :)
Dec. 2nd, 2013 07:37 am (UTC)
thank you for the post! everything looks sooo good and tasty! :) it's a huge job to feed 40 people! :) the first toast should definitely be to the women of the family :) I didn't know about moonshine, that Americans also do it::)
Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, the women work very hard and we are grateful for it! I only made cupcakes so I had a very easy task. We eat fresh mashed potatoes and this is the most time consuming part of the feast. Peeling all of the potatoes for boiling. This year, we ate over 20 pounds of potatoes.
Dec. 2nd, 2013 07:47 am (UTC)
Woman, I adore this post! Im so happy to see your family. People I love. Looks like an amazing celebration. Of course Head plans out her Black Friday route. She is so cute! Thanks for sharing. I will be in town soon, I hope we can visit. Happy Holidays! xoxo
Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:37 pm (UTC)
She is crazy, and now she's hijacked my Amazon account because I have free shipping. :))
(no subject) - amandakysses - Dec. 2nd, 2013 06:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Alex Winter
Dec. 2nd, 2013 09:59 am (UTC)
Вы что, вырезаете сердцевины огурцов? ) неужто так невыносимо есть мягкие семечки?
Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:38 pm (UTC)
Yes, they are cored! We don't like the seeds. :)
(no subject) - fareastener - Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fareastener - Dec. 2nd, 2013 11:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2013 10:55 am (UTC)
Looks beautiful and delicious. Did you taste moonshine?
Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
Yes, I drank it! Very strong, immediately drunk after a few sips but it's more tasty with the fresh fruit thrown in.
(no subject) - general_denikin - Dec. 2nd, 2013 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:51 pm (UTC)
Show must go on!
Report looks incomplete. By all the laws of the genre, the fun should to continue until dark, and morning photos of some participants of the festival should be excellent illustration of the harm of alcohol abuse:)
Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Show must go on!
We are well behaved on this holiday, so such photos would be boring. New Year's Eve is another story, lots of drunkenness! Russian style. :)
Re: Show must go on! - andrey_kaminsky - Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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