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!