Around Our Table

Thanksgiving Day table setting in our London flat

My favorite holiday is just days away! When this week comes along, I always reflect on what I am grateful for. At the top of the list is our families and friends. I am also reminded of past Thanksgiving Day celebrations.  A few of my favorites are the ones we spent in London, a place where Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday at all!

From my journal, written on November 26, 2008, London England:

“Cooked all afternoon – cranberry bread, green bean casserole w/onions, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin – rather “squash” pie – (no pumpkins or canned pumpkin in stores??), corn succotash…”

This was a partial list of the menu from our 3rd Thanksgiving celebration in the UK. The main course was indeed turkey, but as we learned our first year there, we needed to buy a “clean” bird.  London grocers such as Waitrose and Tesco don’t stock up on turkeys, so we had to buy ours at the Richmond Farmer’s Market. The farmer we spoke to asked, “What kind of turkey do you want?” We weren’t sure what he meant so when we hesitated, he said, “A clean one?” Still not understanding he clarified, “One with feathers or without?”

Around our table that year, we were joined by two British women and their spouses, one South African and the other Italian. Having guests that aren’t acquainted with Thanksgiving and being the teacher that I am, I set out to educate them with a little trivia before dinner!

See how well you do…

Q: Who attended the First Thanksgiving feast?

A: The colonial Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians.

Q: What foods were served?

A: Venison, lobster, clams, berries, pumpkin and squash.

Q: Where did the First Thanksgiving take place?

A: Plymouth (Plimouth), Massachusetts.

Q: When was this event held?

A: September 1621.

Q: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?

A: To commemorate the harvest the Pilgrims shared with the Wampanoag Indians who helped them survive their first year in Plymouth.

Q: How long did the first feast last?

A: Three days.

Did you get them all correct?

In addition to the meal we prepared, our guests brought wonderful treats.  Among them, sparkling champagne, a tasty treacle tart from Marks and Spencers and homemade florentines!


We didn’t lack for food or good conversation that evening. Everything from where each of us grew up to ex-pat assignments to favorite vacation spots were shared. Several hours later, we called it a night and as the Brits say, “Everyone got on well.” 

From my journal, written the day after:

“Last night was terrific!  Richard and Lainey just light up any room. Marette called to say how much fun they had…I enjoyed Thanksgiving with everyone as well – the food was dried out a bit by the time we all sat down to eat at 8pm…Richard & Lainey are wonderful conversationalists and Marette & Ludo are so intelligent and worldly!”

Twelve years have passed since that Thanksgiving, but I can still feel the warmth and glow of sharing that meal, being present at that time, and the ease of being together. Now, like then, it is still the people we are with that make every holiday what it is…memorable and something to be thankful for. Whoever is around your table this year, in person or virtually, have a safe and very Happy Thanksgiving!

4 thoughts on “Around Our Table

  1. I’ve been reading about treacle tart in Harry Potter books for decades now but never actually looked up pictures or recipe – it looks yummy!! Sorry we will miss Thanksgiving together this year. I’ll be trying my first crack at making a “clean bird” myself 🙂


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