Thursday, May 27, 2010

Antipodean Thanksgiving

Having lived in Australia my whole life (apart from a handful of weeks spent elsewhere), I feel that I've had a surprising amount of exposure to the cultural phenomenon of American Thanksgiving - almost all of it via Hollywood.

Being an incurable sweet-tooth, the thing that always caught my eye on the Thanksgiving table was pumpkin pie. Imagine that: pumpkin for dessert! (Yet another perfectly healthy vegetable corrupted by sugar! I like that concept a lot).

So this year, on the fourth Thursday in May (i.e. six months before ... or is it six months after Thanksgiving in the USA?) I decided to have a little antipodean Thanksgiving celebration - with pumpkin pie, naturally:

My pumpkin pie didn't look as pretty as the one in my cookbook, and it tasted disturbingly like hot cross buns. Not that there's anything wrong with hot cross buns, mind you - it's just that I expected something different. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, hot cross buns and pumpkin pie are both, in essence, excuses for adding large amounts of sugar and spice to a starchy base.

My verdict? The pumpkin pie was very nice, and I'm pleased to have finally tried it. But I've decided I prefer my pumpkin roasted, or turned into soup or gnocchi. Mm-mmm.

Incidentally, this date strikes me as rather late in autumn for a harvest festival (which is what Thanksgiving traditionally is, or was). For example, our pumpkins were harvested (due to the onset of frosts) over a month ago. The Canadian date for Thanksgiving (the second Monday in October) seems to be more in alignment with the actual harvest period. 

Aha! Now that I've spent 30 seconds Googling the history of Thanksgiving in the USA, I've learned (according to Mayflower History) that:
"The Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving began at some unknown date between September 21 and November 9, most likely in very early October.  The date of Thanksgiving was probably set by Lincoln to somewhat correlate with the anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod, which occurred on November 21, 1620 (by our modern Gregorian calendar--it was November 11 to the Pilgrims who used the Julian calendar)."

Note to self: I must organise a fair dinkum harvest festival next year, possibly involving the consumption of home brew, by the light of the full moon ...

1 comment:

  1. Try this, I always do a bit of extra pumpkin for this bread whenever we have it in a meal. The bread's great toasted with a poached egg for breakfast.

    Pumpkin Bread recipe
    2-1/2 cups plain flour & 1 cup whole grain flour (I use the bread-makers whole grain from the supermarket)
    1 cup cooked mashed pumpkin with a little garlic powder and a ½ tsp of dry thyme
    1/2 cup warm water
    2 tsp dried fresh yeast
    1 tbsp honey (a good dollop)
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1/2 tsp salt
    Combine the fresh yeast with the water and honey in a bowl, sprinkle it over the surface of the water and whisk in until dissolved. Leave the mixture to rest in a warm place for 10-15 minutes until frothy on the surface.
    Mix flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast liquid, mix a little then stir in the olive oil.
    Add the cooked pumpkin at this stage (you may need to add a little flour later if the dough is to wet)
    Using either floured hands or a wooden spoon, mix together to form dough. Turn out on to a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Return to bowl and cover with glad wrap and tea towel and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.
    Turn out for a second time and 'knock back' by punching the dough. This releases any air bubbles which would make the dough uneven. (It gives a better crust)
    Return to bowl and let rise again, then turn out and knock back. Then form loaf and let rise further before placing into a hot oven, about 200/ 220c for about 25 min