Last week I bought tomatoes in a greengrocer’s shop in Coleraine that had been grown in Ballinderry, in the middle of November.
There’s nothing better than the sweet taste of late season tomatoes and these were particularly special. It got me thinking about Thanksgiving in America and how they celebrate the end of their harvest in the last Thursday in November.
The first Thanksgiving celebration is believed to have been in 1621 when the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe of native Indians feasted in honour of the successful harvest that year.
Nowadays, despite a certain amount of commercialism, the essence of thanking God for all their blessings is still what this feast is all about for modern Americans.
In the eighties I went to University in the states and spent a couple of Thanksgivings there. Bringing a visiting Irish student home to your family was apparently gold dust at the time.
The first time I was there I went to the home of my friend Michael, who’s mother, who had three other sons, was delighted to have another woman in the house and one who actually helped with the cooking.
The menu was much like our Christmas with a turkey roasted and all the trimmings, one of which was sweet potatoes with a marshmallow topping.
Yes, you read that right. I want to say it turned out to be a deliciously surprising combination, but in reality it was as grim as it sounds.
One of the things I helped to make was gravy. Americans have strange ideas about making it with milk and other unusual ingredients and they were amazed at how I made it and I was amused at their reaction to something we take for granted.
American food in general has a bad press. The notion is that’s it’s all massive portions of mass produced food.
The reality is that you can have the best and worst food in the world in the States – pretty much like here.
When I studied there I learned how to make proper fried chicken.
Fried chicken and burgers have been one of America’s worst contributions to food globally, when they’re done on mass scale with profit over ethics.
When they’re done well with great start off ingredients, they are one of the best things to eat.
A really good burger, made from fine dry aged beef can be a thing of loveliness, as can fried chicken.
This week’s recipe is for one I first tried 30 years ago, cooked by one of my fellow students and still a stand out meal for me.
The chicken was cornfed and first class and the biscuits, similar to our scones, were fluffy, hot and light.
The accompanying sausage gravy was a decadent treat. This isn’t everyday food but then it’s not Thanksgiving everyday either.
On another note Slow Food North West is launching on Wednesday 2nd December in the Walled City Brewery in Ebrington in Londonderry at 11am. If you are interested in food, its sources and would like to sign up to be part of this global moment, it would be great to see you ( RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02871376506 to confirm attendance).