So I’ve just experienced my first Thanksgiving. Admittedly an untraditional one, as there was no turkey bird on the table. But we did feast on these two headless chickens after they perched on soda cans filled with beer (and other secret ingredients) for a good couple of hours on the barbie/bbq/braai (during which time they were basted liberally with porter/stout for that damn fine golden finish).

The birds were very good, and we enjoyed some fine wine with the meal. Less good was the broccoli casserole which was also on the table, and which I believe was my first taste of a truly American recipe – the kind that involves combining three or four ingredients out of cans (Google apple pie and at least one with give you this list of ingredients: one unbaked pie shell, one can of apple pie filling. You know the ones). This dish involved broccoli, mushy rice, two tins of mushroom soup, a box of Velveeta (what IS that stuff anyway?) and a box of Ritz crackers (to be crushed). Mix, mash, mush, bake in oven. Stodge. I guess we were the odd ones out, because 5/7 of the table company seemed to love it, and it was even hauled out and re-heated out the next day with the epithet “excellent.”

But each to their own. Whatever. It’s just a casserole.

Much freakier altogether was sitting at a table with a bunch of people who could fall under the category “family” or “friends” (used here very expansively) with fewer than seven degrees of separation – just a “step-” here, and an “-in-law” there. Yes, we dined with rednecks (used here with all respect: Leroy did grow up on a cattle farm, and probably had a sunburnt neck during summer too). And a TSA officer (in uniform) with a military wife.

Needless to say my joke about how annoying it is to have to take off shoes and belt when travelling wasn’t well received in that company. After that I decided to keep quiet, which was the best tactic anyhow, because these (scarily authentic) Americans SHOUT. They shouted about football. They shouted about how small the pepper mill was. They shouted about a whole lot of other stuff which I hardly understood a word of.

And then it occurred to me, sitting next to the Philosophe and his father and brother on our quiet side of the table, that this wasn’t like Reality TV. It was even worse, like being inside the television set by some giant geographical accident. This was Very High Definition Television, which is about as much fun as discovering that the Jaws movie you’re watching isn’t just 3D, but that you’re in the water, and a very real live shark is about to take a big chunk out of your person. Sit still and be quiet, and if you’re lucky, it’ll all soon be over.

Yes, I even begin to see the value in user guides:


So, I ate, I drank, I got scared. Perhaps an authentic Thanksgiving after all?