When it comes to the holiday season, I’m certainly not the most traditional. But, there is one holiday that I do rather enjoy and prefer not to miss out on – and that’s Thanksgiving. For the food and for the thanks.
Now that I live in Australia, obviously celebrating Thanksgiving isn't a thing. I couldn’t even stream the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade over here! Nonetheless, we still managed to celebrate with some turkey and stuffing. We were in a room where the Americans outnumbered the Aussies. That never happens!
When I lived at home, we’d usually wake up on the morning of Thanksgiving and have cinnamon rolls for breakfast (or something else massively unhealthy) and gather round to watch the parade on TV. We’d head over to my Nani and Papa’s house relatively early and dinner happened around 2:00 – lasting well into the evening, going back for seconds… and thirds.
Then I moved to Orlando where Thanksgiving meant dancing in the streets, waving to excited tourists, and watching my friends high kick in front of the Christmas tree at Universal. I celebrated with a friend-filled holiday potlucks and I think of those memories fondly.
Cut to two Thanksgivings living on a ship where I probably spent the day on a Caribbean beach and feasted on every holiday staple imaginable they'd make for us at the mess. And then I probably went a danced in a production show. Not too shabby there, either.
But now, I’m excited bring the American tradition to my new home in Australia.
Here’s how I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in Oz.
Attempting Traditional American Recipes
While grocery shopping a few weeks before the holiday, I casually mentioned to Isaac that we should have an American-style feast to celebrate. Even better, he suggested spending the holiday with Steve (Isaac’s friend/mentor/bandmate) and his American wife, Jodie. We were pleased to find out they’d already invited over two other Americans, Meta and David for the occasion and that we were more than welcome to join.
The interesting part was deciding what to cook and how to do it using Aussie ingredients.
Green bean casserole is probably my favorite Thanksgiving dish. Well, pumpkin pie is another fav. Oh, and pecan pie. Ok, well it’s still in the top three. Plus, Isaac has never had green bean casserole! So I'd better make it good...
Road block: French’s French Fried Onions in that oh-so-convenient can don’t exist here. (They do sell it online though via a website called USA Foods which I may have to order from in the future when I just need American food.)
I also wanted to make homemade cranberry sauce which I’d never attempted before and thought it would be an easy addition to the meal and make it truly traditional.
Road block: Apparently South Brisbane is completely out of cranberries and I couldn’t find them anywhere. Summer here begins on December 1 so they’re actually out of season. Sadly, no cranberry sauce graced our Thanksgiving turkey.
Regardless of the roadblocks, here’s how I made green bean casserole for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner in Australia, using Aussie ingredients.
Making Classic Green Bean Casserole
For a bit of background, we live within walking distance from an Aldi grocery store. Super convenient, but if you’ve ever been to Aldi you’ll know it’s a truly an odd place and carries limited items. So, if you’re an American in Australia looking for the ingredients to green bean casserole, it’s best to hit up Coles or Woolies to get everything in one go.
You’ll also, of course, need a casserole dish to make this recipe. Again, conveniently, we live near a home goods store called Marcia’s on Montague where we got ours. It's insane how close we live to anything and everything you could possibly need... but I digress.
Onto the recipe.
I started with fresh green beans.
I cut off the ends and cooked them in a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil, water, salt, and pepper. Once cooked, I set them aside.
How to cook green beans:
1. Rinse green beans and cut off the ends.
2. Add oil to a pan over medium-high heat and sauté the green beans. Should take around 5 minutes.
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add the water. Cover immediately. Let the green beans steam for about 2 minutes until they are crisp.
Note: If I had a steamer, I probably would’ve just steamed the beans until bright green. It's just easier really. Don't worry, a steamer is on the list of things we need from Marcia’s.
Then I made freshly fried onions.
I cut up two brown onions into thin rings and soaked them in milk for five minutes before coating them with flour. I heated up some vegetable oil in the same pan I used to cook the green beans and fried the onions until they were golden.
Two brown onions
Milk (one cup)
Plain flour (one cup)
How to fry onions for green bean casserole:
1. Slice onions into thin rings.
2. Soak the onions in milk for five minutes then coat in flour.
3. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. I just eye-balled the measurement and simply coated the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the flour-covered onions until they become crispy to your liking.
5. Remove onions onto a plate lined with paper towel to soak up excess oil.
From there, I went with the classic Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole recipe using their cream of mushroom soup, soy sauce, the cooked green beans, and fried onions.
Putting together the casserole:
1. Preheat the oven to 175 C degrees (yes, everything in Australia uses Celsius and grams and meters and it’s confusing and I have to be extremely focused in every way, all the time)
2. Leaving one-third of the onions to the side, combine the rest of the ingredients in the casserole dish
3. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly
4. Just before serving, top with the remaining onions and bake for another 5 minutes.
Thanksgiving Day 2018
It started off like any other day. (Famous first line of a terrible romantic novel… what am I writing?)
Isaac and I worked from home all day as usual and at around 3:00 I started cooking. Now this is already weird because a "normal" Thanksgiving feasting starts well before this but hey, I like different.
We went over to Jodie and Steve (and Mr. Stanlee Woofington)’s house at around 4:30ish, soon joined by David and Meta.
When we arrived, things were hilariously not ready yet. None of us had ever actually made a turkey before, since in our families somebody else always does that… But luckily there was a turkey – one that had to be specially ordered in advance. That's right -- whole turkeys can not be found in November in Australia.
We chatted over some appetizers and wine while the turkey roasted in the BBQ.
(LOL at the fact that our Thanksgiving turkey was made on the "barbie" in Australia and that I’m just now considering this. PS: there's no such thing as "shrimp on the barbie". In fact, shrimp are called prawns here. But again, I digress.)
Dinner was served around 8:00 (or so) and honestly, everything was SO TASTY. I have no idea how we pulled it off but all the staples made an appearance. Turkey with (smoky) gravy, mashed potatoes and squash, stuffing, and green bean casserole. Aw, but no cranberry sauce… womp womp.
I was proper stuffed and Isaac loved the food -- score! America sometimes gets a bad rep around the world, so it's nice when something so quintessentially American is well-received in other places. We finished the night with classic pumpkin pie topped with a delightful pecan sauce and gelato.
The moral of the story: it’s possible to have a wonderful Thanksgiving in Australia if you just put in a little effort and have some good friends to share it with.
This year, I’m thankful to be in Australia.
What else would you like to know about my new life in Australia? Let me know in the comments!