Gratitude – An American Celebrates Canadian Thanksgiving

This weekend we had two friends in town, they’re COVID nomads and for seven months have been hunkering down with family in near isolation. They’re giving up on Washington for a while, and making a go of life in Richmond instead. But they came to visit for a few days, and it was wonderful.

Also grateful the Canadian tuxedo isn’t a real thing, because this is not a good look.

Sarah is Canadian and because of travel restrictions hasn’t been able to visit her family this year, so naturally we thought it would be appropriate to try to give her a taste of home.

Enter: Alicia learns about Canadian Thanksgiving. For starters: It exists. It’s a real thing, and pretty much the same as American Thanksgiving, minus the pilgrim and Native American decor, and a month earlier because Northern harvests are earlier. But everything else is pretty much the same — marshmallows on sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce in a can, every family’s unique stuffing, apple pie, and a heaping of gratitude. 

This year, that serving of gratitude is really, really sweet. 

I was grateful for smaller celebrations. In the last few months, I’ve learned how to host dinner for four, and have learned they’re nearly always as fun as dinner for fourteen. They’re also a hell of a lot easier to cook for and clean up after. Two more things to be grateful for. In years past, Thanksgiving meals would be multi-day prep-a-thons. This weekend, the idea was borne over Friday steak dinner, and on the table by 4:00 Saturday after only one trip to one grocery store and no trips to the hospital. And I even used the mandolin!

Smaller celebrations give you time to connect with people, and really talk. In a year dominated by screens and anxiety, and a lot of loneliness but also a lot of noise, that connection and the ability to focus on each other is special. I’m grateful that we’re learning how to be and be together differently.

I’m grateful for friends that appreciate the kitchen is mainly for watching, not helping. 

I’m grateful for a kitchen that has six burners and a three-shelf oven, because everything could be cooked at the same time and with only a little bit of oven-Tetris.

I’m grateful for Matt’s thoughtfulness when designing the kitchen, his insistence that I “Sit down and focus on these drawings for a minute.” Because it turned out rather perfectly, with thoughtful storage and easy access and no trip hazards. I’m grateful for Heather at The Kennebec Company who thoroughly embraced my two-tier island vision, because cooking for friends is even more lovely when those friends can’t see the absolute mayhem you’ve made in the sink. I’m grateful for whichever engineer at GE came up with the world’s strongest vent hood, because it was so, so nice to cook a Thanksgiving meal without any smoke alarms going off (a first, I think) — even though I definitely didn’t master the art of “nothing bubbled over.”

I’m grateful for friends who share their traditions. Our families never eat sweet sweet potato casseroles. But we’ve really been missing out on that starchy ambrosia. I also am a big believer in homemade cranberry sauce, but appreciated Sarah’s firm belief in canned sauce, and also appreciated not having cranberry-colored splatters all over the oven for a change.

I’m grateful for friends that feel like family. We’re incredibly fortunate to have wonderful families, but there’s something magical about looking around at a table of people and realizing the family you’ve created is awesome. I’m grateful to be here, now, at 32, because these people populating our much smaller world now make me laugh, they challenge me, they build me up. These kinds of friendships take time, and I’m grateful for them.

Too many starches for four people? Also need to master the broiling marshmallows thing.

I’m grateful to be settling into a fall that will undoubtedly be fraught with this unexpected reminder to be thankful. By the time American Thanksgiving gets here, we’ll have the results of the election (and hopefully a new president), we’ll likely be deep in another wave of COVID, and will be suffering the isolation that comes with winter. But hopefully amidst all of that, I’ll hold onto this October surprise reminder to give thanks for the little things: marshmallows on potatoes, two extra burners, a well curated kitchen accessories drawer.

I’ll also be thankful for the big things: Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Michael Buble. All Canadians. Who knew? Thanks to Canadian Thanksgiving and the magic of Spotify’s Canadian heritage playlist, I do.


Alicia Amling View All →

Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.

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