Happy Matesgiving! Carolyn Swords Shares Her Holiday Story

The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of simplicity, friendship, and gratitude. Grateful for new friends and a successful harvest, the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians gathered in Plymouth, MA in a simple celebration. To be abroad as Thanksgiving approaches can be a bit odd for an American. The rest of the world smoothly transitions from Halloween to Christmas, but Americans spend weeks preparing for the perfect Thanksgiving feast.

It is difficult to be away from family and friends for the holidays, but in the Thanksgiving spirit, my fellow American Joslyn and I decided we would like to gather the Flames and show our teammates that we are thankful for them.

Planning a meal for a large group while in a different country adds a few extra challenges to the process. Grocery shopping is always an interesting and educational experience in a different country. In Spain, Turkey, and Italy, I learned the names for foods and products in the native language through my trips to the grocery store. It is fun to see which products are similar and which are completely new to me! Monday I packed all of my notes and my master shopping list and went grocery shopping. I didn’t have any issues with the language, but I spent quite a long time converting ounces and pounds to liters and grams.

A stick of butter in the US is not the same as a stick of butter in Australia. What we call heavy cream can either be pouring cream or thickened cream in Australia, depending on the use. My shopping required some phone calls to teammates and a few laps around the store before I found what I needed. One lovely shopper helped me determine which pumpkin she thought would be best in making a pumpkin pie since there wasn’t any canned pumpkin in the store!

The next few days were spent preparing for the dinner, little by little, with a number of calls and emails to mum back home. One day I pureed the pumpkin and made the pie crusts. The next day I made the pies and washed veggies. Wednesday and Thursday ended up being the big baking days. Thanks to my handy baking scale, converting the units of my ingredients went smoothly.

Two of my Aussie teammates, Katie and Hayley came over and helped put the pies together. They chopped and spiced the apples for the apple pie, and whipped up the filling for the pumpkin pie like professionals. I carefully rolled out my pie crusts. Thank goodness they came over to help, otherwise I would have been baking through the night! Joslyn came over early Thursday morning for our final push to the feast! We peeled, mashed, measured, weighed, sautéed, chopped, and whisked the dishes into existence over the course of the day. Jos made a dreamy sweet-potato casserole and a divine spinach soufflé, which were both big hits at the dinner.

We worked efficiently and laughed our way through the morning, growing more and more excited for the evening! Thanksgiving became more of a reality with every completed dish we pulled from the oven or from off the stove.

The time had come for the turkey. This was my first time in charge of the most iconic dish of Thanksgiving! Thankfully, my master chef mum who has pulled off many a delicious thanksgiving feast, gave me her simple yet sure-fire way to a beautiful bird.

She even helped me figure out the best timing to make sure the turkey would be cooked but not dried out by the time we ate after practice. Between her guidance, a great, fresh turkey from the butcher, and quite possibly a little luck, we all enjoyed a delicious turkey after a first course (or two!) of our other dishes. What a relief!

The night was filled with a lot of food and even more laughter. We ended the evening with three pies: apple, pumpkin, and chocolate pecan. We discussed different holiday traditions and all the different ways one can pronounce pecan (I think we have 3 or 4 different pronunciations among us all). It was a big project to plan and cook all of that food, but the opportunity to share a little of America with our teammates and be festive was incredibly special. It reminds me how lucky I am to travel the world and meet such lovely people.