When you live on the other side of the world you need to create your own traditions, something to make you feel like you have established a life here. For me one of the things I look forward to each year is Sinta-Thanksgiving, an expat holiday celebration that a group of us have done for the last three years. Originally it took place at the end of November to coincide with Thanksgiving for the Americans and Sinterklaas for the Dutch – with the Kiwis just always keen for a booze up. But since London is a thief of time sometimes we all have so much on that we have to hold it in July and call it Mid-Winter Christmas. This year we managed to almost make it on time, and last weekend we had Sinta-Thanksgiving at my house.
Whatever the name, the main point is to get a group of friends together and celebrate the holidays – any holidays. Seriously, if we can toast it with champagne then it is fair game. I always want to make it special no matter what month we end up in because that is normally the thing we miss out on most as expats. Someone spending all day in the kitchen just for you. Putting extra effort into a nice tablecloth (I use wrapping paper because what kind of millennial owns a tablecloth) to make the table look festive. Getting loved ones in a room no matter how busy we all are, just because those expat connections are so important.
I planned the meal in my usual haphazard way which is becoming almost a tradition in itself. Creating a Pinterest board with the best of intentions about a month beforehand, planning to do an elaborate feast. Then a week before panic that I have organised NOTHING, go back to the Pinterest board and choose literally anything that is gluten free and running straight to the supermarket after screenshotting the recipe. Sorry to shatter your allusions of me, I am entirely haphazard in most parts of my life.
The menu that we ended up with was:
Salad tahi: Fig, green beans, rocket, prosciutto and goats cheese
Salad rua: Four tomato, basil and gluten-free bread
Meat: Fennel roasted pork belly with apple sauce
Dessert: Christmas cookies and crème brûlée liqueur
I went to a Jaime Oliver cooking class the week before (full story on the blog tomorrow) and thankfully the one we prepared in class I was able to take home and freeze. So actually cooking the main was as simple as defrosting and then throwing in the oven for three hours. I say thankfully, because if anyone ever thinks that making cookies for dessert is the quick option you are 100% entirely wrong on all counts.
The problem was mostly that I wanted to do three types as inspired by Pinterest, these Christmas wreath cookies, these colour blocked cookies in Christmas colours and of course I wanted to try the stained glass biscuits because I am a sucker for punishment. Stained glass biscuits are truly awesome, you crush hard candy and put some into a hole in the dough, it then melts in the oven and creates a stained glass effect. So freakin cool….if you want to spend three hours on a Saturday swearing as the wine bottle you are using to crush the candy hits your hand instead.
My favourite part of the entire evening was the cat based plate decorations. I ran down to Paperchase in my lunch break the day before to panic buy anything that could make the table look festive but that cost less than £5 – because stingy. I found the little cats wearing Christmas hats on pegs, which I then used to tie together sprigs of rosemary to make mini-Christmas wreaths.
It was such a fun evening, chilling with friends over wine and food. But more importantly it was the continuation of an expat tradition, a significant part of my life in London. One that I hope to continue for many years to come… lets see what holidays we can co-opt next year.