I am ambivalent about most American holidays. I suspect you have to spend your childhood in America to fully appreciate Halloween, just as I suspect you have to be truly American to fully appreciate the Fourth of July. Thanksgiving, however, is a holiday I can fully embrace. Sure, I'm a little fuzzy on the details about what it's supposed to celebrate (pilgrims?), but what glutton doesn't love an excuse to feast?
I love being an international student when Thanksgiving comes around. I get invitations to Thanksgiving dinner from friends, classmates, and even professors. I get to participate in a different Thanksgiving every year, and no two are ever the same.
This year I spent Thanksgiving in Vermont with Bella. The Thanksgiving spread was traditional New England, right down to Bella's mother's homemade pickles. With the exception of frozen green peas, the same meal could have been served a hundred years ago. Dinner was excellent. So were the leftovers.
I'm convinced that Thanksgiving dinner exists largely as an excuse to have leftovers.* It's quite possible that I love Thanksgiving leftovers more than the dinner itself. (Granted, this might just be because I've never had to come up with new and creative ways to use up twelve pounds of leftover turkey breast.) Leftovers mean doorstop sandwiches. Messy, drippy, turkey-mashed potato-gravy sandwiches, to be precise. Turkey optional.
My favorite dish at Thanksgiving is mashed potatoes and gravy. And I love starch-on-starch sandwiches, so it makes perfect sense to combine the two.** I know most people give me odd looks when I mention mashed potato-and-gravy sandwiches, but it works beautifully: buttery potatoes, salty gravy, and a nice, dense bread - preferably rosemary- to provide chew. A slice of turkey gives added texture, but it's not essential.
Mashed potato-and-gravy sandwiches taste best at midnight. They're messy enough that they should probably be eaten with a knife and fork, which is exactly why they taste better when you use your fingers. (Just make sure you have lots of paper towels handy.) I might give the turkey a pass, but I'm thankful for mashed potato sandwiches.
* I know there are food writers out there who have written about leftovers, and done so far more cleverly or eloquently than I ever will. I know I read one article on the subject in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend magazine, sometime between 1996 and 2000. It mentioned bubble and squeak, and pain perdu, and some sort of shrimp fried rice. I believe the accompanying recipe was for some sort of fried rice too, but I could be wrong. On the off chance that there's someone from Sydney reading this blog... does anyone remember the name of this article?
**I brought potato chip and mashed banana sandwiches to school regularly as a kid. (Don't knock it until you've tried it. They're salty and sweet and the potato chips provide a pleasant crunch.) The chip butty is a thing of glory. And you have no idea how delighted I was when I went to Paris and discovered that a sandwich grec often comes with the frites in it, rather than on the side.