Sun 1 Dec 2013
As my fellow expat and friend Lily said during our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday evening, our friends are family to us as we don’t have our blood relatives nearby. Whether they know it or not, our mates play a very important role in our lives here – far away from our moms, dads, sisters and brothers back home.
This was the spirit behind what my friends Bill and Sharon dubbed Thanksgivingpolooza, a three-day weekend away in the midlands of Ireland to celebrate a very American holiday. The idea sprung about a couple of months ago, when Mountaineering Man considered who we could invite for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Every year we have to choose just a handful of friends, as our space in Dublin simply doesn’t allow for any more. A hunt for a bigger space was launched.
After some Google searches and Twitter queries I came across Bishopstown House, a beautifully-restored Georgian estate with multiple bedrooms, two sitting rooms, a roof deck and a massive kitchen. There’s also a private pub and more bedrooms next door in a converted stable house. There is some interesting history behind the building; Michael Jackson chose it to be his Irish estate but he passed away before the refurb was completed. It is now rented out as a holiday home. Sad for the King of Pop, but lucky for us! After a few group emails, I booked it and on Friday we all met up at the property with food, drink and supplies and hunkered down for the weekend. Thanksgivingpolooza 2013 was on!
What a weekend it was. The grounds around the house made for some lovely walks – horses, cows and fairy forts dotted the landscape along with large art sculptures made by the owner’s company for the likes of Electric Picnic. The rental agreement included access to the indoor private pool just down the road at the famous Grouse Lodge, where bands like Coldplay, REM and Muse have recorded in its studio. We swam in the beautiful (but cold!) pool and finished with a long soak in the steamy Jacuzzi. Up on the roof deck, we saw rolling green hills for miles and miles and marveled at the sheer beauty of our surroundings.
And the food – the food! On the first night, Lily cooked up a Mexican feast fit for the King of Pop. The taco bar was made up of warm corn tortillas, pulled pork pibil, corn & corgette flowers with feta, potato and her mam’s homemade chorizo, corn and roasted poblano pepper with crema, slow-cooked beans and two kinds of salsas. We capped off the evening with a beautiful Tequila Mockingbird Cake made by Wildflour Kate, who was there with us in spirit (it’s a busy season for bakers!).
The second night was our official Thanksgiving, with all hands on deck to help me and Bill, the two cooks for the evening. I made the turkey (salt citrus dry brine on a lovely Termonfeckin Delicious Bronze bird), my dad’s famous oyster stuffing, Southwestern Corn Casserole and sweet potato pie. Bill made his famous Cornbread Dressing, brussels sprouts with pancetta & shallots, and pecan pie. Everyone pitched in on the spuds; Jonah, Wes & Louise did the peeling, boiling and ricing to make the perfect mash.
Joanne, Lily, Lorraine, Sharon, Alan and Padraig took care of dishes, lighting the fireplaces and setting the table. MM did a fine job of cleaning, bartending and being the perfect co-host.
The meal that took all day took only minutes to eat, and as our food digested we all took a turn to say what we’re thankful for. From family and health to food and employment, there was a lot of gratitude around our big, round table last night. And of course friends – our family away from our families – who made the weekend possible.