Thanksgiving Feast Taste Safari Style!

In my world of culinary theatrics, there is nothing more glorious than a festively adorned table, groaning and creaking under the weight of an extravagant, sumptuous Thanksgiving feast. This particular celebration can quite easily give Christmas a good run for it’s Turkey ( ! )  and is a festivity that is truly a joyous, wholehearted family affair. For those who  know it well, will agree that there is a truly deep human spirit attached to the special ritual of giving thanks. This simple gesture simply brings such an enormous sense of gratitude for all that we have to be thankful for in our lives and is what makes the day certainly more special. I love this time of year and to celebrate in style, myself and  my other hologram half, Taste Safari hosted the animatic Home and Living team at my home in Karen to a Deep South Stylised Thanksgiving Lunch.

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I was thrilled when I was requested to feature a Thanksgiving feast and I set about planning an All American extravaganza. I’ve cooked a tonne of turkeys in my years, but I wanted this particular preparation of this meal to be as authentic as possible. I am familiar with the modern Thanksgiving array of meats and accompaniments but I wanted to completely appreciate the historical aspect of the celebration and so being the habitual Culinarian, I immersed myself in research and reading. I wanted to know what this feast was truly all about, who was present at the very first Thanksgiving feast and most important of all , what wonderful food did they all eat?

The festivities of Thanksgiving center around the 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation where settlers held a generous feast in thanks for a successful and bountiful season. The pilgrims had a mutual friendship with the Native Americans that had taught them to catch eel in this foreign land and showed them how to grow the corn staple that helped them survive the first few years after their landing. The Wampanoag leader had shown great generosity and hospitality to the newly arrived Community by providing food stores through the first harsh winter when supplies from England were insufficient. This unique gathering of folk, friends- old and new, the sharing and exchange of food,and an observance of thanks sealed a significant future for this popular Holiday.

This was all very interesting of course and it was very comforting to read as it feels very close to my own personal view in how food can easily bring communities together. However, my interest mainly lay in what was on that feasting table? According to the Smithsonian Magazine, two primary sources—the only surviving documents that reference the meal ( how I would love to hold and and personally read such documents!) confirm that these staples detailed below were part of the harvest celebration shared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony in 1621.

Edward Winslow, an English leader who attended, wrote home to a friend:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.”

Three days of feasting, now that sounds like my kind of party. Yes, Thanksgiving,  has morphed into its own and now a typical meal will still be laden with fowl, albeit Turkey and endless bounties galore. I wanted the Taste Safari Thanksgiving to be memorable and so I designed a menu to impress. In my minds eye, this was to be a visually lavish affair and full of celebration of the seasonal best.

So off I went on my own hunting expedition,  to my favourite organic farmers and rooted through my blooming greenhouses, ordered special corn fed turkey and spent the evenings in front of a roaring log fire, creating special glazes, sauces and  new ways of bringing seasonal vegetables to the table, until finally arrived the day of reckoning.

The huge table seating fifteen, set under large sprawling fig trees, was beautifully decked in a startling myriad of amber and saffron autumn hues, the large mosaic vases filled to the brim with swirling tall, elegant burnished gold fern leaves. Small nubbly acorns lay delicately  scattered across the table and flickering candles reflected prettily in intricate mirrors. The  carefully selected, handpicked dinnerware was stunning sets of hand painted ceramic ware, with an appropriate Native American pattern, that sat gallantly on the table awaiting to be smothered in thanksgiving glory.

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The centerpiece was a go between the glorious Sun kissed Butter and Maple Glazed Stuffed Turkey that sat proud and golden next to an enormous rounded plump Roasted Pumpkin amply stuffed with a Pearl Barley and Herbed  Black Wild Rice filling.  The feast extended to Glossy maple glazed baby carrots and sweet nutty parsnips, freshly dug Hassleback Jersey royals roasted to perfection in a duck fat and garlic confit, Seasonal  Greens sauteed in a delicate Cream Veloute, Meringue topped  Sweet Potato Pie and a winner for the day, the Apple Caramelized 7 hour cooked, Glazed and Fired leg of Ham…I think I even surprised myself. The setting was extraordinary and the revelry set in with the Champagne flowing. It was a sublime afternoon as we laughed and ate our way through the different dishes, with the odd tussle over the last of the ham!

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Dessert was certainly not an afterthought and I wanted to present a modern take on the traditional Key Lime Pie so I created a Key Lime Mousse Tiramisu  with a crumbled ginger cake. Oh yes, I almost forgot the three types of pie! Homemade Pecan,  Cinnamon Apple and real All American Pumpkin Pie served with a very very large jug of farm fresh thick double cream. I think we all need wheelbarrows to cart us off the table after that undertaking!

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The sun was setting, a shimmering burning globe, sinking, fat and round into the  sunset blue Ngong Hills and the party slowly came to a close. I sat, satisfied from the day’s efforts looking at all these new ( and old) friends, laughing and joking and understood completely now why Thanksgiving is such an important celebration to remember. Thinking back to all those centuries ago  when the Pilgrim Settlers needed the simple sustenance of corn and fish to survive in this new land,  it was altogether another Community that kindly sent out a helping hand and the simple exchange of food and eventually feasting together bought these two strangers together in common and mutual respect. I’ve always found it such a joy to feed friends and family and the start of many life long friendships began around my dinner table, or at Sunday barbecue at home. This is the celebration of Taste Safari- a celebration of the love of life and all the wonderful people we are surrounded by. Enjoy your friends, love your family deeply and above all be thankful for the wonderful food on your table.

LOOK OUT FOR THE DECADENT ROAST TURKEY RECIPE COMING OUT TOMORROW!!!

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