Annabel Langbein: Giving thanks (+ recipes)
Earlier this year I travelled up to Bermuda as part of an America's Cup sustainability project aimed at raising awareness about the predatory and highly invasive lionfish species, which is threatening to destroy reefs and native fish stocks in the area.
The swashbuckling history of this remote outpost in the Atlantic still lurks in every nook and cranny, and many of the families who live here are direct descendants of early pirate raiders. But there is a part of Bermudian history beyond plundering privateers, linking it inextricably to the annual American ritual of Thanksgiving.
In 1609, a fleet of nine ships set out from Plymouth for Virginia, to establish the newly founded colony of Jamestown. Off the Azores, a hurricane separated the ship Sea Venture from the rest of the fleet. Drifting hundreds of miles from her scheduled course, listing heavily and about to sink, the boat's captain, Admiral George Somers, made the call to steer his ship into a visible reef on the dreaded Island of Devils, as Bermuda was then known. By sheer good luck the boat lodged safely between two reefs and the 150 men, women and children aboard were able to get ashore on to the island, along with all the cargo and crew. Incredibly, not one life was lost.
Nearly a year later, the castaways set sail from Bermuda to Jamestown in two newly built boats, Deliverance and Patience. Their arrival in Virginia was not to the utopia they imagined. Of the original 500 settlers, only 60 were alive. Many of those who had survived were sick or dying, and the colony was declared unviable. A decision had been made to abandon it, and to return everyone to England. But the arrival of the newcomers brought fresh hope and Virginia's first Thanksgiving (well before the later New England version) was held in celebration, spirited by the food the castaways had brought with them - a stash of wild hogs (likely left on Bermuda by earlier Spanish sailors), along with potatoes and onions that the shipwrecked survivors had grown during their 10 months in Bermuda. The passage was an easy one, and regular forays were made back to Bermuda over the ensuing months for more food. In such a manner the colony of Virginia was able to get on its feet.
While we don't generally celebrate Thanksgiving here in New Zealand, the sentiment behind this celebration of family and food is universal. In its ethos we can see the way that food connects us all to nature and its harvests, and to each other. It's a time of family and for us down here in the Antipodes, it's a great opportunity for today's extended families to take the pressure off December 25 and have a pre-Christmas gathering with one side of the family.
So this week I'm sharing a simple menu for a Thanksgiving dinner, including my famous brined roast turkey recipe. Brining is the key to tender turkey. Cook it for Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 23, or keep it somewhere safe for when you're cooking the Christmas feast.
Nothing says celebrate more than a roast turkey, in all its giant, golden grandeur. If a lifetime of dry, tough turkey has put you off, you'll find brining makes all the difference. With Christmas only a month away you may want to save this recipe for then. Get the recipe
Pumpkin pie is often served at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which fall during the harvest season in the US and Canada. If you've never made pumpkin pie before, I warn you it's addictively good. This keeps for a few days in the fridge. Get the recipe
Cranberry sauce is a traditional accompaniment to turkey, but to lighten your festive meal for a Kiwi spring, try tossing the dried cranberries through a tangy salad instead. Get the recipe
Essential Annabel Langbein (Annabel Langbein Media, $65) is a beautiful compendium of Annabel’s best-ever savoury recipes and cooking tips. It makes a great Christmas gift and it’s on sale now at Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, The Warehouse and all good bookstores. Find out more at annabel-langbein.com or follow Annabel on Facebook or Instagram.