Sunday, 19 December 2010

#40 Thanks: given.

Tryptophan doesn't kill you, spectacular overindulgence does.

An oft-heard gem at this time of year is the assertion that the high levels of tryptophan in turkey - which actually aren't any higher than other meats - are responsible for the post-prandial miasma that falls on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The theory has gained traction, perhaps, because it allows Middle America (which I finally found, incidentally -see below) to blame their subconscious stupor not on their colossal calorie intake - which leads to all sorts of nasty thoughts about diets and jean sizes - but on biology beyond their control.

It's sort of like when people blame their irritating personalities on lack of sleep. "Sorry, woke up on the wrong side of bed this morning!" she opined with a winning smile. "Nope, you're just a poisonous, undersexed little bitch!" I replied sweetly.

Anyway, I did Thanksgiving- my first Thanksgiving - in Ohio this year. Ohio can be characterised as 'middle America' for all sorts of reasons. Politically, it is the 'barometer of the nation' - a key swing state where traditional, modern, rural and urban mix. There are huge state colleges and windswept corn fields, small towns and big cities. Stars and stripes billow elegantly in the cold wind, and SUVs doze on driveways.

The whole notion of 'middle America' seems elusive and vacuous, until you go to Ohio. Bill Bryson, in his 'Notes from a Big Country' (or 'I'm a Stranger here Myself', as published in America), searched for Amalgum, USA - his ideal small American town. I don't know whether I'd call it ideal, but Amalgum would be a good surrogate name for Dover, Ohio.

The meal

Brits and Americans have a long and colourful history of antipathy on the subject of food. Americans decry bad British food, despite many of their staples originating there, and despite the fact that Britain is home for far more restaurants of international note than America, a country with five times the population and forty times the land area.

In turn, Brits mock, misrepresent and out-of-hand dismiss a variety of US delicacies, from the Turducken to the Krispy Kreme burger.

It was within this shroud of skepticism that I arrived for Thanksgiving, armed with British seasonal delicacies - flapjack (the British oat tray bake, not the American pancakes) and parkin. My hosts steeled themselves. In turn, I hunkered down to take on deep-fried turkey, baked corn, noodles and pumpkin.

Deep-fried turkey is to dining what Brasseye is to comedy: very out there, but unquestionably brilliant. 45 minutes in hot oil rendered our 12lb turkey crisp-skinned, tender and moist - the best turkey I've ever had, in fact. I heartily recommend it. Do be careful, though - it's terrible dangerous.

Every other constituent of Thanksgiving food is a variation on a basic theme: sweet carbohydrate. There are all, to a dish, glorious. This includes the desserts: pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream, key lime pie, key lime ice cream - almost anything in pie or ice cream form.

My foods, for what it's worth, went down modestly well. Flapjack was misinterpreted as a breakfast food, because it sort of resembles a granola/cereal bar...except that it's far more sugary and buttery. Which says a lot about the American palette.

There I went, being a mocking Brit again. Really, I have nothing but praise for the gastronomic genius of the country that brought us both the Krispy Kreme burger and sweet potatoes baked with marshmallows.

And the rest

It's just a lovely idea, isn't it? A nice, secular holiday that is just about being thankful for the people around us, our wealth, the fat of the land.

I was. We were. Fuck Boxing Day.

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