Waggs Walkabout

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Giving Thanks in the Desert

The Australians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Since they weren’t pilgrims and there aren’t any Indians there’s just not much point in it for them. There’s no shortage of holidays however. The Northern Territory has 13 official ones plus in Alice Springs everything but the grocery stores close for “Show Day”. The show is equivalent to the county fair and who doesn’t enjoy a Friday afternoon at the fair?

The American expats get together to celebrate the traditional American holidays with a few minor differences from back home.

Being on the opposite side of the plant means the seasons are opposite. It’s summer here by late November. We’ve already seen the mercury hit 120 F. The idea of eating a big starchy meal isn’t too appealing, let alone running the oven all day in 100 degree heat.

Australia is a foreign country and there are some American food items that that just aren’t available here.

There’s no football on TV that day and lastly, none of the Americans have extended family here. That last ones not all bad, you aren’t morally bound to spend an afternoon with people you don’t like. We get to decide who we want to spend an afternoon with.

This year we accepted an invitation from our friends Beth and Bob to come over for a Thanksgiving pool party. Since none of us had Thursday off we celebrated Friday evening instead. Beth cooked the bird the day before and made a delicious cold turkey salad, served with roasted onions and sweet potatoes and some out-o- this-world corn fritters. I was in charge of the dessert. Beth had been talking recently how much she LOVED pumpkin cheesecake, but hadn’t had it in years, because they don’t sell canned pumpkin in Australia.

You might not know this about me, but I LOVE a challenge, so I decided to make Beth her cheesecake. It’s not that they don’t have pumpkins here; it’s just that they don’t can it. Pumpkin is a staple vegetable in the Aussie diet. They roast/bake it like we do potatoes and carrots with roast meat. I hopped online did a bit of research into roasting pumpkins for pie and headed to the grocery store for a half a pumpkin.

It turned out much easier then you might think (and nothing like the Christmas Pudding fiasco that started with an online recipe). I simply removed the seed and cut it chunks, tossed on a baking sheet and popped into a 350 oven for about 45 minutes. Once the pumpkin was soft, I removed it from the oven until it was cool enough to handle. Then removed the skin from the chunks and put into a food processor with the appropriate spice mix. Whirr for a few minutes and you have pumpkin pie filling. Then you can proceed on with the pumpkin cheesecake recipe.

It all worked out great. Since I was in over achiever mode I used melted chocolate to attached walnut halves around the edge of the crust and brushed chocolate onto orange leaves (peel the leaf off the chocolate before putting on the cake) to make the fancy chocolate leaves to garnish the top.

Everyone one was adequately impressed. Even the Australian said it tasted good. They might have been just being polite. In all fairness to them, the idea of vegetable flavored dessert doesn't sound all that appealing to me.

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