Okay so I have officially recovered now from the food coma that was Thanksgiving. I had not thought it possible to eat so much and yet here we are, a week of detoxing later, and I still feel full. From what my coworkers have been telling me though, the bloat and drowsiness just means I did it right! Here's what I got up to on the most American holiday ever!
Usually a day off from work means sleeping in until 2pm, binge-watching Netflix andstaying in pyjamas all day. Not for many of the people in NYC! I was up at 8am and out the door by 9am to get to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - and even then I missed a bit of it! I strolled right down the centre of 5th Avenue (because I could thanks to road blocks), grabbed a Chocolate Praline Latte at Starbucks (something I was #thankful for), and then ended up walking about 30 blocks to find a place where they were letting people in to 6th Avenue to see the parade.
The parade itself was a huge celebration of... well I'll be honest I don't really know. The huge balloons were fun to see (everything from a giant Power Ranger, to the Jolly Green Giant, to Olaf from Frozen). There were also floats, some of them with famous celebrities on (Jimmy Fallon being the only one I recognised..), and various marching bands. I'm pretty sure everything was sponsored. Part of it was Thansgiving themed but then there was a giant Christmas tree. I didn't have a clue but it was a fun atmosphere until I got too cold and had to stand in a Pret a Manger next to the hot foods section for warmth.
Afterwards I headed to Grand Central to meet a lovely German girl called Rosa and we got a train out to Westport, Conneticut. A while ago I signed up via an organisation called One-To-World to spend Thanksgiving with a host family. I really wanted to get an authentic experience and to learn more about American culture, and I would definitely recommend doing it! When we arrived in Westport we met Michael, a Belgian Phd student from Yale, and our host's son August who picked us up.
The four of us drove to a restaraunt that the family owned to pick up some last minute supplies and then headed to one of the most beautiful homes I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. It was like a show house it was that tidy. Getting out the car I was greeted by an adorable dog (I think it was a cockapoo) so I immediately knew I was going to have a good time. The host, Jennifer met us and introduced us to her family which included her three other children (Daisy, Tallulah & Coco), her sister, her mother, her great aunt, her great aunt's son, wife and their son. We also met Cathy another exchange student who was from France. It was a lot of people! Jennifer was quite busy preparing the food, so we sat and chatted with her family and with each other and enjoyed some pre-dinner snacks (parsnip soup shots, smoked beetroot and rosemary tear-and-share tortillas dipped in paté). It was at this point we found out that Jennifer is a chef, which probably explains why everything tasted incredible... and why we all stuffed ourselves later on.
After a few drinks the main event was ready. We had traditional turkey that had been cooked "spatchcock style" which made it extra juicy, creamy mashed potatoes, parmesan coated kale, sauteéd kale, roasted carrots, gravy and cranberry sauce. We also had stuffing bread which BLEW MY MIND! Bread that tastes like stuffing. It was incredible. I had far too much fun making myself little turkey & cranberry stuffed sandwiches. I filled my plate up the first time and then filled it up equally as much the second time around. We had a fun "cultural" moment when the exchange students weren't sure whether to start eating or not without the host. The others (Americans) said it was fine to start but being European we couldn't let go of our mannerisms enough to dig straight in. Another thing I noticed is that Americans don't use knives and forks in the same way British people, and other Europeans, do.
Finally, dessert. Pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan pie, red berry pie, lemon squares, chocolate chip cookies straight out the oven. I think I went to heaven. Once again I dove into the food (at this point it was an effort but everything was so delicious I wanted to sample everything once). Feeling like I was doing some form of extreme exercise, I stuffed myself full to bursting before settling down contentedly by the fire. It was sad to leave to get the train back to New York because the experience really reminded me that, even though we all come from different places, and have different traditions, spending time with your family is probably very similar to how someone hundreds of miles away spends time with theirs.
All in all it was an amazing experience and I would 100% recommend going to a host family to any expats, international students or visitors as a way to get in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Thank you so much to the wonderful family who opened up their home to a stranger. It was honestly perfect.