I had planned to end my trip in Charleston, this being a beautiful, old city; and to finish at Thanksgiving, which is the most celebrated day in the American calendar. First up was the Turkey Day 5K to attend to. Not that I took part in it (I'm not doing anything more arduous than getting out of bed for the foreseeable future) but Candace's children did, and Candace and I waved them off at 8.30 am, then strolled around the city. What a place! The downtown area is so pretty, classy and old. There was no rubbish anywhere, everything was close together like in European cities AND there was very little traffic. It was sunny and well into the 60s as I saw a pelican skimming low over the estuary; and there are alligators too, skulking somewhere in the swamps. It had a Mediterranean feel with its palm trees, shuttered windows and narrow streets. We watched the runners go by, including some pushing prams, walking dogs – and one with a cat (with its own race number) in a buggy! Lunch was served early, to make room for the feast to follow, and featured hot dogs, potato chips and cookies (yes a light lunch and not the kind of food I can eat little of). Later we all reconvened for my first ever Thanksgiving dinner, this year held at the apartment of Candace's sister, Linda, and her partner, Vickie. It was possibly the fanciest home I have been a guest in – 250 years old, exposed brick walls (with patched up earthquake cracks) and ultra modern furnishing, hinting at Linda's architectural line of work. Here we also hooked up with Candace's parents, Grace & Glen (remarkable for being in their 90s); Matt's girlfriend, Jenna; and family friend Max (handily a chef). Here's what we ate :
Starter – salad of kohlrabi, mâche, capers & red onion
Main course – 21 lb turkey, mashed potato, plain sweet potatoes, 'white trash' sweet potatoes (not my name for it – with marshmallows, brown sugar, butter), canned cranberry jelly, homemade cranberry jelly (with cloves), carrots, green beans, scalloped oysters, stuffing, gravy & biscuits.
Dessert – choice of pecan, apple & pumpkin pie with double cream (I had the first two).
I had huge servings of everything, cleared my plate each time and every single ingredient was delicious. Thanksgiving dinner 1, British xmas dinner 0. The white trash dish and the 'mulled wine' cranberry jelly deserve a special mention. Just about all of the offerings were homemade and most of the dozen present had contributed (I peeled the sweet potatoes and apples). It was a heart-warming occasion too, with Glen's speech of thankfulness at the start and the way everyone stayed seated and talked for about three hours. They were a very loving family, touching and kissing each other frequently, knowing everything about everyone's every move and paying each other compliments. No one dominated or spoke for too long and we were all made to feel included. Unlike my experience of xmas dinners in the UK, this was stress-free, the mood was light and not one cross word was uttered. Grace passed round a sheet of paper with puzzles on it, only one of which I worked out (I'm a Scrabble player not a puzzle solver) :
24 H in a D
1000 W that a P is W
4 + 20 BB in a P
30 S over T
66 B of the B (in the KJV)
They were all interested in my adventure, but it was good not to be the centre of attention, take a back seat, enjoy the family occasion and soak up this quintessentially American experience. I also learned that the foul smell in Georgetown emanated from the paper mills, not the swamp. Later the younger members present (they let me come along too) went out to a pub called The Griffin, which had a British feel to it and I had a couple of pints of local IPA here, which were highly suppable, their cold temperature withstanding. I tried Jenna's Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, which tasted exactly like iced tea and was therefore disgusting. American tea 0, British tea 1.
The next day another full plate was set before me, this time with grits (that had Parmesan cheese and were actually tolerable) along with eggs, bacon and toast.