Saturday, November 28, 2015

Winner winner turkey dinner

For a lot of reasons, I didn’t have a Thanksgiving dinner this year. That’s not unusual, of course, and most years I just have a turkey sandwich for lunch (like last year). But each year I also “threaten” to go to Denny’s and have their turkey dinner. This year, I actually did (photo above).

I did that one other time, long ago (I’m pretty sure it was my first Thanksgiving in New Zealand, 20 years ago). And I’ve said every year since that I could always go have that.

This year, it was basically on a whim. Nigel and I had gone to return some Elfa shelves we bought that were too deep for the space they were going, exchanging them for more standard-depth shelves. Since we were out, we decided to go have lunch and, well, Denny’s turkey dinner popped into my head. It turned out the price was exactly the same as the refund we got on the shelves (which then inspired the title for this post).

Denny’s has the turkey dinner as part of their regular menu, and it’s the only turkey on their menu. So, how was it? Well…

I suppose I could just say, “it was as you might imagine” and leave it at that, because it covers both those who would love and hate it—because both are probably correct. But, I’m in a mood to be daring, so, here goes:

The vegetables were nicely cooked and flavourful, but the white sauce had zero flavour of any kind—not even salt. The mashed potatoes were instant, but were actually nice, as was the gravy (together, they reminded me of a church dinner when I was growing up, which is a fond memory). The cranberry sauce was a surprise: I expected it to be sickeningly sweet, but it was actually nice and I could taste the cranberries and their tartness.

But the whole point of the thing was the turkey, which was nothing special. In fact, at first I thought it tasted like smoked chicken. It was processed turkey, of course, so I wasn’t surprised that it wasn’t quite as turkey-ish as I would have liked, and it actually was pretty much what I was expecting (I think the turkey I buy for my sandwich every year tastes more like turkey).

Still, this was about preserving tradition, of a sort, rather than trying to have the best turkey dinner ever. By that measure, it was a raging success.

It is really odd, though, to even think of Thanksgiving when it’s hot and humid outside, as it has been the past few days (it’s pushing the mid-20s here at the moment—which is mid 70sF—and it’s very humid). Over on the AmeriNZ Facebook Page, my friend Andy and I were talking a bit about that in the Facebook share of my previous post. I kind of summed up why thanksgiving as he and I know it can’t work here:
…I think that the REAL problem for New Zealand is that thanksgiving is in the wrong season: Thanksgiving in North America (and most other places) is basically a harvest festival, and for New Zealand that would mean it would happen in May. So, I guess that could kick off the festive Queen's Birthday shopping season…

As near as I can tell, there are no Southern Hemisphere thanksgiving celebrations, and that calendar problem is probably why. I really do feel sorry for Anitpodean retailers who have nothing to hook the start of their Christmas shopping season on, but this is probably not the holiday to do it.
I could add that from my Midwest USA perspective, a summery Christmas feels weird, too, but that’s another story, and one I’ll probably talk about next month (because even after all these years, it does still feel weird to me…).

So, it’s not all that easy to keep celebrating Thanksgiving in a place where it has no meaning, AND in the opposite season to when it’s “supposed” to be celebrated. Against such barriers, a Denny’s version of a turkey dinner is a perfectly reasonable solution and compromise.

But, next year I may stick with my turkey sandwich.

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