Sarah's Thanksgiving date nut pudding
PART 1: Thanksgiving pudding
My first Thanksgiving when I lived in America came as quite the surprise. The Thanksgivings I’d seen depicted on television usually consisted of family arguments, a burnt and/or raw turkey, and at least one harried, passive-aggressive culinary martyr in the kitchen being annoyed while everyone else drank or argued.
It wasn’t something I looked forward to experiencing.
But my first Thanksgiving was an “orphans” Thanksgiving: all of us were either ex-pats or out-of-towners who couldn’t make it back to their families for the weekend. At least four of us lived in apartments in the same building at 68 Thompson Street, New York, while others came from not much further away.
We cooked a dish each, to share. My friend Misha - the foodie in our group - stuffed and roasted a whole turkey to perfection. I made a passable job of the mashed potatoes, corn and green beans; a friend-of-a-friend brought pumpkin-and-marshmallow pie, her mother’s recipe; someone else made boozy home-made apple cider, and on it went.
Our apartment doors stayed open and the building filled with our laughter and conversation, the music we played, and the many mingled smells of roasting food. The preparations continued all day, mostly in Misha’s apartment, with my dog and her cat circling our ankles anticipating scraps.
Outside the wind really picked up and the first snow was just around the corner, but inside was all warmth and happiness and friendship. Our conversations were punctuated by occasional bangs and crashes from the ancient and temperamental boiler that ruled our building every year from October to April.
After eating more than I’d previously have thought possible, we all rugged up and walked it off in the fresh and biting New York air, arm in arm and giggling (there’d been a lot of boozy apple cider consumed) as the night descended.
The whole day was joyful, abundant, and felt like a hug. For me, having moved on my own to New York earlier the same year, that Thanksgiving helped me feel part of something: my own community, a family of sorts, made up of those of us who chose to come together, rather than remain alone.
I’m taken back to those happy years on 68 Thompson as I write to you now, and share with you Sarah’s family’s traditional Thanksgiving pudding recipe. I think it would have fitted in perfectly with our New York feast all those years ago.
Sarah’s grandmother began making this pudding in the 1950s, after finding the recipe in a magazine or cookbook. And though her grandmother passed away more than 30 years ago, Sarah’s family still upholds her tradition of making this pudding to share, every Thanksgiving.
Sarah is now part of the fourth generation of relatives who enjoy it on the fourth Thursday in November every year. It tickles me to think that maybe somebody reading this letter might try the recipe this Thanksgiving, and maybe it will make its way into their family traditions, too.
ps. Here is the Victorian Letter Writers Guild
Recipe: Date nut pudding
2 cups chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
12 oz sweetened whipped topping (like Cool Whip)
Stir together all ingredients and press down into a 9-inch square pan. Sprinkle more graham cracker crumbs on top, cover, and chill overnight.
ps2. Oh Melanie! Look what I just found! Photos from that Thanksgiving feast (we were so young…)