Friendsgiving – the perfect excuse to start celebrating early.
As an international student, I love bringing my holiday traditions to Durham and finding new ways to celebrate even while away from home. University is such a great opportunity to learn about and participate in new cultures and traditions; now that the whirlwind of Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali are behind us, it’s time to keep the festive momentum going. For many, the beginning of November ushers in the start of the Christmas season, but, for those of us with North American tendencies, Thanksgiving is still waiting in the wings.
Traditionally, Thanksgiving is seen as an opportunity for families to gather, share food, and generally express their gratitude and love for one another. However, there has become a growing tradition of what is commonly known as ‘Friendsgiving’ – essentially the same concept as Thanksgiving, except you replace family for friends, and there is usually much less formality, gaining popularity through sitcoms like Friends and New Girl. It is the perfect holiday to celebrate at this point of the term as it provides an excuse to gather all of your friends for an evening of food and fun before everyone goes their separate ways over the holidays.
Now, Friendsgiving doesn’t have to be a replication of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and frankly, it isn’t meant to be. The truth is, the meals don’t have to be half as elaborate or stressful as you might fear them to be. As a seasoned host of many a Friendsgiving, here are my three tried and tested ways to celebrate without risking blood, sweat and tears (quite literally).
Not the traditional approach to Friendsgiving, and you certainly won’t be serving Turkey, but, brunches are my favourite way to host Friendsgiving. The main reason for this, aside from mimosas, is how simple it is to make and serve a successful brunch for a large group. Personally, the best way to do this is by baking something ahead of time and serving alongside the usual suspects of fruit, yoghurt, bacon, toast and anything else you might desire which you can quickly throw together with little-to-no preparation on the day. This takes a lot of the work out of the morning and appears very impressive. What you choose to bake is up to you, be creative, think muffins, banana bread, courgette loaves or anything else that feels approachable. Cinnamon buns are my favourite, which gives the whole thing a seasonal touch. Here’s my go-to recipe, adapted from an old one by Jamie Oliver (here’s a similar one that he suggests) that is very very simple and easier than it may seem. Give yourself time, don’t rush it, and you should be fine.
Simple Cinnamon Buns
- 150g unsalted butter
- 150g brown sugar
- 6 teaspoons cinnamon
- 14g yeast
- 500mL lukewarm milk
- 3 eggs
- 850g flour
- 150g unsalted butter
- 150g brown sugar
- Generous pinch of cinnamon
- In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the milk by stirring with a whisk. Add 1 egg and beat.
- In a separate bowl add the flour, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Cut the butter into cubes and using your hands crumble it in the flour mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs.
- Add the flour/butter mixture to the yeast mix. Add another egg and stir to form a dough. Once the dough forms knead on a floured surface for 5 minutes.
- Return dough to bowl. Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes
- While the dough rests, combine the ingredients for the filling.
- Once the dough has risen, divide it in half, and roll each piece into a large rectangle. Spread the filling across each piece of dough.
- Roll each piece of dough from the long side, and slice it into 2 ½ inch pieces. Rest each slice on a baking tray leaving space between each with room to spread out.
- Cover again and leave for another 20 minutes.
- After, beat the remaining egg and brush across the top.
- Bake for 15 minutes at 220C or until brown and slightly crisp.
Skip the main and go straight to the dessert
Who needs dinner anyway? Sometimes a full Thanksgiving dinner can seem a little daunting and can become a full-day affair to prep and serve. One of the best ways around this is by not serving a dinner. Apple pie is a Thanksgiving classic and almost always a great crowd-pleaser. This Jamie Oliver is a quintessential apple pie that is truly delicious, and you can make it easier for yourself by finding pre-made pastry at the grocery store – all you have to do is make the filling and bake the whole thing. If you don’t have a pie dish with you (and to be honest, this isn’t in your typical uni IKEA order), try to use a cake-tin instead and bring the bottom of your pastry onto the sides of the dish. Want something even easier, look no further than this apple crisp from Broma – all you need is a sheet pan and you just throw everything on top.
Easy Thanksgiving Dinner
Okay, so you want to make a Thanksgiving dinner? This is getting towards difficult territory, but it is still entirely doable. I’d advise starting by thinking about what you want to eat, and what is manageable for you, your kitchen and your budget – personally, I don’t think an entire turkey would find in the oven of my uni house. Ask questions like, will anyone actually eat the Brussel sprouts? How many kinds of potato is too many? Can I ask people to each bring something/contribute to the meal? Typically with these kinds of dinners less is more, don’t get bogged down in the details of countless dishes – try to do a few things well and make sure you have enough to feed everyone and everything will be fine. I’d suggest looking at ideas like this one-pan, one-pot recipe or this sheet pan Thanksgiving dinner.
Friendsgiving is about celebrating friendship, gratitude, and the joy of shared experiences. Whether you opt for a stress-free brunch, a dessert-centric gathering, or a simplified Thanksgiving dinner, the key is to enjoy the time spent with friends. Embrace the diverse traditions at university and create a Friendsgiving celebration that will be remembered for years to come.
Featured Image: Wendy Wei on Pexels