The annual search for turkey and camaraderie
For many Americans in London, November finds us pining for pumpkin pie, family gatherings and turkey dinners with all the fixings. Lucky for newcomers, veteran AWC members are always happy to share tips for where to find American staples like cranberry sauce and canned pumpkin in London specialty shops or complete takeout turkey dinners. (Since most people in England eat turkey for Christmas lunch, most butchers and supermarkets stock them in mid-December and not before.) For many years, members of the AWC have enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving feast at the historic Benjamin Franklin House near Trafalgar Square. But this year was different, with COVID restrictions nixing all in-person social events. Instead, we celebrated the holiday with three different virtual events.
Virtual Mayflower Walk: Touring Rotherhithe, the ship’s home port in London
We had originally planned to do this guided tour in person the weekend before Thanksgiving. But when lockdown went into effect, our Blue Badge guide adapted the walking tour to a virtual format that allowed us to tour the same area, while also covering extra ground.
Why Rotherhithe? Because, as we soon learned, the voyage to America really began in this small port on the Thames in South London. (In fact, there are more Mayflower memorials there than anywhere else in Britain.) Rotherhithe has a long ship-building and maritime history. Christopher Jones, the captain and part owner of the Mayflower, lived here, as did many of the crew.
So why do most of us associate the Mayflower with Plymouth? Because two months later, after several delays, that’s where they departed from on the transatlantic leg of the journey.
Fun facts we learned:
- In July 1620, 65 passengers (religious separatists and entrepreneurs) boarded the Mayflower in Rotherhithe and sailed down to Southampton to pick up supplies and more passengers.
- Here, the Mayflower met up with the Speedwell, which had brought emigrants from the Netherlands for the trip. Although the Dutch ship planned join the Mayflower on its journey, it had major leaks so its passengers were crammed onto the bigger ship instead.
- In September 1620, after several delays, 102 passengers and 30 crew members set sail from Plymouth, England (150 miles west of Southampton) to the New World. Although they were headed for Virginia, they veered 500 miles off course and landed in Massachusetts, where they built a settlement named after Plymouth, England.
Thanksgiving Eve Happy Hour and Bake-Off Challenge
The night before Thanksgiving, we had another Zoom event to lift our spirits. Members were invited to share creative cocktail recipes and to show off appetizers or baked goods they’d made beforehand using one or more traditional Thanksgiving ingredients: cranberry, pumpkin, corn or maple syrup. Check out the winning recipe below — pumpkin bread shaped like the state of Ohio!
Zoom Pub Quiz to beat the lockdown weekend blues
To relieve the boredom of a long weekend during lockdown, we also organized a virtual pub quiz for members and their partners. A favorite activity during non-lockdown times, the bimonthly Pub Quiz was easily adaptable and our quizmaster led us through all the steps and kept things lively and fun. The winning team — “The Leftover Turkeys” — took the prize: Boxes of Girl Scouts cookies (Thin Mints)!
AWC London makes the BBC World News!
To cap off our week of festivities, our club president was interviewed on the BBC World News to share how Americans were celebrating Thanksgiving during lockdown in London. Here's the clip from our public American Women's Club of London page on Facebook: