Share Thanksgiving matches new Canadians with family meals

There’s a new matchmaking service in town that pairs families who have just immigrated to Canada with hosts who invite them over to share their very first Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.

Initiative asks Calgarians to open up their homes for Thanksgiving dinners

Non-profit groups are required to have food safety training if they are serving food. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

There’s a new matchmaking service in town that pairs families who have just immigrated to Canada with hosts who invite them over to share their very first Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.

  • For suggestions from CBC Calgary's food and nutrition columnist Julie Van Rosendaal on what to bring to a potluck Thanksgiving dinner, click on the "Listen" button to the left.

The initiative launched in Toronto last year where they matched 100 families with turkey dinners. All had positive feedback, and many continued to keep in touch throughout the year.

The success of the program inspired founder Parker Mitchell to find local co-ordinators across Canada. This year there are Share Thanksgiving initiatives in Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Victoria and Vancouver.

“When he reached out this year for some Calgary co-ordinators, we thought about it for about five minutes and decided to do it,” says Nina Lothian, one of the Calgary organizers.

Their goal is to welcome new Canadians one meal at a time  and have 10,000 families matched across Canada by Thanksgiving 2015.

“We've travelled quite a bit and have been welcomed in to homes and invited to share meals with families," said Lothian.

"Personally, these experiences have been the most touching and memorable of my travels. Being invited to share a meal makes you feel welcome and cared for.... We are hoping to make Canada the most welcoming country in the world.”

When people sign up they are asked which day they could host, how many they can accommodate and whether or not they are able to accommodate specific dietary needs.

The group also tries to match families with kids of a certain age and gender accordingly, if possible. 

New settlement agencies in Calgary such as Immigrant Services Calgary, Welcome Centre for New Immigrants, Calgary Immigrant Education Society and Momentum have been instrumental in finding newcomers. But at last count there were 60 families signed up, and not as many hosts.

For more information, or to open up your home to some new Canadians, visit

CBC Calgary's food and nutrition columnist Julie Van Rosendaal gives some suggestions below on how to cook the perfect turkey. (Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal )

Turkey 101

As everyone prepares for the annual feast, here are some tips to keep in mind while prepping the turkey.

BUY: It's important to start with a good-quality turkey. I love Winter's turkeys from Dalemead, Alta., 30 kilometres outside of Calgary ( They are free range and raised without antibiotics or hormones and certified organic. Starting with a fresh turkey means you won't have to worry about thawing it .

THAW: Thawing a frozen turkey in the fridge can take days. Darrel and Corrine Winter of Winter's Turkeys recommend placing your wrapped frozen turkey in a sink or a large container and covering  completely with cold water. Allow an hour for each pound of turkey or two hours per kilogram.

PREP: For crispy skin, it's important to pat the skin dry with paper towels. Drizzle with oil or rub with soft butter, and rub all over the outside of the bird with your fingers. Season with salt and pepper or your favourite herbs and spices. Place your turkey breast side up on a rack in roasting pan — or if you like, start with it upside down and then turn it over halfway through the cooking time. This can be awkward, but allows the juices to run down into the breast meat as it roasts, keeping it moist. Stuff it loosely if you like, using your favourite stuffing recipe. Do this right before you roast it, never in advance. Alternatively, the stuffing can be  prepared separately and placed in a covered casserole dish to cook during the last hour of the turkey roasting time. 

ROAST: Cover the turkey loosely with foil and roast in a preheated 325° F oven. The general rule of thumb for cooking a stuffed turkey at 325° F is 15 minutes per pound or 30 minutes per kilogram. Begin checking about one hour before the end of the recommended roasting time and remember that fresh and unstuffed turkeys tend to cook faster. I remove the foil halfway through to ensure the skin crisps and browns nicely. The Winters also have some basting advice: if you choose to baste your turkey, limit the number of times you open and close your oven (once an hour is sufficient). To brown skin further, remove foil or roaster lid approximately one hour before done.

DONE?: Your turkey is done when a meat thermometer in the inner thigh (ensure it doesn't touch the bone, which can conduct heat more effectively) reads 82° C for a stuffed turkey or 77° C for an unstuffed turkey. The Winters say it's important to remember that when cooked to perfection the turkey meat and juices may have a slight pink tinge so it's the temperature of the meat that is the most important sign of doneness.

When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, cover it with foil and let it stand for 20-25 minutes before carving. This resting period will help retain its natural juices, keeping the meat tender and juicy.

GRAVY: To make the gravy, pour off any extra fat and whisk flour into the drippings — almost as much flour as there are drippings — then set over a stovetop and whisk in stock as it thickens. Doing this directly in the roasting pan allows you to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, which will contribute plenty of flavour. Season with salt and pepper and, if you like, a splash of wine or a tiny bit of soy sauce (in lieu of salt). Ensure it simmers for at least a minute, to maximize its thickening potential and keep it from tasting starchy.


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