For the weeks leading up to the fateful day of 30 November 2013, my life revolved around one thing: Thanksgiving. You see, there was never any question in my mind that I would host Thanksgiving. It is, as a recent New York Times article put it, the most important meal of the year. And I think that’s all the more true for expats like yours truly.
First came the invites. Once I had fussed over sending the most beautiful Outlook invitation I could make to fifteen friends, I realized I needed some food. I asked my Moldovan friend Sergey to help me go grocery shopping. He was puzzled by most of the foods on my list. Squash? Currants? Celery? Worcestershire sauce? But mostly by French-fried onions, which I struggled to explain. I mean, explaining them as, “The crispy onions that go on the green bean casserole, along with cream of mushroom soup and milk,” would surely cast doubt on American cuisine.
Well, I could not find those special onions, nor could I find the turkey, or breakfast sausage for the stuffing (solution: kebab with maple syrup). Nor could I find whipped cream or pumpkin puree. My dear American readers, I want you to appreciate how lucky you are to be able to crack open a can, dump in some cream and eggs, and basically have your pie, as opposed to chopping, then boiling, then blenderizing fresh pumpkin. And don’t even get me started on trying to manually whip cream.
Oh, I did find butternut squash. When I cut it open, I found that all the seeds had sprouted, giving the inside the look of a nest of white worms. I stuck it in the fridge and haven’t looked at it since. I probably should go deal with that…
There was a turkey leg for sale, but somehow, that did not seem right. First, I considered going to Haifa Zoo, hoping they might display some American fowl. Alas, I didn’t get a chance. So I went to the butcher shop to buy some whole chickens. A truck was being unloaded out front, and when I entered, there were crates full of apparently recently deceased chickens. I bought three, and nearly fell over when the clerk handed me the bag.
“Um, do these have guts?” I inquired.
He shook his head, not understanding. I shrugged and resigned myself to my fate.
I staggered up the hill back to my flat under the weight of fifteen pounds of meat, feeling like the Demon Barber with my cargo of carrion.
The day of Thanksgiving, I pulled out the birds, hesitantly grabbing them by the legs. There…was…blood. Ew. I brought the first bird to the sink to rinse its cavity, and noticed the cavity wasn’t entirely deserted; two tiny kidneys dangled, and beneath, something dark red that I assume was the liver.
“Dear God, please give me strength,” I said. If I were more in touch with nature, I probably would have said a prayer for the bird with whom I was enjoying intimate communion. As it was, I grabbed a knife and started sawing away, thinking back to the cat dissection I did in high school. I did poorly, but not because I was grossed out by the formadehyde-drenched feline. I’m just not very good at cutting things. But I do remember one thing: fasciae. So much fasciae to slice, and here was fasciae once again.
Eventually, after submerging the chickens in olive oil and tethering their legs, I stuck them in the oven. Actually, I crammed them in. And then I bleached the entire kitchen.
Two and a half hours later, after I had manically swept, mopped, dusted, and decorated, the guests began to arrive. The first one pronounced my cooking skills “legit.” I told him he should wait to actually try the food. The next guest I dragooned into carving up the chicken. “How do I do this?” he asked. “Here’s a book that tells you how,” I said, thrusting Betty Crocker and a knife into his hands. I hovered nervously nearby, hoping the juices would run clear, as Mommy said. The juice seemed clear. The flat was filling with friends.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, even if the greenhorns (your usual World Centre mix of South African, Dominican, Ugandan, Kenyan, Norwegian, Mauritian, and Moldovan) were a little puzzled by all the strange dishes. “So what is with the orange food?” the Ugandan asked, poking at the candied sweet potato. “You Americans like orange, both on Halloween and Thanksgiving.” Hm.
All I can say is, I broke only two glass items and nearly started only one fire, and I am very thankful for that. Happy Thanksgiving!