An Expat Thanksgiving
Expat holidays fall into two general categories. The first is the “If I try hard enough, it will be just like celebrating at home” category. The second is the “give up early and embrace failure to adapt” or “establish new traditions” category. The latter involves telling yourself that Sainsbury’s 3 for £10 meals taste just like homemade or convincing yourself that Chicken Pho with red wine is a festive meal. Last year, I went with option one.
by Norman Rockwell, of course
Early in the year, my daughter and I decided it would be fun to host Thanksgiving for her multinational university friends. I envisioned a Norman Rockwell-esque scene with a League of Nations guest list. Our family would teach EVERYONE about that mysterious American holiday, Thanksgiving. It was a clear win-win for everyone. Free food the for uni kids. A traditional holiday for the family.
The plan was perfect. The execution?
A complete circus.
I’ve been accused, every now and then, of taking things a bit too far.
1. Everyone would take the train to St. Andrews, where the daughter would source the perfect, farm fresh turkey from the butcher and I would bring the odd, American Thanksgiving ingredients I wouldn’t find at the local Tesco…some fresh cranberries, canned pumpkin, some spices.
2. We would rent a little flat in downtown St. Andrews with a nice kitchen and a table big enough for the League of Nations (and room for a few to sleep over). Perfect.
3. We would sit around the table and discuss the history behind Thanksgiving and all the things we are thankful for.
Then I got to thinkin’ (this is where things usually go bad).
You never know how someone else’s kitchen is stocked, so I clearly needed to throw a few pie pans into my suitcase…and my favorite knives…and my stock pot because WHAT IF THERE ISN’T A PROPER STOCK POT? And a saucepan. At least one.
No room for shoes
Yes, I crossed the line into Too Far.
Our feathered friend
While we were on the train with “the goods”, my daughter was running around St. Andrews trying to buy a turkey. We learned that 1. Turkey is a Christmas thing in the UK 2. Turkeys at other times of the year are rare and expensive 3. Butchers won’t promise they’ll have a turkey for you, so you show up to their shop every few days and ask if their might possibly be one please for Thanksgiving please. 4. UK turkeys are…feathery on arrival.
That muffin tin and/or hand mixer may also have been in the suitcase.
And the cream and butter goes…..somewhere else.
It all came together. One daughter arrived on the train from Liverpool after 2 delayed trains and a missed connection. Another arrived from Cambridge, late, but unscathed. I unpacked my portable suitcase kitchen into the actual kitchen. A proper sized turkey arrived with the daughter.
All was right with the world, until…I opened what I thought was the refrigerator and found a broom closet and opened a tiny cabinet and found the refrigerator. The fridge was just the right size for the turkey. Just the turkey.
Refrigerator suitcase with anti-theft zippers
What to do? Transform my kitchen-suitcase into (ta da!) outdoor-on-the-patio-refrigerator-suitcase. CLEARLY. Go ahead and laugh, but the zipper compartments came in handy when the squirrels and seagulls came a callin’.
I forgot the centerpieces. Saved by the creative daughters.
Thankfully, the story ends well. The turkey fit in the oven, the pies were fabulous (if I do say so myself), someone made a centerpiece out of vegetables to accompany the butter pyramids (I have no idea). Most importantly, we had a great time just being with each other, trying to explain Thanksgiving through a Charlie Brown cartoon and eating pie.
This year, I have a different plan.
Do you have an expat holiday story to share? Do you stick with tradition as much as possible or do you create new traditions for the holidays?
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