Monday, January 07, 2008

Thanksgiving!
November 22, 2007

Inspired by our expat Thanksgiving last year, I decided to host the party this year (with a real turkey this time though!) I also invited several of my Bangladeshi friends so they could share in the celebration and taste some real American food. (Sadly, many Bangladeshis - including intelligent, educated people like my friends - tragically believe that KFC and Pizza Hut are high quality American cuisine. I know, I cringe whenever someone suggests that we go to an "upscale restaurant" like KFC or Pizza Hut!)

Now hosting Thanksgiving for eighteen people is a large undertaking for anyone, but for someone like me who doesn't know how to cook it is extremely daunting! Thankfully (!) I have four American friends (Tuni, Clay, Jen, and Ben) who DO know how to cook and who were very happy to come over and help me prepare the feast. Thanksgiving was Tuni's birthday, so I took her to breakfast at the American Club before I locked her away in my kitchen for the rest of the day. Tuni's husband, Clay, unfortunately came down with the flu the day before (in fact all of my chefs had been sick within the previous few days), so he stayed home and rested while we began. Clay did manage to make mashed potatoes at home, though, and brought them when he came over.

The first item of business was to find the proper ingredients. This is American food, remember, based on native American produce, so not all of it is easily available here. Thankfully, I had ordered my turkey from the American Commissary several months in advance. I also managed to pick up cranberries, stuffing, frozen broccoli, and canned mushrooms there. My sister brought me yams from the United States when she came to visit. We sent Hamida to the market to get some vegetables: squash (Bangladeshi version), carrots, pumpkin, and celery. We knew the celery would be hard to find, but Hamida came through! (See the photo below!)

Tuni and I then tried to figure out how to cook a turkey. I had only cooked one before and Tuni had only assisted. We found a recipe online where you cook the turkey uncovered breast side down. Thankfully the turkey did fit into my small oven, but the breast-side-down suggestion meant we couldn't use the built-in turkey thermometer, which we needed because there are no temperature settings on my oven. (Plus I have a history of food poisoning my guests!) We rigged the wire shelf with a foil container to catch the drippings so the thermometer could poke through the bottom. Also, we didn't have any poultry skewer things, so we just safety-pinned the wings and things in place... It ended up working out really well! The turkey tasted fabulous!

Jen and Ben made pumpkin pie from scratch while I... set the table! (Hey, I also put the cranberry sauce into a bowl!) Because I had so many people coming, I had to rent two more tables and a set of dishes. The chairs at the rental place were hideous though, so I borrowed chairs from people in my building.

We had to schedule Thanksgiving for the evening because my Bangladeshi friends had to go to work that day. Friends started arriving around 6pm for drinks and I think we finally sat down to eat around 8pm. Everyone LOVED the food; they all wanted the recipes at the end. I had friends from several countries attend - USA, Denmark, India, and Bangladesh. I was really happy to share one of my favorite American holidays with them. And I was quite happy to show them that American cuisine was more than just pizza and hamburgers!

We all went around the table and said what we were thankful for. At the end, one of my Bangladeshi friends told me that she thought that maybe one of the reasons that America was such a great country was because once a year we all take a day to be grateful for what we have. I thought it was a very interesting observation...

In traditional Thanksgiving fashion, we all stuffed ourselves. Because it was getting late, several of my friends started to leave. I had baked a (very lopsided!) birthday cake for Tuni though which I brought out before more people left. I then brought out the desserts (pumpkin and apple pie), but people were so full they couldn't eat them! (Since it was an evening meal, we didn't have the luxury of a 2-3 hour post-turkey break like we do in the U.S.) Consequently, I sent pies and cranberry sauce home with my friends.

All in all, it was a fantastic Thanksgiving. I definitely plan on doing it again next year!

Tuni with the Celery!
Tuni proudly displaying our celery. It's not much, but it was all that was available! I was surprised that we could find it at all, as I have never seen celery in any of the markets.


Our Turkey!
And no! This picture is not Photoshopped! The turkey really was this beautiful!


The Guests!
The chefs: Jen and Ben are in the front on the left and Tuni and Clay are on the right.


More Guests
Some of my Bangladeshi friends who were able to join us.

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