So, Thanksgiving approaches, and I can’t help but remember the stress and the hassle of our Thanksgiving in Brussels back in 2001. The Belgians only really ate dinde, turkey, at Christmas.
But because there was a big expat community, there was a guy who supplied turkeys. I called the guy. He said he’d reserve me a turkey. I drove out to his store, which was apparently a dry cleaning shop. I announced myself to the woman behind the counter. The guy wasn’t there.
When would he be back? Not sure. So I sat and sat at the dry cleaner, thinking of all the stuff I had to do, pies to bake, stuffing to make, all that. After about 45 minutes and no guy, I stormed out.
“I hate this country,” I said to Bob. My good friend Marcia, who spoke better French than me, came up with a turkey, and the rest of the planning and the day was a blur of shopping, baking, planning, and a lot of friends and family around the table. So what if I broke a glass bottle of olive oil on the tile kitchen floor minutes before guests were to arrive and then cut my hand rushing to pick up the glass? That’s what wine is for.
Here in Beijing we live in an area that has a fair number of Americans, and the expat grocery store April Gourmet sells frozen turkeys, canned cranberry sauce, and even canned pumpkin, all of which I bought the moment I saw them just to be certain to have them.
The turkey now sits thawing, slowly, in my small frig. It takes up the good part of one shelf. The rest of the meal is still somewhat open-ended.
“Have you found good any recipes yet, Mom?” Joanna asks me, knowing I’ve done some pretty creative things in Thanksgivings past. But here I’m thinking simplicity and the good old work-around system. For instance, forget finding something as ubiquitous as ground cinnamon in April Gourmet. But we did find cinnamon sticks and a jar of ground nutmeg. So we have spices of some sort for the pies.
Forget finding something as basic as a pie tin. (Remember, all my kitchen stuff is still sitting in a container somewhere.) We did find two options: a Pillsbury graham cracker crust, and a dish that’s probably more for an 8-inch cake than a pie. But they’ll do. Two small pies, coming up.
How will I mash the potatoes? I guess I’ll use a combination of forks and various larger spoons and hope no one comments about the lumps.
How will I serve the stuffing or other side dishes? We found some disposable aluminum tins in April Gourmet.
When the 14-pound turkey takes up the entire oven, how will I cook the rest of the stuff? The answer is that not everything will be piping hot. I shudder to think about making gravy.
Will there be a Thanksgiving day freakout? I think I need to keep up that tradition, after all. And again, there’s always wine.