Sunday, November 18, 2012

Getting Ready for Turkey Day

So, it's almost that time again -- time for a blog post describing my "adventures" in trying to recreate a proper Thanksgiving dinner here in Beijing. I did it last year in the temporary apartment with almost no utensils, so I imagine that I can do even better this year.

Last year, I remember Joanna asking me which creative recipes I'd want to make, and thinking that I needed to stick with the standards. This year, I'm venturing into new territory. There's this salad with pomegranate seeds and roasted acorn squash and beets that looks good, and all of those (if you substitute miniature pumpkins for acorn squash) are available in the local wet market, named Sanyuanli.

Sanyuanli is not for the squeamish. It's a covered market with more than 100 different stands, including a few miniature hardware stores, a whole section specializing in tofu, a couple of pricey expat stands with peanut butter and coffee, an entire meat and fish area, and then the vegetables. I've learned that if I want to snack on one of the delicious steamed buns from a stand situated between the fruit area and the meat, I need to plant myself and eat the bun on the spot. Otherwise, I'm eating a bun and staring face to face with the ghostly head of a goat or enormous pigs' feet or chicken carcasses with feet and head still attached splayed on an unrefrigerated counter. I'd rather look at fruit.

Last week when I was at Sanyuanli, I spied a couple of stands with fat turkeys all wrapped in plastic. I figure they're imported from the States, so they'll be pricey. The trick is to get one that's not frozen solid but also to determine that a thawed turkey is not the same one I saw sitting on the unrefrigerated counter last week. It would be a shame to poison my ten Thanksgiving guests with spoiled turkey.

I have a can of pumpkin. I'm glad I snatched it up last week because I have yet to see cans of pumpkins in the April Gourmet or Jenny Lou's, the expat stores where you'd expect to see them. I paid 24 RMB for it, which is $3.84. Not cheap, and I could have just bought fresh pumpkin and made it myself, but there's something Thanksgiving in buying the can.

I also have a can of cranberry sauce. My usual cooking ventures do not involve so many things in cans, but there are my rules and then China rules. I've learned to let China win from time to time.

(Although -- digression ahead -- today I let a woman at the gym have it. "Do you think everybody in here wants to hear your TV show?" I shouted at her across four treadmills. "I have my earbuds in and I still can't hear anything over your show. TURN IT DOWN!" I yelled. She glanced at me and was gone in two minutes. I have no idea if this woman, who looked ethnically Chinese, had any idea what I was saying or if she thought she needed to get away from the crazy woman laughing maniacally at "The Office." I don't care. Debbie: 1)

Okay, I'm back. So I have a tiny oven, which means the other trick will be to find a turkey that actually fits in it. I don't even begin to imagine that I'll simultaneously cook something else at the same time, so the microwave will come in handy for reheating the potatoes gratin, and later the apple crisp.

Stand by for the next "adventure." At any rate, I know it will be "interesting." I promise photographic evidence too.


  1. glad you haven't lost your ability to tell people where to go! good thing you didn't have an umbrella in your hand ;)