The One With The Turkey

December 6th, 2011

For the past several years, I’ve almost let Thanksgiving go by without a celebration. For the past several years, I’ve almost given up on Thanksgiving and then, in a last moment fit of determination, I make last minute invitations to Expat Thanksgiving. I recognize, in that moment of decision, that if I let it go this year I will let it go forever and the boys will grow up without Thanksgiving. That most American of holidays. As expats, so much falls aside, so many cultural touchstones pass our kids by no matter how conscientiously we try to pass them on. Thanksgiving, it seems, is my line in the sand. I think I can let it go, but when the moment is upon me I know that I can’t, that I musn’t.

So I threw out last minute invitations, made the last minute scramble for a turkey. R’s family has a long, long-standing relationship with the butcher in the small village we lived in when I first moved to Switzerland – a relationship that spans two generations of butchers and two generations of customers – so we turned to Small Village Butcher for our turkey order and he got us a turkey. Oh boy, did he get us a turkey. An eleven kilo turkey. That’s an American-sized turkey and I’m here to tell you: American-sized turkeys do not fit in European-sized ovens. No, no they do not. The turkey did not fit in our oven. We’ve had some close calls before, but in ten years of varied and sundry families hosting Expat Thanksgiving this is the first time we couldn’t fit the bird in the oven. I suppose it was bound to happen one of these years.

The butcher roasted the turkey for us on Sunday (that sound you just heard was the collective gasp of my Swiss and German readership, followed by exclamations of: he roasted the turkey for them on a Sunday? Mein Gott!) and R went to pick it up in a catering hot-box and when he arrived home with it and brought it inside everybody stood around in the kitchen exclaiming and taking pictures and exclaiming. An eleven kilo turkey is … impressive. Daunting, even. We did our best, pressed second servings on everybody and sent people home with leftovers and still have three containers of turkey in the refrigerator. Eleven kilos of turkey is a lot of turkey.

My mother always made a turkey tetrazzini with Thanksgiving leftovers, and I’m going to have to root around and see if I have her recipe somewhere, because I’ve got a lot of leftovers. And because my mother’s turkey tetrazzini was outstanding. As was her apple pie, which I made again this year. As it was baking, when the house smelled like pie and I had the warm anticipation of expecting guests for Thanksgiving, I saw a rainbow out my kitchen window.

It’s a good thing to hold on to traditions. A little better even, I think, when you have to fight for them a bit.


3 Responses to “The One With The Turkey”

  1. Tracy on December 6, 2011 8:21 pm

    My two cents, which if you have that and four euro will get you a Starbucks coffee, assuming your local country even has a Starbucks (and mine does not!), you have to hold on to Thanksgiving. And for the exact reason you said. It is the most American of holidays. You deserve to have that connection to “home” and so do your boys. In my adopted country, we are celebrating Independence Day today. The are no fireworks, there was no trick or treating on Oct 31, and everyone went to work on the last Thursday of November. But on that Saturday night, we got together with a bunch of other expats, mostly Americans, and had a turkey. And pumpkin pie. And green bean casserole. The cost of the turkey, the canned pumpkin, and the Campbell’s mushroom soup are astronomical if they can even be found, and imported from the US if they can’t (turkey comes from a butcher, but ordered well in advance because why would you need a whole turkey???). It’s not like Thanksgiving at “home”, but it is Thanksgiving and we have a lot to be thankful for as Americans. No matter where we live. That’s the important part. Besides, it’s the law. 😉 My brother sent this to me on Thanksgiving and I posted it to FB. Many of my expat friends loved it. Hope it brings a smile to your face, too. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/susan-milligan/2011/11/24/thanksgiving-worth-the-extra-work-when-celebrated-abroad?google_editors_picks=true

  2. rswb on December 6, 2011 9:23 pm

    I would have enjoyed seeing a picture of the turkey.

  3. Julia@kolo on December 6, 2011 11:05 pm

    We celebrate Thanksgiving more thoroughly than any of our US families back home. My mother-in-law asked what we managed to cobble together for her poor grandchildren for Thanksgiving. I trotted out our menu – turkey, green beans, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn bread and pumpkin pie, and then nervously asked what the rest of her grandchildren had eaten. “Tacos,” she said. “They don’t like turkey.”

    I’m very impressed by your butcher. That is a man to stay on the good side of!

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