Thanksgiving outside of America is always strange. There are no pumpkins in giant bins at the grocery store. The leaves on palm trees never change. There was no Halloween marking the beginning of a series of holidays. And there are no turkeys at the butcher shop.
I think my mom was feeling sorry for me, knowing that fall is my favorite season. I grew up surrounded by mountains covered in trees that turn beautiful colors in the fall. Now I’m surrounded by mountains covered in sand. She sent me some trees from our yard she laminated so I could at least gaze longingly at the beauty of nature changing. I showed them to all my friends who thought I was weird. It’s ok, I am. I’m carrying around laminated leaves from my yard in America. It’s time to find a place for them at home.
But now Thanksgiving is upon us and some American friends and I are determined to celebrate the holiday. We divvied up the food list and ceremoniously pledged to do our best to make it as American-like as possible. Unfortunately, the poultry shop didn’t get the message and there are no butterball turkeys to be found. We’ll have to settle for chickens. I’m to make corn bread, apple pie (no ingredient problem here) and cranberry sauce. My friend, rolls and chocolate pecan pies. Doesn’t that just sound divine? What happened next was much less than heavenly. It started to rain. It rains in the dessert. Not often, but when it does, it pours. And there is no drainage system. So the streets flood. My friend and I, though, would not be discouraged. Armed with an umbrella and raincoats, we trudged through the waterlogged streets going from store to store asking about cornmeal, cranberries and pecans. We got all kinds of suggestions for all kinds of places to no avail. (Why didn’t I buy that can of cranberry sauce at the import store back in July when I saw it?!?) After three days of being drenched, we settled on making cornbread with semolina (it feels like cornmeal), walnuts (maybe we won’t know the difference since its been so long), and to forego the cranberry sauce. And then there is was. Full with a flow from above. One final can of cranberry sauce. I think angels started singing. I snatched it up and bolted for the cash register. And we headed to our respective homes to begin our baking.
The eve of Thanksgiving, my kitchen looking like a war zone and my books strewn about the living room as I tried to do my homework in between baking times (Thanksgiving is not a holiday here, so I had class that day), I received a frantic phone call from my friend saying her gas had run out while the pies were baking. Could she and her husband come over (it was too late for her to be out by herself) and finish baking them? Knowing the turmoil of gas for the stove running out while baking something important, I quickly agree. Ten minutes later they arrive with several pies in tow, my friends sigh as the pies go back into the oven. Thanksgiving is saved!
Our thanksgiving feast was different. Chicken and tabbouleh and sweet potato casserole and semolina cornbread and walnut pie made for an interesting, albeit warm and lovely meal. And I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.