An Expat Thanksgiving

Since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I love to cook (particularly the chopping which gets out all of my stress and aggression) I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cook for friends.  On Saturday night, I will make an “American” Thanksgiving dinner for 14 adults and 7 children, mostly Turks, some of whom have lived in the U.S. and two of whom have an American daughter, one American, and a Brit! 

Now, if you had seen my apartment, the first question you would ask is where am I going to put them all?!  To me, size has never mattered.  (LOL!)  I always hated parties where there were enough seats for everyone.  Boring!  In fact, I hate it so much that I didn’t even have enough seats at my wedding.  I like people to roam, mingle, talk to people that they never liked.  I do regret however that we won’t be seated at one long table.  That is nice for dinner.

The second question you might have is how the heck can I cook for so many?!  You must remember that I am one of fourteen children.  With all of the nieces and nephews, this is nothing!  In fact, I have personally catered many family events.  I once cooked a full dinner for 120 guests at my mother’s 75th birthday party. 

So, here’s what I’m serving — with all of the little expat technicalities . . .

Turkey – 2 of them.  Turkey isn’t a common meal in Turkey.  (Writing that made me laugh out loud, literally!)  After buying the first one at 5.25 kg (about 12 lbs or so), I realized it wouldn’t do.  After a long discussion with my friend Julia, I decided to ask a neighbor to use her oven.  So I bought the second turkey only to find out that my neighbor, an American from Washington state, doesn’t have an oven!  My game plan is to cook one early, which I am used to since Mom’s 35-40 pounders always had to be in the oven by 5 a.m. or so.  Then I will cook the second.  While that is cooling, I will attempt to reheat the second turkey.  That’s going to be tricky – and probably dry – but will the Turks no any better?

Stuffing.  Turks generally don’t eat pork which is what Mom always put in her stuffing.  I haven’t decided on a recipe yet, but I do know it will involve onions and mushrooms.

Gravy.  I’ve never made the gravy, and frankly, I don’t eat it.  (I know.  I know.)  But I’ve watched Mom many times and I hear it’s the best.  Wish me luck.  Mom, if you are reading this, expect a call.

Mashed potatoes.  Now these I make just like Mom.  In fact, I usually make them for her.  My brother John never knew this.  A couple of years ago he caught me making the mash.  He through a fit.  That was the one time that I added too much salt.  So he had reason to complain the rest of the week.  I learned my lesson.  Now I close the door when I’m making them.  The secret to the recipe – baking potatoes give fluff and lots of butter.

Cranberry sauce.  Not sold in a can here.  Actually, I haven’t been able to find them at all.  But I found a nice dried berry that might be cranberry.  It’s on the stove now.  Mandarin orange, apple, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Smells good.


Homemade Cranberry Sauce


Roasted Autumn medley.  That’s already in the oven.  Hopefully I will have a free oven for a few minutes to reheat it tomorrow.  White potatoes, leeks, beets, onion, and pumpkin in olive oil, rosemary and thyme.  Oh, how I miss red potatoes, sweet onions, butternut squash!!


Autumn Medley


Sweet Potato Pie.  This is especially tricky, since we don’t have sweet potatoes, yams, or butternut squash in Turkey.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is a side dish, not a dessert.  It doesn’t have a crust.  It’s a mash of sweet potatoes with some spices, that is put in a pie dish, topped with marshmallows, and baked until the marshmallows are browned.  I am going to try to make it with pumpkin and mashed white potatoes for texture.  I have seen marshmallows here before.  But after checking 5 markets, my husband could only find vanilla flavored marshmallows – half of which were pink.  He bought two bags so I can pick out the pink ones.  Little does he know, that will be his job!

Creamed cauliflower.  Mom’s recipe.  Easy enough.

Brussel sprouts with roasted chestnuts.  As an adult, I learned to love brussel sprouts.  But roasting chestnuts in a pain in the patootie.  I’ve only seen fresh ones here.  A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Creamed onions.  This is something new and exciting for me.  The recipe I found looks awesome!  But peeling a ton of itsy bitsy onions doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.

Salad.  Why would one eat salad with so many other things on the table?  It’s just one of those things we don’t give up on.  And it’s easy, especially with good knives and a passion for chopping.  I was thinking about surprising my husband with homemade blue cheese dressing which he loves and you can’t buy pre-made here.  (At least I haven’t seen it.)  We’ll see if I have time.

Appetizer?  I’ve got brie that I will cover with a nice 4-berry preserve.  Unbelievably, I found the same preserves that I but at Whole Foods in Philly.  I had another recipe in mind, but I don’t have oven space.  Baked brie, covered in yellow curry, topped with mango chutney and cashews.  Let’s face it though, I don’t have mango chutney either.  I’m thinking of doing a quick tomato bruschetta.

Today I will also bake an apple tart – which I did last week too and it was delicions – and two pumpkin pies.  Oh how I miss the canned pumpkin puree!  The guys at the bazaar will at least slice and peel it for you.  Alas, I bought mine at the market where it was only peeled.  I did, however, bring my food processor and we bought a converter.  So I have real tools!!

Friends will be bringing wine, an appetizer, potatoes au gratin, and maybe a green bean dish.  The more the merrier.  By that, I mean more wine!

I will update you on how it turns out and my follies along the way.  And Pictures!

Last night, I had my husband help me sneak these nice berries for a center piece.  They have big thorns – so I didn’t want to do it! 


Roadside Berries


When I got out of the car at home, a man in the street was commenting on them in Turkish.  When I finally got hime to understand that I didn’t know what he was saying, he asked, “German?”  I replied in Turkish, “Biraz.  Benim American.”  A little bit.  I’m American.  He rolled his eyes in annoyance.  Then I asked, “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”  We proceeded to have a conversation in German, in which he scolded me for cutting the plant in front of the neighboring hospital.  “Verboten!”  Apparently, he planted them.  I smiled an politely told tham that they were not from the hospital.  I told him his plants were beautiful and gave him a Turkish, “Kolay gelsin.”  May it come easy.  He never apologized, but he smiled and proceeded to introduce himself in a friendly manner. 

Man, I love Thanksgiving!  Now, back to work, and a listen of Alice’s Restaurant – aka – the Thanksgiving Day Massacre.

One thought on “An Expat Thanksgiving

Add yours

  1. Hi T,

    Here is a hot tip for ya!

    You can use Hubbard Squash to make your(pumpkin)pie and nobody will know the difference…beleive me they won’t. It’s used here in the USA in most store bought pre-made pies. Excellent taste and no complaints…..Yeah baby!

    Enjoy yourself and you go gurl!

    Keep it coming cause we in Sharon Hill love it!


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