Thanksgiving, or, A Crisis of Carrots
I got a phone call from my parents last week. "We were worried," they said. "You haven't updated your blog in a while, we thought something had gone wrong."
I find this no end of amusing.
But no, nothing had gone wrong, I've just not been doing anything ex-pat related, and I'm trying to keep this blog mostly to that. But now things are picking up in exciting ways.
For example, this weekend was Thanksgiving. I know that people say that Thanksgiving is supposed to be about love and family and sharing your gratitude about certain things, but it's really about eating lots and lots of food until you can't move much, and then lying around and saying "Guh, so much food...." while wishing all your guest would leave so you can undo your pants because you're so bloated with food. It's great fun.
Unlike last year, where I think I ran out to KFC and had a piece of chicken, this year I did the whole nine yards: I hosted an 8 person dinner. I think I did this because I haven't felt there was enough stress in my life these past two months and I wanted to make up for it all at once. I love to cook, but there's a distinct difference between "Hey, I'm bored, let's make something complicated" and "Hey, a bunch of people I haven't cooked before should come over and let's see if I can make that work!"
The staple of Thanksgiving is twofold: Turkey (bigger than the average dog) and pumpkin pie. As a note, getting either of these things in Scotland is difficult. I should have gone haggis hunting and made some sort of meat pastie or something because it probably would have been less stressful.
Funny thing: Unless you can hunt down a store that caters to American expats, you can't find pumpkin pie in cans in the UK. (It's like molases, corn meal, and rye, I guess. There's nothing more frustrating than that blank look on someone's face two days before Turkey Day. "What's pumpkin pie spice?")
Strangely, you *can* find cooking pumpkins at this time of year. I'm told that people buy them for carving into jack-o-lanterns (what happened to the turnips from last year?), but I managed to make my own pumpkin puree. I'd love to pretend it was really really hard, but mostly it was just time consuming. Like everything else was, because I *also* couldn't find frozen pie crust, and since I had committed myself to making at least two pies (one apple, one pumpkin) I had to make those from scratch, too. In an added bonus of stress, I only own one pie plate. *bang head against wall*
It's easy around Christmas to find large birds, but I ended up having to buy a turkey breast that would feed four people, and a chicken that would feed another four people. Then I stuffed them both and tried to fit them in my oven. Then I re-adjusted my oven racks. Then I burned my hand. Then I burned my hand again when I tried a third time to adjust the oven racks. Eventually I had one bird sitting on an oven rack that was on the bottom of the oven and the other bird just a scant milimeter or two below the element on the top of the oven. Then I closed my eyes and prayed.
To add to my stress, I started freaking out about how much of the vegetables to make. I had all these people coming over: how many carrots should I cut up? How much mashed potatoes should there be? Should I make gravy? Is there enough frozen corn? And, because I'm *stupid*, I also decided (in the midst of cutting up potatoes to put in the fridge to cook the day of) that I should make home made bread. Cuz, you know, that's the sort of thing people should do the day before a major holiday: pile on stress.
All the while, I was having this major freakout. "My mother could do this with ease!" I ranted at Don while peeling carrots with a paring knife. "She can do anything! She can cook for a dozen people and make it look so easy! My mother is so much better than I am! Why did my mother not teach me how to do this all? I don't know how many carrots to chop up and this paring knife is awful and all my carrots are funny shaped and the world is coming to an end!"
Don would occasionally make the mistake of trying to talk reason into me. He's since learned. (Then he brought up this thing about his mom making apple pies and then freezing them before cooking them and how she could just pull out a pie and bake it and look so cool and I almost strangled him but at this point my hands were covered in flour and I didn't want to make a bigger mess.)
So, around 4 a.m. my time on Thanksgiving morning (I had fallen asleep all in a tizzy earlier in the evening and then woke up around 3 and decided to bake a pie right then, cuz I'm clever that way) I did what every mature and reasonable woman does when facing a crisis of carrots: I called my mother.
It's amazing how I could hear her eyes rolling, even across the entire ocean and all that land.
"You realise that I didn't start cooking for that many people when I was just 30, right? And that I usually had Thanksgiving with just family and not guests, right? And that I hated cooking for guests or having guests over because it was stressful, right? You do realise all of this, right?"
No, no I hadn't. She's my *mom*, she does everything perfect, right?
But yeah, crisis was averted, there were more than enough carrots, we did run out of mashed potatoes but I would have been surprised if I hadn't, and now I have enough pumpkin puree that I could make pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheese cake, pumpkin cookies and probably pumpkin pasta every night this week and still have some for Christmas. I went a bit nutty. Everything was a success, and I was surrounded by friends and my mom managed to convince me I wasn't adopted from some strange family of terminally-indept people - I obviously inherited it from my father.
Happy Thanksgiving - and I promise that more expat things are in my near future. Remember: Rome in November!