Thanksgiving on the wrong side of the pond

23 11 2011

It’s Thanksgiving week and I am, once again, for yet another Thanksgiving, stuck in Europe. I came here after finishing my Master’s degree expecting to be away from the U.S. for one or two Thanksgivings. I have been away for nineteen, and counting.

Here in Europe, there is no such thing as Thanksgiving, and I must say it is the one day of the year I am physically sick with longing and blind with homesickness. And my European friends, all lovely people for whom I am eternally thankful, just don’t understand.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all time because there are no expectations attached to it. There is no gift-giving and therefore no disappointment and no fake joy. The joy is (usually) real, and it’s all about just having a great meal together. Food that reminds me of where I come from and who I am. Food that reminds me of my good fortune in this life, so far. Comfort food.

When my father was still alive, he would come visit me at the end of the year. Every September we would have the same phone conversation – should he come at Thanksgiving? Or four weeks later, for Christmas? We always decided on Christmas because then he could hang around for New Year’s Eve too. And he loved being part of a traditional European Christmas over here… it reminded him of his childhood in Germany, a long time ago.

We would turn our Christmas dinner into an “end-of-year” dinner, so that we could celebrate all the holidays we had missed and the ones that were to come in the first part of the new year as well. The centerpiece of our culinary extravaganza was his Thanksgiving turkey. He had been the Master Of The Bird at home since as far back as I can remember, and was always eager to commandeer my mini-kitchen for a whole day, along with all of its tools and appliances.

I would pre-order the turkey from a local supermarket and he would directly import the stuffing and the cranberries in his suitcase.

The Bird, 2002 edition.

Since the amount of food on the table was usually far greater than the two of us could possibly consume in any useful period of time, and the standard European freezer is the size of a shoebox, I invited friends and colleagues over to partake in the gluttonous, succulent feast. Our rallying cry was always: “EAT MORE!” One year we had guests from six different countries, including Palestine, the U.K. and Germany, to name just a few. It was a real United Nations around the table in my little Berlin apartment.

Those were good times with my father, and old and new friends. Those evenings are past and long gone, now, but no one can take the memories away from us.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Be thankful, and eat well.

Giving Thanks

24 11 2010

A friend of mine once revealed to me a few techniques she uses to fight insomnia. Counting sheep doesn’t do it for her, so she developed some exercises of her own. One was to count backwards from 100 to 0 by threes. In French, German or Swahili. Another was to think of all the different languages you can say “please” in.

A third exercise is to go through the alphabet and name at least three things per letter that she is thankful for.

I like that one, and in honor of Thanksgiving tomorrow – the most important day of the year – here is some stuff I am thankful for (in reverse alphabetical order). People, events, things and places that make my life a little happier, and each day a little more meaningful.

  • Zebras, Ziploc bags, Zippers
  • “Yes we can!”, Yosemite and Yellowstone, YOU – my reader(s)
  • Xtra cheese in my fajitas, Xtra gin in my drink, Xtra cash in my paycheck
  • Winter sports, Washing machines, Wine of all colors
  • USA, Uhu-glue, the Universe
  • Velcro, Vacation days, Voracious appetite
  • Tulips, Time, Tea with lemon
  • Sweetie, Sourdough pretzels, Sunshine, Strong women, Swimming pools, Scallopine al Limone, San Francisco, Skate-marathons, Speed, Singapore (Slings), S-L-E-E-P!

(Sorry, went a bit overboard on the S’s…)

Very few bartenders know how to make these well.

  • Rollerblades, Relatives in South America, Rose-colored glasses for the proverbial rainy day
  • Questions, Quaker Oatmeal, Queen’s University
  • Pa, Petra, Philadelphia(ns) and the Flyers
  • October 11th, 2008, Oceans, Opportunities
  • Naaahfick & Co., Non-violent civil disobedience, New shoes
  • My big brother and his kid, Many old and new friends all over the world, the Month of May
  • Life, Love, Latte Macchiato
  • Kindle, Kiwi-raspberry juice, Knowledge
  • Journalism, July 4th fireworks, Jet airplanes

BOOM! Nothing like a couple of good explosions on a warm summer evening.

  • Ironic Mom, Ikea, Italian pasta dishes with white sauces
  • Happy landings, Hershey’s Kisses, Hot showers
  • Grand Canyon, Good health, God
  • Fritzi the dog, Fitness, Freedom of choice
  • Early mornings, Eighties music, Eucalyptus trees
  • Dairy Queen, Driving my SmartCar,
  • Columbia University, Cell phones, Common sense
  • Bagels, Blogging, Black Jack
  • Autobahns, Aviation, Apt.#410

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Make it a great day.