That is One Big Chicken: Throwing Thanksgiving Abroad

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December 19, 2012 by theloneblonde

Like I mentioned I want to do a bit of a life re-cap about some of my past travels in the past five years. As it is November, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner there is one specific story that I would not mind sharing: Throwing Thanksgiving Abroad.


I have spent a few thanksgivings abroad now, and this thanksgiving marks the first and maybe one of the last ones I will get to spend with the family (well minus one twin). Though it’s going to quick and fast this year with having to work both Wednesday and Black Friday at the aforementioned Old-Ladies-R-Us; my brother and I are both going to be making the journey together to Michigan for one last celebration of James Bond, Football, and maybe thanksgiving lunch.


For the past three thanksgivings, I have celebrated without my family and so this year will be a reminder both of what I am thankful for but give me some great reminders of a real American thanksgiving rather then my mock foreign impetrations of an invented American culture. At least in my family, thanksgiving may be less about turkey, which comes smothered in Barbeque sauce or goes uneaten because only four months before he was a family pet named Turkey Tom, and more about the ridiculousness of my family getting together. When I think about it, it’s pretty much the same as throwing a thanksgiving party abroad for the most random group of strangers you can gather.


This was my M.O. in England. I wanted to bring the idea of Thanksgiving to everyone, including that weird kid who lived down the hall from me in the house. To set the scene a bit, I was living in Manchester, England in Whitworth Halls and specifically Leamington House. Now think back to your college experiences, or any film that shows graduate students, and if you could envision graduate student residence. Pretty much it’s a bunch of foreigners. In just my flat alone I lived with three Chinese girls, a girl from Bangladesh, a girl from Indonesia, and one from Chile, we represented three continents alone. Between my flat mates, my friends, and my course mates, I went a little crazy making sure that if possible my thanksgiving dinner would have people from as many habitable continents as possible. And if we include Indonesia as part of Australia and the Pacific then I was able to get peoples from every continent in my kitchen!


From the beginning it was a bit of a long shot if I was actually going to be able to pull off a true American Thanksgiving because I was leaving on the actual day of Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November) for an impromptu trip to Germany. So it was going to have to be the night before, and I only remembered that fact thanksgiving was Thursday on Monday, leaving me with little time to totally prepare. After a very long trip to Asda (English Wal-Mart) to search out a Turkey and all of the necessary thanksgiving dishes, another psudo-half-american and I divided and conquered the necessary cooking task. And I invited everyone I knew on campus to what I hoped to be a really amazing thanksgiving dinner. I also instructed everyone that due to the fact my house was limited in cutlery it was BYO-F/K/S.


On the Menu for my American thanksgiving was all of the proper fixings, including rolls (though not “butt muffins” as prescribed in my family’s traditions), green bean casserole (which came as a challenge because apparently only the USA condenses our soup), garlic mashed potatoes, corn, cornbread, sweet potatoes and mini marshmallows, and our incredibly tiny Turkey (which was dragged to the flat the mile and a half from Asda and titled Tullah Turkey, as I had convinced everyone that it was tradition to name your Turkey paying homage to poor tom). I also encouraged anyone who would be coming to also bring a dish from his or her home country, with the exception of the Indian kid who was banned from bringing curry.


Like I said I had invited everyone who I could find to my Thanksgiving event. Like I said I had every continent represented, including friends from England, Indonesia, India, Netherlands, Romania, Japan, China, Colombia, Chile, Rwanda, Nigeria, and even Iraq. It was quite the who’s who of the Manchester international crowd if you ask me! But what made it interesting were the ideas behind Thanksgiving that came about. What many know about thanksgiving, along with most American culture is from movies/books/tv/pop culture in general, and what messages stick really can be eye opening?


As people arrived there came a bombardment of questions regarding the food, the day, and why exactly we were celebrating. Off the bat one of my roommates exclaimed that she felt honoured to be invited and this was just like an episode of the 90s Sitcom Friends, which is her 2nd favorite show. She insisted on knowing if for dinner we would be using “the good china.” Apparently, in Friends, Ross (maybe… I don’t know which one), used his good china ONLY on Thanksgiving. I had no idea why she asked me this, because her and I both knew that we only had 8 plates, which we purchased for a grand total of 5 pounds from Asda.  


As soon as the Turkey was served, which seriously maybe have been the smallest Turkey imaginable, though resulted in serious questioning. First of all, Jeff my Rwandan Neighbour was CONVINCED it was a Chicken. He insisted that it was just a massive chicken; it could not have been a turkey. Which ironically, is what we used to convince my cousin of as a kid due to the fact she refused to eat any meat but chicken.


Then my Chinese friends and course mates, upon learning that it was not a big chicken but a turkey started franticly rattling off in Chinese, sounding a little on the panicked side (though it was in Chinese so I have no idea). One of them then stopped to explain that in China a Turkey was only seen as a zoo animal and not eaten. Somewhat the same way Indians react to deer (as an endangered species). Essentially it would be like an American showing up to a dinner party to find out that after eating what you just ate was something like a kangaroo (for lack of better example). Though they proudly ate every last bite of it with their newly attained forks and knives (which after the fact, I realized they purchased exclusively for the occasion because they were convinced that it was a necessity that thanksgiving dinner be eaten with a fork and knife which explains why they brought ones with Disney Characters on them).


All in all, that thanksgiving may never be able to be topped in terms of a truly international experience. But I plan to bring it all on my next adventures. Showcasing American cultural experiences abroad is never an easy task, and trying to explain that you celebrate breaking bread with a population that your ancestors later killed off, an even harder feat. Regardless, Thanksgiving will always be one of my favourite Holidays, maybe next year I will be able to break out the good china for my hopeful Albanian friends and family.




Our really Tiny Turkey… and my very hungry friends. 




The Classic American Thanksgiving Spread




Yay! Thanksgiving



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