This year is one of only four times I have missed Thanksgiving with my family. The first time I missed it was my freshman year in college. At that time it was an expensive flight or a 12 hour drive to get home for the holiday and so it seemed more reasonable to wait for Christmas to go home. I was invited to celebrate with a friend’s family that year but it wasn’t the same. I found that I couldn’t stand being away from the simple, fun, family traditions that normally make up our holiday. Until I missed them, I had never even recognized them as traditions. It was a real eye-opener for 18 year old me. After that I knew that Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday and I vowed that whenever possible, “unreasonable” was not a good reason to miss it.
Fast forward to this year: vsiting the US in October made it somewhat difficult to fly back again in November. However, lucky for me the world has changed since college and the excitement of sharing the traditions with my new family helped to overshadow what I was missing at home. Add to that the inventions of Skype and Facetime and it’s nothing like it was in college when one had to make a long distance phone call to connect with family.
I started planning the dinner for this year about a month ahead of time. I had always wanted to explore the stuffing and vegetable variations and this was the perfect opportunity. Armed with my Bon Appetit magazine, (I love their thanksgiving issue) I scoured the new recipes and techniques, and began translating amounts from cups to grams and temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius. I waffled about spatchcocking or not, brining or not, my mom even mentioned roasting the turkey upside down as one of our relatives used to do. I looked for recipes that sounded good and contained ingredients I was sure I could find here. I Googled until I found the perfect fit. Finally about a week before the date, I settled on all the recipes. The menu with links to the recipes was as follows:
Hard Goad cheese
Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers
My mom’s recipe for gravy
This Thanksgiving was not only my first Thanksgiving in Germany. It was also the first time Heinz and Jola came over for dinner. And it was the very first time I had ever cooked for Jola after all this cooking she has done for me.
Once I got into the cooking I realized that as much as Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and as much as I love to cook, I have never prepared or even helped to prepare one Thanksgiving dish. Not one. When the time came I realized that I didn’t even know how to make mashed potatoes. In the past I have always been rushing in from out of town just in time for dinner and never in time to help with the preparations. Lucky again for the apps that let you call the US for practically nothing because I must’ve called my mom four times on the actual day.
True to form Jola still helped me with preparations. She let me borrow her electric knife, roasting pan, and steaming pot for the potatoes. She lent us her china so that our new table would look special for the occasion. (Otherwise I would’ve been without a gravy boat.) Best, she and Heinz searched the town for fresh cranberries, (not something easy to find in Forchheim) and they gave us the potatoes too.
We planned our Thanksgiving for Sunday the 30th. Since Thursday isn’t a holiday here it only made sense to do it on a weekend. I was shocked when I woke up on the real Thanksgiving day and felt sad. I imagined the Macy’s day parade and the football games on tv (things I hardly really watch but they are always on in the background) I imagined my dad and mom in the kitchen early in the morning. It’s always cold outside and everyone is cozy inside. It just feels magical early in the morning on holidays because you know it’s an exciting day with lots of preparation and it’s fun because Thanksgiving is like a weekend in the middle of the week. Then I cried. But don’t worry, I pulled myself together and went to language school. After school Jola picked me up to do the grocery shopping for the big day. I was surprised to realize that shopping with her comforted my heart like I could never have planned. Stay tuned for Thanksgiving in Franconia Part II, I’ll give you the play by play.