Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bring on the Bird

Happy Thanksgiving!

And what a Thanksgiving tomorrow will be. My parents-in-law have been cooking almost non-stop for the last two days. I think they're outdoing themselves because it's the first time they've had all their children at home for Thanksgiving in over ten years.

Since the smell of stuffing and pumpkin pie is in the air, I found myself remembering interesting Thanksgivings of years past. When you live in a different culture, Thanksgivings aren't always as -- um -- predictable as they are in the States. When you live overseas, it seems, almost nothing is predictable.

I remember one Thanksgiving, some friends of my parents offered them a turkey. They were a Chinese family who found out about our American tradition of eating turkey and they wanted to do something nice for my family.

They called the day before they were going to deliver the bird to ask my father, "Would you like us to cut the turkey for you?"

"No, no," my father assured them. "We can cut it ourselves."

So, the next day, delivered to our doorstep was a large, beautiful, very-much-alive male turkey. My parents kept him in the backyard until they got up the nerve to take him down to the butcher. I think my mother grew quite attached to the bird. I wasn't at home at the time, but she sent me pictures through email. (He may have even had a name. I didn't ask her what it was like to eat an animal with a name.)

And then, of course, was the time a Canadian friend of ours in China asked if we'd like him to order us a locally-bred turkey. They were drastically cheaper than special ordering them through our foreign-food store, so we agreed, asking him to get us a twelve or thirteen pound bird.

The day before Thanksgiving, my friend called and said he had our birds. Yes, birds. Plural.

They arrived, six pounds each.

It turns out, he'd received them dead, but otherwise unaltered. Since he'd grown up on a farm, he knew all the ins-and-outs of de-feathering and gutting animals. So, he'd kindly plucked them and taken out all the innards for us before he brought them over. Bless him.

Still, we took our two turkeys -- pigeon-sized though they were -- baked and served them for Thanksgiving. Um, and, needless to say, the next year we drastically overpaid for a frozen imported American turkey.

I don't think this Thanksgiving will be anywhere near as interesting, though it promises to be just as delicious. The table is already set, the stuffing is made, the pies are cooling on the dining room table. Predictably delectable. Comfortably satisfying. No live turkeys turning up on our doorstep.

Let the festivities begin.

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