Monday, December 10, 2012

Thanksgiving 3

We woke up early…and we started cooking before people arrived. Beth and I became masters at cleaning and cutting potatoes. Jon was on charcoal duty. He got our 3 charcoal stoves (2 additional ones purchased just for Thanksgiving) lit and stoked to start cooking some potatoes. It was a team effort – the two of us in the kitchen and Jon outside cooking. It was only about an hour in when I cut myself with the knife cutting the potatoes. It was the start of a club. We made a lot of mashed potatoes – the exciting part was with real milk and real butter. People began to arrive and so did a lot of the extra cooking supplies. Soon, the kitchen was taken over with a few extra helping hands. The sweet potatoes arrived and so did the ingredients for two more pies – chocolate pudding pineapple and mango pie.
The turkey arrived as well. No one really knew how to do this turkey. It was still thawing and well, no one had really ever baked a turkey before and especially not in a charcoal oven.
our expensive 11 lb turkey that came dead from Kenya
This is the oven in which the turkey was baked in…for about 6 hours
A few guests and Jon figured it out. They stuffed that bird with onions, garlic, and spices, rubbed it with butter, and tied it together with thread. Into the charcoal oven it went.
As the house grew more crowded with taxi-fulls of 5-6 people arriving at a time. I changed my role from helping prep to being the “ask me anything (eg where are the pots, where is X? I need this, I need that) and the delegate the work” person. With a glass of wine always in hand, I walked around seeing what people needed and when people asked how they could help, I always delegated.
Fruit salad makers…a Tanzanian tropical fruit twist to typical Thanksgiving fare
the best eggnog I have ever had…one glass for everyone and it was gone in 5 minutes
too many cooks in the kitchen?
Steve’s famous bucket of guacamole…a new addition to Thanksgiving tradition
more pies…this is the mango pie…I didn’t make it, I was simply carrying it out of the crowded kitchen to get baked
As time passed, we realized our bird wasn’t going to be finished by 5:00 pm as we had planned. It was baking beautifully, turning  darker, smelling like a good turkey and sizzling in it’s juices. But, time rolled on and the house was being prepared for dinner…the long table was made, the chairs were brought in, and the couch cushions were being stacked in the corner of the room. People were happily buzzed from wine and beer and chatting away…starving I’m sure.
My last preparations for dinner as the turkey was nearing done was making homemade stuffing from scratch. The day before, I cut up two loaves of bread into cubes and allowed them to become stale overnight. I added my vegetarian stock, carrots, onions, garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, and rosemary and got it on the stove. As that baked, I made about 12 cups of gravy and finished that as well.
The turkey….was done. It was about 8:00p.m.
The long table was covered with food – everything I’ve already written about above…including sweet potatoes topped with brown sugar and marshmallows…like my mother-in-law makes each year. People took their seats. We took a lot of photos and all stated what we were thankful for this year. We had 20 people, ages spanning from 23-82. We had volunteers – not only just Peace Corps volunteers, but volunteers who we have adopted into our Peace Corps family. We spanned 3 countries and came from all over Tanzania to give thanks to life, God,  family, friends, and experiences.
Smiles of exhaustion and happiness! We pulled off a 20 person Thanksgiving in the bush of Africa.
We feasted,  no one was hungry. It was a proper Thanksgiving. The only thing we ran out of was the turkey, stuffing and shortly thereafter the gravy. The pies were plentiful, the mashed potatoes were too much, the bucket of guacamole was great. Everyone filled and topped their plates with their favorite foods. It was loud with laughter, happiness, and joy. It smelled of delicious food. Pies were passed around and people were exuberant with the sweet, perfect pies.
After dinner, we made space in the same room as the long table and made our cushion ground.
We all got in cozy and watched a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving followed by Dumb and Dumber. It was 2:00 am and people went to sleep. The next day everyone helped clean up and took leftovers with them.
It was an incredibly, amazingly, successful Thanksgiving and we couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help and cooperation. I will never ever forget this day.

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