I am Thankful for…

Ah. Thanksgiving. A time of the year when friends and family gather around a table and happily feast on turkey with all the trimmings and pie. Let’s get real here. Thanksgiving has evolved with other Hallmark inspired holidays and, other than the act of giving thanks, I am certain most people can’t tell you what was served at the first Thanksgiving or why. Don’t ask me. I honestly don’t know anything more than the story we are all told growing up in grade school of the pilgrims and the Indians.

But this is the 21st century. People crowd the grocery store aisles, basket to basket, talking over each other to see who can get the attention of the nearest employee first. This employee has gone through rigorous training, learning where each “traditional” recipe requirement awaits on the shelf, what the stock is when the shelf is empty, and how to weed through every question hurdled at him/her. Some markets go the extra step and make sure their employees know how to pair items on your list…for instance if you are looking for canned pumpkin how about a crust, items to make a crust, whipped cream, and for something extra make sure to stop by the speciality department to top it off with candied nuts, a good wine, and you know there are recipe cards overflowing in their stands on the counter beckoning for you to abandon the same tried and true recipe for something more modern, or simply add a flourish to it; therefore you buy that special cheese that happens to be on the recipe and on sale because it would go so perfectly with your grandmother’s mashed potato recipe, of course you’re a genius for “thinking” of it.

Other people, that don’t want to spend all day or several days, locked in a kitchen cooking a meal that will feed more people than invited, requiring you to either send people away with leftovers or have a fridge and freezer stuffed as much as your turkey for the next couple weeks, have opted to “buy” and “preheat” dinner. Many high-end establishments now offer fully catered Thanksgiving meals, from dinner to dessert, including the wine. These meals cater to feed however many people at your table, and range from the traditional dinner to a more modern foodie affair. The cost of this can range from a simple $50 to the hundreds, and customized with added dollars. Unlike last-minute planners, you have to order these a month in advance, maybe more, and pay either all up front or some.

I had the pleasure of working for a high-end grocery store that did this. So I saw both types of people flooding the store during the week of Thanksgiving. The day we handed out the prepared meals, well that was a frenzy all its own with a very systematic method of getting customers in and out…two people and a computer at a table, customers line up and give their information and are dispensed a number, one of the people at the table uses a walkie-talkie to talk to someone in the backroom, who finds the customers order via number, then an employee delivers the meal to customer, typically helping them out to the car. Boom. Less than 15 minutes and no elbow stabbing in the aisles. These customers even indulged on coffee delights from the coffee bar they were conveniently ushered to. Very effective.

I typically worked the coffee bar during this time, it was amazing how much food people bought!! I enjoyed my chats with the customers about their feasts, what they were thankful for, their excitement to see friends and family after so many months, some even last holiday. Coffee is always a good way to take a mental time out from the holiday bustle. Especially when the aromatic cup-o-jo tantalize with spiced pumpkin, hot chocolate is decadent with caramel, and hot apple cider comes fresh from the farm down the road.

This Thanksgiving I find I have a lot more to be thankful for than last year. It is also a special Thanksgiving this year because Hanukkah falls on the same day – a JewGiving as I like to call it – and I am away from home in a foreign country where neither are celebrated holidays. But as a PCV I aim to share my culture and traditions with the family I share my home with, and cook the largest holiday feast I have ever had to prepare! Obviously with limited ingredients and appliances I have had to cater the menu to be a bit more Kenyan. Funny enough, the cost would be enough to break the bank here, thankfully it is being split, but from a dollar perspective it is cheap for turkey day standards, well under $50 to feed 20 people!!
The tentative JewGiving menu includes roasted duck, braised brisket, mashed potato latkes, herb stuffing, greens with fried onions, squash and carrot kugel, and “apple pie” sufganiyot. Simple enough to create in Kenya, but foodie enough to combine Hanukkah with Thanksgiving. I’ll give an update after the holiday of what could be prepared, I don’t guarantee anything considering resources.

Well, in the spirit of two holiday traditions I have a lot to be thankful for this year..

– the support from friends in family as I serve overseas
– the love from everyone helping me raise money for my Habitat Build in Ethiopia
– having an amazing site and assignment in PC
– new friends and old
– every experience I have been able to go through in the last year
– being able to share traditions from home with a different culture
– simplicity and a slower-pace
– my pets because they are always there when I need them most
– family I have gotten back in touch with
– moving forward positively in my life and growing as a person
– my dad watching over me
– first-world “charms” like refrigerators, laundry machines, and hot showers (the three trivial things I miss most)
– good food
– new experiences

Wishing everyone peace.love.friendship this holiday season. Happy JewGiving!

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