Thanksgiving Away From Home

It was one of those moments where you realize that you really are living in Japan: the night of Thanksgiving, and I was eating raw fish.

This year marked my second Thanksgiving away from home (the first time, I was living in France). The holiday did not go unnoticed, however; I spent the night of Thanksgiving at a little enkai with my coworkers; communicating through a mixture of charades, laughter, puzzled facial expressions, and the random Japanese words that I’ve picked up in my months of being here; and eating various fish dishes, including sashimi (I guess the restaurant was fresh out of turkey). It wasn’t quite the Thanksgiving dinner that I was accustomed to, but it was a very happy one all the same.

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This is sushi, not sashimi… and I ate this particular plate back in October… but you get the point. Not a typical American Thanksgiving dinner by any standards!

Plus, I was about to get a second Thanksgiving, complete with all the American food I was craving. Because for the first time in my life, I was hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

Back in October, I came up with a little scheme to hold my own Thanksgiving dinner. I talked to J, and she jumped on board, and soon we were planning a full-out grown-up dinner party (complete with official invitations). We invited a few fellow JETs and JTEs, so Singapore, Japan, and America (both East Coast and West Coast) were represented at the celebration.

On Black Friday,  after work, J and I drove out to the closest Costco (in Tsukuba, 1 hour and 20 minutes away) to buy all the necessary ingredients. We cut it a little close, though–we arrived less than 30 minutes before Costco closed, so with our lists in hand, we ran through the store, making split-second decisions on how much of everything to buy. (This led to a gross overestimation of our produce, and so after the whole party, we still had 10 apples, a whole bag of onions, and half a sack of potatoes left over).

J slept over, and then all day Saturday, the two of us cooked. Here’s all the things that I felt particularly thankful for as we prepared the big meal:

  1. I was thankful that my kitchen is much larger than a typical Japanese kitchen, even though we still had problems finding counter space.
  2. I was thankful that I have an almost American-sized fridge (J and a few of my other friends have refrigerators the size of the mini fridges that college students store alcohol in). Despite this, we still ended up playing Tetris to fit everything inside my fridge.
  3. I was thankful that we DID NOT buy the 17 pound Costco turkey (my oven here is like all Japanese ovens–it’s smaller than a typical American microwave. We would not have been able to stuff a turkey into it.)
  4. I was thankful that J had brought her oven over to my apartment for the event (it made cooking things a lot faster. Two is better than one).
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We ran out of counter space pretty quickly….

Our guests arrived a little early, and we finished cooking everything a little later than intended, but all in all, everything came together perfectly.

Our menu featured: Costco rotisserie chicken, homemade gravy, cranberry sauce from a can (dolled up with some oranges and sugar, served warm), homemade stuffing, homemade pumpkin bread, homemade garlic mashed potatoes, homemade sweet potatoes, homemade sauteed carrots, and homemade fruit salad (my family’s recipe). Dessert was Costco pumpkin pie (with homemade whipped cream) and homemade apple crisp.

Quite a few of our guests had never eaten Thanksgiving dinner before and the general consensus was that they were most excited for the mashed potatoes. And they were not disappointed; J made the best garlic mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten. Another hit, surprisingly, were the carrots (credit to my grandma–it’s her recipe).

Like any successful Thanksgiving, the seven of us ate until we could eat no longer; all our guests left with more food than they had arrived with (tupperwares stuffed with leftovers), and even then, J and I both ended up eating Thanksgiving dinner for the next week! It was a very special Thanksgiving, indeed.

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