29 11 2010

I believe that, when traveling or living abroad, it is important to hold on to aspects and traditions from your own culture while immersing yourself in and attempting to understand the culture where you are.  For that reason, if I’m able to, I try to celebrate the important American holidays when I’m abroad.  So this weekend, we had Thanksgiving in Bishkek!  We decided not to have it on Thursday, because many of the people we wanted to attend had to work until late.  Saturday was chosen as a viable alternative, and over 20 people from all over the world gathered at our apartment to participate in the traditional feast and festivities.


On Friday, after my last Russian class, I headed to Osh Bazaar to pick up the turkeys and other ingredients for my first major foray into preparing food for that many people.  I had scoped out the turkey situation earlier in the week and knew that they were sold at the bazaar.  However, turkeys aren’t super common or popular as a meal in Kyrgyzstan, so the selection was quite small…and expensive!  But, you can’t have a traditional Thanksgiving meal without it, so I bought two 8 lb turkeys, stuck them in my backpack and headed into the spice and vegetable section of the market.  Unlike the turkeys we ate for Canadian Thanksgiving, these were already dead and feathered.  Much easier preparation!


In the spice section, I picked up nutmeg, cinnamon, dill, thyme and celery seeds.  Then I wandered to the fruit and vegetable section and picked up some lemons, oranges, apples, celery, tomatoes and cucumbers.  I stopped at Beta Stores (a Turkish-owned grocery store) on the way home and bought some plastic plates and cups, because I knew we didn’t have enough at home.


Friday night, I brined the turkeys in a mixture of salt, sugar, spices and broth and left them (covered in Saran wrap) to soak overnight on my balcony.  Brining the turkey is meant to help the bird retain its moisture.  And man, did it!  But I’ll get to that in a second.


Saturday morning, I rinsed the birds and started making the stuffing.  Bread, spices, apple, celery, onion…mix ’em up with some egg and shove the concoction into the birds’ nether regions…yum!  The birds, properly violated and basted, went into the oven around noon, and then I made some deviled eggs and a cucumber/tomato salad, cut up some sausage and cheese and waited for the throngs to arrive.  We did a mostly pot-luck dinner, so the last hour before we ate consisted of choreographing the different contributions and making sure they were properly heated, making the gravy from the turkey drippings, laying out all the food, carving up the turkey and then setting the guests upon the table.  It was awesome!   The turkey was delicious (and super moist), and everyone really seemed to have a good time.  We even had a can of cranberry sauce that had been sent from South Carolina by my roommate’s parents!


After dinner and dessert (real pumpkin pie and delicious apple crumble!), we engaged in the other Thanksgiving traditions of beer and wine consumption and football watching.  ESPN America had the previous day’s college football games on; those who understood the game watched; those who didn’t mostly made fun of it and sang the praises of “real” football (soccer).  Ah, the beauty of cultural exchange.


Throughout the night, we had between 25 and 30 guests from such countries as Finland, Iran, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and of course, the US of A.  I got a chance to briefly explain the history of Thanksgiving and to express my gratefulness for the family of expat friends that I’ve found here in Bishkek.  And for that, I’m thankful.




3 responses

29 11 2010

I’m So Glad You Had A Wonderful Thanksgiving!! :0)

29 11 2010

Glad the birds turned out well. I’ll have to give brining a try.

29 11 2010

awww, I wasn’t there=(

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