HOLIDAYS: How do expats celebrate Thanksgiving abroad? Glad you asked!
Thanksgiving celebrations in another country are NOT for the FAINT OF HEART. After celebrating 5 Thanksgiving in a foreign country, I have learned to be resourceful!
Last Thanksgiving we totally escaped up to Istanbul and celebrated with American friends. Don’t worry, I was not excluded from my share of the cooking, or eating, for that matter. In fact, I may have done MORE cooking because we were staying with the host of the Thanksgiving dinner.
This year, however, we decided to brave the holiday ourselves. Not alone though. We invited 30 of our friends and neighbors into our little apartment to celebrate the day with us! Instead of the traditional Thursday celebrations, we waited until Friday night hoping it would be easier for guests to come.
This is what our actual Thanksgiving day dinner looked like… eating out and watching a movie at the nearby mall.
And unlike almost all events in my life, I actually started early with the planning, menus, recipes, and activities for kids. I was very impressed with myself, and if you know me well, you would be too.
Turkey and all the stuffings:
While the list looks ambitious, (and it was) we did NOT cook all that was on this list. ‘A’ was to assign out, the boxes were some I were to do… but of course, nothing happened like that. Almost everyone did bring something, but the Americans were the only ones I assigned a traditional Thanksgiving item too.
Jason was responsible for the turkey and gravy. I made a veggie tray and cheese tray for appetizers. My main course dishes were sweet potato casserole, corn casserole, and roasted veggies (which just collected juice from the turkey while it cooked).
We spent our weekly ‘Turkish’ cooking class prepping for the Thanksgiving party instead. I could not have made it through that week without my helpers that day! They cut up veggies, boiled sweet potatoes, made pie filling, and a list of other things I can’t remember right now. I had great ambitions to make green bean casserole, but unless you have those handy french onions or just a lot of time to fry your own… it just didn’t make the cut!
Our hardest prep work went into making the pie crusts. Yes, we made them from SCRATCH because Y’ALL, we can not get ready made pie crust here. It is just NOT A THING and it has yet to reach here. If you have ever made homemade pie crust, every stinking recipe calls for shortening, and well, yet again, it is not here in Turkey. Yet, somehow our brave American friends ordered a massive box of it from the local METRO (think SAM’S Club or COSCO) and they shared some with us!
Going to the store looks a little different here… I usually only buy what I can carry. If I know I am going to the weekly market or will buy a lot, then I bring my handy Pazar arabası or market car (no, I did not forget the ‘t’. The actual translation is ‘car.’)
Later that evening, I had a sweet friend take me to METRO to pick up our special ordered turkey. The people of METRO are my heros! I had given up on a whole turkey after asking several big stores, but METRO came through with a special order for us last minute. In Turkey, the stores do not start getting them in until the end of December to be used for New Year celebrations.
Our kilos of shortening: I stored the stuff on the left for later, and the right we used for the pie crust.
P.S. – It also makes great turkey pot pie crust with leftover turkey!
Pre-cooked! I never got an after picture! While we make our own pureed pumpkin, an Australian friend of ours picked up 2 canned of Libby’s canned pumpkin on a recent trip to Ireland for her American friends living in Turkey! Crazy, huh?
Jason did an AMAZING job with the turkey! I was so impressed. Everyone raved about the gravy he made from the turkey broth.
Having a 68 cm wide fridge means we had to be very creative with our storage!
Because of all the prep work, the day of our Thanksgiving party was actually calm and somewhat relaxed. I mixed up a few casseroles and my neighbors cooked them for me since our oven had the turkey cooking. Jason and I worked together to rearrange our furniture and prepare a kid area in one of the back rooms.
I love decorating for the seasons, and thanks to the internet and a printer, I already had prints hung up for the season. And thanks to $10 and a Dollar Tree in America, I decided to get plates, napkins, tablecloths, and a few other fallish items. The Dollar Store is one of the things I miss most here!
To seat 30 people, we had to be a little creative with our seating arrangement. And while it wasn’t ideal, everybody was great sports about it!
Thanks LB for letting me borrow the banner!
Our guests were amazing. With over 7 different countries and a mix of English and Turkish, I was a little anxious to see how it would turn out. Our friends were warm and open to one another and I was very thankful to see conversation flowing freely between groups of people.
Due to the amount of food (people are so generous), we had 2 rounds of eating just like any good Thanksgiving. After Jason made a short speech and prayed over the food, I explained how it works (buffet style complete with Thanksgiving decor paper plates). Everyone enjoyed the first round of ‘savory’ foods and then we pulled out the sweets!
Finished turkey. We also had some extra turkey breast cooked for extra meat.
Overall, our first time hosting Thanksgiving was a huge success. Yes, it was work, but we LOVED sharing this experience with our friends. Thanks to all our friends who came and made this a special time we will ALWAYS remember!
For a verbal account of our Thanksgiving party, listen into Episode042!
How was your Thanksgiving?
How do you celebrate?
If you are an expat, what do you like to make? What is easy or difficult to find in your country?
Here are a couple a pics from the day after!
I spent some time on my winter cross-stitch with tv and coffee. Yes, that would be leftover pie on the table.
Not pictured: me in my jammies
Leftover dishes that need to be returned! Poor Woody has a tendency to get left behind.