Friday, November 23, 2007

We had an excellent Thanksgiving Day and I hope to soon have a short movie on YouTube to prove it. Not like it was easy, mind you. When I called the supermarket that morning to inquire about my fat French turkeys, I was informed that they hadn’t arrived. Due to the strikes in France, the cargo flight on Wednesday night never left the ground. OK. On to Plan B….except there WAS no freaking Plan B. So, I quickly moved on to Plan C, which involved throwing myself upon the mercy of the shop owner, begging him to find me enough turkey to feed 20 hungry people. He (a nice Lebanese gentleman) said he’d call around to some of his “connections” and get back to me. My cell phone rang 15 minutes later. I felt vaguely like I was involved in an illegal drug transaction. I was told that I could pick up my “package” in one hour.That was good, as it gave me time to pass by yet another (5th!) pharmacy in search of the medications I needed, and mail off a Christmas parcel to some American friends in France (Hi Gina, Gaetano and offspring! Merry Noël!). At the supermarket (which is about the size of a medium-sized 7-11 in the USA) I picked up a few last minute items, then went to the butcher's counter, only to be told the order hadn’t arrived. I hung around for half an hour, making impulse purchases (I came home with a bottle of whole cloves and discovered that I already had a nearly full bottle sitting on the shelf. I guess we can make some of those spiffy old-fashioned pomanders out of apples and ribbons…..BTW-What are you supposed to DO with them.? Does anybody still use them? Do you WANT your clothes to smell like mummified fruit? I just don’t know.)The birds finally arrived, their corpses still warm and legs sticking straight up in the throes of rigor mortis. ( Yum!) The meat-counter guys stuffed them into a plastic sack, but it was too small and the stiff yellow feet poked up out of the top of the bag like a flower arrangement for the Addams family. I put this attractive bundle into my cart and rushed to the front of the shop. I had to get home and get them cooking or they’d never be ready by 6pm. And all the delay had put me behind schedule for school pick-ups…..Anyway, I finally got home and got to work. I had two boxes, as the check-out guys at the shop had separated the birds and sealed them in cartons with tape. I cut the tape and looked inside. The things looked big. Really big. Like, SO big that they would never, ever both fit into my oven, which admittedly does bear some resemblance to the Easy Bake Oven of my childhood -though it does work with a gas bottle and not a lightbulb, which is good. But I digress. I mixed up the stuffing, frantically trying to figure out who could lend me their oven for four hours. Most of the people invited to the event already had their ovens occupied by bread, green bean casseroles, pies. And my Burkinabé friends that live nearby don’t have ovens. Finally, luckily, I remembered that pal H. might have some oven space, so I ended up rushing one of the foil-wrapped monsters over to her house. When I got back, I found our Cecile (our cook) , Celine and Fanta (the maid/nannies) almost in tears over the burnt-orange tablecloths I’d had sewn up the day before. They had dried on the line wrinkled and the heavy fabric was impossible to smooth with our feeble Chinese iron. Next, they had borrowed the neighbour’s nicer one from Germany, which also couldn’t cope. It’s lucky I came home in time to prevent a melt-down. They get upset about this kind of stuff. As nearly as I can make out, they find it distressing that people would think that I have useless home helpers- the kind that don’t even know how to provide starchy-crispy table linens. After some effort, I got Cecile and Celine to leave the linens to their wrinkly fate go on home.
Then Fanta (no relation to the soft drink mentioned is my last post) noticed that the turkey was no longer cooking. Really. So, we made the world’s quickest trip to buy a gas bottle. Then there was me accidentally breaking off the pull-ring of the protective plastic tab that covers the nozzle. Time was passing and the stupid turkey was just sitting there in the rapidly-cooling oven.

Then the home haircut lady, Marte, came to cut Severin’s hair. I got a neighbour to come over and help us with the gas bottle. The flower guy showed up with the floral arrangements. I set the tables and started making the gravy. Then H. called and said their car was not starting and could I please pick them up? I grabbed my keys and headed out to the car, passing by Marte, waiting to be paid for the haircut. I took care of that and was back in 15 minutes with the H. family. I walked in the door and caught sight of Severin. Marte had given him what is best described as a Dorothy Hamill wedge. He looked adorable- just like an 11 year old girl. But hey- no time for fashion recriminations! The party was starting!
The décor was much admired. Nobody cried out in horror at the tablecloths (or at Severin's hair. Alothough Tony snickered to himself. I saw that!) The flowers and candles looked great and the food was excellent. But I had to leave for a while right in the middle, as I had to pick up two little girls arriving from Mali (friends of the twins, here for a track meet). So in the end, there were 23 people at my little party!
After the meal, T. (a former Seattle barista turned missionary) made coffee and we played Apples To Apples until late in the night.
No Friday off for us. No Black Friday retail madness. Just business as usual today.


oreneta said...

OMG, time for a nap! I hope it was fun too. I love the Aadams family bouquet!

Ali la Loca said...

Sounds very similar to my Thanksgiving for 30 people here in Maputo.

The turkeys available here were over $100 each - absurd, and I refused to pay. So I had the warehouse manager at my work start scouting out turkeys with his "contacts". I also go the feeling I was involved in a drug deal.

I ended up handing over $60 to a friend whose aunt would take a bus to Johannesburg the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The money would be delivered to another friend, who would then purchase 2 turkeys at the supermarket in Joburg, bag them in ice, and give them to yet another friend who was taking the bus back up to Maputo on MOnday night.

I received them bagged just like you described, only mine weren't fresh. And they were small. Very small. We have mutant turkeys in the US. So I had to roast 4 chickens at the last minute to compensate for the lack of turkey.

But it was all delicious, and made for an exciting story!