Tomorrow is my favorite day of the year and the official start to the holidays – Thanksgiving! I wanted to talk to travelers who are currently abroad for the holiday, or have spent a Thanksgiving away from home. I thought it would be interesting to see how people are able to celebrate Thanksgiving around the world. I hope you enjoy their international turkey tales!
The South Asian-American community I grew up in celebrated Thanksgiving with enthusiasm despite a lack of knowledge about the origins of the holiday or traditional recipes. Before the advent of the Food Network and recipe sharing websites, our meals included some failed attempts at curried Turkey and South Asian sides. I actually had pumpkin pie for the first time while I was studying abroad in France. My roommate convinced me and other international expat friends to pull together a traditional dinner. She had to scour markets to find and make the pumpkin filling from scratch.
It was a memorable evening with friends from around the world who celebrated for the first time. When I am in the United States, I cook all day and invite as many international friends as possible to enjoy a similar experience. This year, one of my friends is hosting a potluck in Rome for our tight-knit circle of single American women. The host, who has an amazing balcony for al fresco dining, is making the turkey and we are all bringing our favorite recipes. I plan on making green bean casserole and mini oreo and pumpkin cheesecakes.
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I was blessed with the amazing experience of sharing an American tradition with people from all over the world last year: Thanksgiving. I was working at a surfing hostel on the west coast of Ireland, and a fellow American WorkAwayer and I put our heads together to create a stellar Thanksgiving dinner. We went shopping in town where we scavenged what we could (Thanksgiving necessities are not popular in November in Ireland!) and brought it all back to the hostel. After properly naming our turkey Norbert, and praying to God it would thaw on time, we made a pumpkin pie completely from scratch, mouthwatering sweet potatoes, roasted sprouts with almonds, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and garlic mashed potatoes. We made all of this in a tiny and VERY old hostel kitchen! We shared the table with people from Germany, France, Ireland, England, and America, yet it seemed like we had been family for ages. It’s definitely going to be a Thanksgiving to remember!
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Nicki Alfonso McMorrow:
My boyfriend (now fiance!) and I spent Thanksgiving 2012 in Florence, Italy. We were studying abroad at the time and decided that we would not join our friends on their elaborate vacations abroad, but instead enjoy all of the fall and holiday festivities in Florence. But, what to do for Thanksgiving dinner?? We scrounged our money together and went to a fancy price-fixed dinner hosted at the Westin Excelsior. It was one of the most expensive meals we spent abroad, but it was worth it to feel at home for just one day (and for the amazing view!).
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I had my first Thanksgiving in Australia last year with my boyfriend’s immediate and extended family, as well as some of our friends. I tried for us to have the most traditional and authentic Thanksgiving as possible, but got a bit discouraged when I was unable to locate a few of the key ingredients needed such as: canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie, the canned cranberry sauce, and even the fried onion straws for green bean casserole. In the end, we made some Aussie tweaks to the menu, but the overall message of family and friendship coming together came through when we all gathered around the table. My Aussie friends and family now love Thanksgiving and have asked me if we could celebrate it again this year!
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I’ve spent a few Thanksgivings abroad- my first international trip in 1988 to London was over Thanksgiving, I’ve flown home from London on Thanksgiving (they served a turkey dinner on British Airways!), and I’ve landed in Perth, Australia on Thanksgiving as well. Three years ago I was in Paris for the holiday. My father had died unexpectedly, and I was in a fog that year. I decided to redeem airline miles for a round-the-world trip to Australia with a return via Paris. My friend was living in Paris and let me stay with him. He had secured a butterball turkey via friends at the embassy and cooked all day for his friends. He served dinner at 8 (I was starving as I’m used to early Thanksgiving dinner!) with baguettes instead of Pillsbury rolls, and a plate of stinky cheeses and French wine. He made many side dishes and carved the turkey. We then went around the table to say what we were thankful for. For me, I was thankful for friendship to distract me from my grief, for the great memories I had, and hopeful for the future memories.
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Thank you for sharing your tales, ladies! Happy Thanksgiving to all!