An Expat Thanksgiving: A Tale of Two Turkeys

Nope, we didn’t have two turkeys, but it makes a nice cheesy title, doesn’t it? November was jam packed – Maggie’s visit, Brussels to see Alice and Laurance, Cindy’s visit and Thanksgiving party, registering for more German classes, taking one German class with Sean and final visa logistics! So I have more to share but for now: Thanksgiving!


I’ve only spent two Thanksgivings away from the US: the first in 7th grade when we were visiting Scotland and Dad arranged for us to stay in Borthwick Castle on Thanksgiving night and this one! That first non traditional Thanksgiving we ate our meal in the castle’s grand hall surrounded by shiny knights in armor, swords on the stone walls, rich mahogany, red tapestries and large old portraits hanging around. You know, your typical family thanksgiving dinner. I’ll never forget eating duck pâté that night; as you can imagine, 7th grade me thought that was hilarious. Duck? Ha! At least I had some type of bird. No pumpkin pie, but truffles and cocoa by the roaring fire after our meal. Good job Dad. He was cooler than I realized at the time. Borthwick castle, so cool, check it out. Mary Queen of Scots ran away to this castle at some point, and legend has it she had to escape and jumped out a window and now she haunts the place. I wish I had a pic of awkward young me in the castle to share, but they are living in an album at my parents house somewhere. And no one needs to see the horrible bangs of 1998. They haunt me. Way more terrifying than Mary’s ghost.

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While that rather non traditional thanksgiving can’t be topped, this year, finding myself once again far away from home again for Thanksgiving, Sean (and Cindy!) and I, put on our first Thanksgiving meal, and it was a great success. Though the cheese assortment that my friend from my German class brought was actually the highlight of my evening. That and the brie mashed potatoes. nom.
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About a month ago, Sean and I talked about having an “American-ish” Thanksgiving and inviting his colleagues over to show them what we do for Thanksgiving. I do love a good dinner party/friendsgiving, so I looked in to 1- what is the word for Turkey? and 2 – how much would this big bird cost me in Germany? Answers: 1 – Pute and 2 – a big turkey would have to be preordered and cost maybe 70 euros. No thanks, not in my budget. and really, Turkey’s not even THATTT good is it?  We were going to go without the turkey but then stumbled upon turkey breast in the Galeria (the amazing department store here that has an amazing gourmet food section!) that would do the job perfectly.

We started to think about a menu and landed on planning a more hors d’oeuvres style Turkey Day Cocktail party.  When Cindy got here this past week she helped me finalize the menu. We had a fantastic week and she was the perfect co-chef (Thanks, Cindy!). We may even open up our own restaurant. We each had our recipes we were in charge of, knew what to do, and got to work executing them. We started cooking at 1:30 and by 6:30 everything was ready to go. Quick and tasty turnaround, if I do say so myself.

Collage with Cindy Thanksgiving

Our Menu:

3 lb boneless skinless oven roasted turkey breast
Roasted brussels sprouts
Brie Mashed Potatos
Sweet Potato Mash
Apple Sausage Sage Stuffing Mini Muffin Bites
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Mini Pumpkin Pies and whipped cream
Apple cider and bourbon

The light in the kitchen is horrible so everything is rather orange and weird looking, but was all very delicious. (ugly table cloth too!)


Sean also geniusly bought an HDMI cord to live stream some good old American football on our TV. After everyone arrived he explained the rules and quickly realized that most everyone at the party could have cared less about American football, which is perfect since he would watch futbol anyday over football.  Still, it was a crucial and fun component of an “American” Thanksgiving for most of the U.S. we had to share. ha.

There were also lots of lovely ladies here but I didn’t take enough pics!

What else do most Americans at some point in their life make (mostly as children?) HAND TURKEYS. Explaining this children’s craft to people who have never traced their hand and glued on feathers to create a hand turkey was another amusing thing.  Everyone amazingly played along and made a hand turkey at some point during the evening. Creative interpretations welcome.  Here are some of the results.

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We had 15 people here from all over: Italy, Morocco, the Netherlands, Mexico, Austria, Armenia (I know a missed a few countries too) the U.S., and I hope they all enjoyed the evening.

I felt like I didn’t really sit and be thankful on Thanksgiving in the prep of it all, but the next day Sean and I were talking about it. Gratitude is an important part of joy, happiness and constant growth, and something that I know I don’t always recognize enough, especially when times are uncertain. Over the past year, I’ve been guilty of losing my grounding in being grateful for what I have, who I am, and what a wonderful life I have. When I’ve felt like the world was crumbling around me (dramatics!) I’ve had people in my life to remind me that I have an amazing life, for having those people in my life I am grateful. I’m grateful for all of my wonderful family and loyal and wonderful friends in my life, near and far, who’ve helped me build a strong foundation, for the friends who’ve made the journey to see us in Germany, for our safety in a scary world, for being a woman in a country that allows me the joys and freedoms that so many women in the world aren’t given, and for Sean and for having the opportunity to be together in Germany on an adventure of a lifetime. I know, I know, I’m getting cheesy again, but I realize I don’t vocalize these things enough and it helps to do so.

One final note: the canned spray whipped cream here is made out of a real whipping cream and is AMAZING.



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