Thanksgiving in China


Wow, what a crazy few weeks it’s been!

I’ve missed you all.  The pace of life here has picked up considerably for all of us.  The kids are heading into final projects and then final and midterm exams.  Winter break starts on the 17th of December so we really are in the home stretch for them.  S2 has also started taking extra Chinese lessons outside of school.  The focus is learning to read and write in Chinese but I really think it is helping him learn to speak too as this teacher largely makes him communicate with her in Chinese.  My sweet Hubby has also finally started his lessons.  He has a crazy intense schedule where he has private lessons for about five hours a day for five days and then follow up lessons/review with an online program.  Hubby and I have been going to the gym and I have told the people there to only speak to us in Chinese so we will learn more.  They have been great about it and it really does act as a reinforcer of what we learn in class.  Language, like muscles, is a use it or loose it proposition.  D is in mid season for basketball and is loving it.  Sometimes she complains that she doesn’t have enough free time but when I suggest that she not do a sport next season so she can have that free time she balks and looks at me like I have four heads and what exactly were any of them thinking????

S1, if you are reading this, please know we love you lots and miss you lots too!  As far as I can tell he is rolling along with classes and extra curriculars (hopefully more time with the classes!)  He has a very nice  girlfriend that I have only spoken to on Skype and look forward to meeting soon.

I decorated my table with a holiday candle arrangement and beautiful fall leaves courtesy of my Mom

I missed all of you at Thanksgiving and hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  We celebrated in much more of an American fashion than I had expected possible.  We had turkey and ham, Hubby’s corn pudding, roasted root vegetables, D made gram’s challah bread recipe into dinner rolls, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes, mushroom risotto and veggie lasagna for the non meat eaters, green beans with lemon and toasted nuts, and of course lots of pie.  Lest you get the wrong impression, I did not cook all of this myself!  We have a nice sized kitchen at my apartment but my oven is the size of a large microwave.  The fact that I have an oven at all in Asia is a small miracle so I am thankful for what I have, but it is not up to Turkey roasting duty.

The next challenge was finding all the ingredients.

To jump back in time for a moment, my best friends here – M and J- and I all decided to do Thanksgiving together.  Each of us is here with two children so that made 12 people.  At home in the USA cooking for 12 could be a regular thing if all the kids brought friends home, which they did often.  But there I am equipped for the crowd.  Here I own dishes, cups, silver wear etc. for 8.  No serving dishes, food processor, no potato masher, nothing but a knife, a pot, a cutting board, and one saute pan.  Hubby said this year when we asked people to bring a dish, we would have to mean it literally- please bring a dish!

Divide and conquer was the order of the day.  We all decided what foods were special to us and we would make those to share.  But where to get a turkey in China?  In the US I could step out into my front yard and catch one if I really needed to.  But turkeys aren’t exactly roaming the streets of Shanghai.  In fact all the turkeys seem to be imported from the US.  This makes them challenging to find and VERY expensive.  Our 15lb. turkey cost about $80 USD!  Thank goodness we shared the cost among three families.

Once the turkey was secured we started to make a plan to get the rest of the ingredients.  Each of us knew what the others needed so as we made our way around to the myriad of grocery stores, both local and expat, we would call or text eachother excitedly to say we had found canned cranberry sauce, or beets, or canned pumpkin!  Fresh cranberries remained elusive so we did not get to have my mother in law’s spectacular cranberry relish.  When I get back to the US that is on my wish list of foods 🙂

For anyone who is looking for an amazing corn pudding recipe, here is Hubby’s favorite.  It is a great Thanksgiving treat or add it to your potluck recipe file, it re-heats beautifully. Your friends will love it and your arteries will hate it!

12 strips bacon, fried crisp
4 tbsp bacon fat
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, sliced
2 cups fresh corn, mixed with milk, 1 cup, or 2 15 oz cans cream style corn
1 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups light cream
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
preheat oven 375        grease casserole dish
fry bacon,break into small pieces.saute pepper and onion in 4 tbsp bacon fat. add corn , bread crumbs, beaten egg, light cream, salt, pepper and bacon bits.
dot with butter and bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. crumbs should be brown.
8-10 servings

It felt like we were playing ‘Where’s Waldo’ with food but it actually made it a pretty festive group effort.  We agreed that anything we couldnt find we would just live without so the pressure was off and it was just fun.  Things were rolling along amazingly well and I thought I had things under control.  I started cooking early Thursday morning.  One of my priorities was getting the root vegetables chopped and par boiled so they would roast in time for dinner.  I got the beets and carrots peeled and chopped.  Next up were the gorgeous turnips I found at a local veggie market.  When I started to peel the first one the flesh looked too wet and grainy, not what I expected at all.  I chopped off a bit and tasted it.  It was the biggest, fattest radish I had ever seen!!  So in true ‘living in Asia’ fashion, I rolled with it and the radish became a fine addition to the veggie platter. It was a classic Shanghai moment.  Just when you think things are easy – they are impossibly hard.  And the things you think will be so hard are easy. Go figure.

In the end there was lots of food and great company.  All the kids really get along well.  In M’s family they make a flat paper cutout of a turkey and individual tail feathers. On the reverse side of two feathers are the words ‘thanks’ and another with ‘giving’.  Everyone writes one thing they are thankful for on a feather (without peeking on the reverse side).  Then, later in the evening it is revealed who got the two special feathers and they get to break the wishbone.  It was a fun game and great to learn someone else’s traditions.  D and M’s daughter made a turkey decoration for our table out of a local pumpkin, a little bit of construction paper, and some beautiful fall leaves that my mom sent my from NY.  I think it’s really cute! They used a fork to punch holes in the ‘but’ of the turkey/pumpkin and stuck the leaf stems in the holes.

Our Pumpkin Turkey

I hope all my friends and family stateside had a wonderful holiday and things aren’t too crazy in preparation for Christmas.  See you all soon!

6 responses »

  1. I’m glad you had such a nice Thanksgiving, we were thinking of you!

    So my funny turkey story is sort of pathetic. We were just was just 7 for dinner, but more arriving on Friday, so I thought about a 12-14 lb. turkey would be plenty for dinner and leftovers. I went to Whole Foods, confirmed my strategy with the butcher and sorted through the turkeys to find what I needed. Wednesday evening, I was getting ready to brine the turkey and Mom said, “That’s an awfully big turkey!”
    I said, “No, it’s about 12 lbs.”
    “No, it’s not. It’s 22lbs.”

    Note to self, next time you are turkey shopping, remember your reading glasses. I’m gonna be eating that bird FOREVER!

  2. I also missed C’s cranberry relish this year, my family were very happy with the weird jelly that comes out of a can 😦 At Steven’s job they serve a lot of tuna (I assume it;s government food) and on thanksgiving they apparently serve tuna molded to look like a turkey!! Yum!!

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