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Americans Abroad: How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

bbqboy Nov 17, 2008 07:32 AM

Do you ex-pats try and search out "traditional" Thanksgiving foods? Do you substitute local
delicacies? Do you ignore the day? Just wonderin' :)

  1. luckyfatima Nov 17, 2008 08:36 AM

    I "book" a turkey at the Western style grocer. If I can't get it, it will have to be a chicken.There is an influx of American thanksgiving and christmas foods at the Western style market, but they are very highly priced. I end up buying one can of cranberry sauce, two boxes of cornbread stuffing, the turkey of course, and then make everything else with local ingredients. Like I use African imported yams for sweet potatos. Luckily we can get most everything here, it is just pricey. And since it is just once a year I just pay for it...this year though my mom is coming to visit since I just had a baby, and among other food requests, I asked her to bring the thanksgiving foods along. still gonna pay for the turkey though cuz don't think that will do well in the suitcase.

    1. rworange Nov 17, 2008 10:53 AM

      The year I was working in Mexico City, I watched the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on cable and the company I was working for found a restaurant serving an American Thanksgiving dinner and sent me there ... after work. It must have been unremarkable since not a thing about it sticks in my mind. More memorable was watching the parade from the 30th floor of the hotel with a view of the volcanos from my window.

      1. w
        WTBD Nov 27, 2008 01:41 AM

        It's turkey day and I'm at work in London... Somehow this year I miss Thanksgiving more than in recent years. I used to do a big feast for my friends on the Saturday, but I stopped last year. Today I'm wondering if it's too late to throw something together for the weekend.

        Thanksgiving in England isn't very hard - you can find most of the typical ingredients. It's basically English Christmas dinner made 3 weeks early. I generally cook a frozen turkey because it's harder and more expensive to get a fresh, free-range organic one but not impossible. I make cranberry sauce although I discovered that my local supermarket carries jars of Ocean Spray (not the canned jelly type, though). Potatoes, roasted veg, spinach casserole, stuffing, gravy, etc: all easy. The only thing I don't bother with is the pumpkin pie - I hate it - but I find that people are happy enough with other desserts not to notice. (It is possible to make pumpkin pie here, for those who are so inclined.)

        The best way for me to celebrate Thanksgiving from afar, though, is via webcam. The time difference between London and California works in our favor, since I get home from work around the time that the kitchen activities are heating up. My mom usually sets her laptop on the counter and I get to "be" with them for a while. I love the fact that I can be part of the festivities, even though we're miles away. Sniff!

        Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

        10 Replies
        1. re: WTBD
          w
          WTBD Nov 27, 2008 10:05 AM

          OK, I got so sad/nostalgic throughout the day that I invited my friends to an informal feast this weekend. Picked up a small turkey and a bag of cranberries on my way home. Which am I looking forward to more - T-day food or friends? Tough question... Glad I can enjoy both!

          1. re: WTBD
            Bill Hunt Nov 28, 2008 06:59 PM

            Interesting observation about the English Christmas dinner. I had never really thought about that, but I do see the similarities.

            Having done a few Thanksgivings in London, I never deviated from my normal restaurant hopping, and made no allowances.

            Now, I am not anti-Thanksgiving meals, in any way, but rather expect to do these, in the States with friends and family.

            Hope you found the "fixins" for yours. I often do not even realize the date, the significance, and just go about doing as I normally would, in London. Now, I guess I'll have to think about it some.

            Because we could not celebrate this year, with great friends, with whom we have had many, we're flying to Colorado to do "Thanksgiving in July," just to celebrate good friends.

            Thanks for the perspective,

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt
              w
              WTBD Nov 30, 2008 07:34 AM

              Hi there,

              Maybe it's just my husband's family Christmas dinner, but turkey is definitely the main attraction (except for his vegetarian sister and father who eat 'spicy pancakes' - don't ask, I have no idea what is in them, or what makes them spicy!)

              Interesting that you feel Thanksgiving should be spent in the States with friends and family. I like throwing Thanksgiving parties abroad for my non-American friends, because it's one of the only American traditions that translates across borders: most people I have met can relate to a holiday that revolves around family and food, not always in that order! Since I waited until the last minute to plan it this year, there were just four of us: husband (English) and 2 friends, one Irish and one Malaysian.

              We managed a pretty good feast... menu on my blog:
              http://www.brandarling.com/2008/11/im...

              Thanksgiving in July in Colorado sounds great!

              1. re: WTBD
                q
                queencru Nov 30, 2008 07:49 AM

                I agree. I think Thanksgiving is a time to get together and be with family, be it a traditional family in the States or a makeshift family abroad. The one non-traditional meal I had in Japan was with people from the UK, Ireland, Jamaica, and Japan and I think everyone had a great time. We didn't even have that on the real Thanksgiving day because we all had to work, but it was just the idea of being together for a nice dinner that matter.

                1. re: WTBD
                  Bill Hunt Dec 1, 2008 05:30 PM

                  I think that what is different in my case is that we are traveling abroad, and not living abroad. In these cases, we're usually on business and our business associates are from that country, not the US.

                  Were I living, say in the UK, I'd probably feel a bit differently. Gathering with a bunch of friends and acquaintances from the US might be great fun. Same, were I a student abroad.

                  If I am away from friends and family, it's really just another day. Now, I might give a little more thanks at that meal, than the day before, or after, but nothing really special.

                  I do not mean to demean Thanksgiving, whether in the US, or wherever, as I am only observing how we've handled it in years past.

                  Now, in the US, we have had all sorts of wonderful guests and from many corners of the Earth. We share some of the history and explain the traditions. To some, the traditional fare is not their favorite, but they humor us, and seem to enjoy the event, especially the wines that I serve. Matter-of-fact, for about 5 years, we had a couple (Irish and Indian), who celebrated with us, and others. This was even before they both got their US citizenships. We were thankful to be sharing with them, especially as they really, really appreciated the wines.

                  If I were in San Francisco, instead of Dublin, or London, or home in Phoenix, I'd probably not do any sort of "traditional" Thanksgiving dinners. Instead, I'd go with whatever the restaurant was known for. Just me.

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                    w
                    WTBD Dec 2, 2008 01:18 AM

                    Aha, fair enough. That changes things. If I were traveling on Thanksgiving, I doubt I'd be too bothered about it either.

                    I guess I feel the need/desire to be surrounded by friends and food more acutely when I can't automatically spend the holidays with my family. I agree with queencru about spending Thanksgiving with 'traditional family in the States or a makeshift family abroad.' But I think Hunt's comments about traveling vs living abroad make a good point.

                    1. re: WTBD
                      Passadumkeg Dec 2, 2008 01:30 AM

                      Funny, living in a country for an extended period, one really craves missed food from home. I never really missed turkey et al, I'm still not a big turdkey (sic) fan, but in all the years I lived abroad I had a constant craving for hot Italian sausage.

                      1. re: Passadumkeg
                        Bill Hunt Dec 2, 2008 06:01 PM

                        I do agree. Growing up in the New Orleans environs, and living there for a decade, I miss certain items from there. Even though I have lived in pretty good culinary areas, there are those times, when only a shrimp po-boy from Felix's will do! I would imagine that it would be the same, should I be in Europe for an extended period - I'd miss various US items.

                        In the thread, I was commenting on my personal experiences only, and I can easily see how these would differ from the majority, who have posted.

                        Hunt

                    2. re: Bill Hunt
                      Glencora Dec 2, 2008 09:27 AM

                      I agree with the last paragraph. When I spent Thanksgiving vacationing in New Orleans I certainly didn't want to waste a meal eating turkey.

                      1. re: Glencora
                        Bill Hunt Dec 2, 2008 06:08 PM

                        That has pretty much been my attitude in Europe/UK. One only is allowed so many meals. If the place that they find themselves in has a totally different cuisine, I'd go for the local, and put my comfort zone behind. I do this all of the time, regardless of what the calander shows.

                        I always wonder about the folk, who when visiting Hawai`i, want to find a great Philly Cheesesteak. Nothing against cheesesteaks, but heck, they are in Hawai`i. What about Hawaiian cuisine? On the Southwest board, several people wanted the ultimate Philly Cheesesteak in PHX. They got several recs., but pooh-poohed each, as NOT being anything close to what they got in Philadelphia. OK, what about a great SW take on French, or maybe an authentic Navajo high-end meal? Why look for something else, when you are away. Dine on the local cuisine and experience life.

                        Now, were I a student, or had I moved, my feelings would be greatly different, I am sure. Since I'm usually far away for only a few weeks, I can get by.

                        Hunt

              2. Sam Fujisaka Nov 27, 2008 02:19 AM

                Depends on how many Americans hang out together. In Asia, and here in Latin America there were and have been many years in which we celebrated in very traditional ways, with all the trimings. People brought back, had shipped, or we included in our yearly duty free shipments stuff that was needed. This year my five year old daughter's school is having a dinner (it will not be good) and my ex-wife and I will attend along with Dana Zsofia. I'm doing a duck with all the trimmings tomorrow for DZ and a few friends.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                  alanbarnes Nov 28, 2008 10:56 AM

                  Duck = Chinese turkey.

                  "You'll shoot your eye out, kid"

                  1. re: alanbarnes
                    Bill Hunt Nov 28, 2008 07:01 PM

                    Alan,

                    Along the lines of your allusion, we almost lost the bird this year to the host's black Lab. My reference to the Bumpus' dogs went over eveyone's head.

                    Oh well, it was a good meal, and the dog only got a tid-bit.

                    Hunt

                2. d
                  dexters Nov 27, 2008 03:30 AM

                  We are in London, and I wasn't interested in cooking up a big dinner for just the 4 of us. So we're heading to Paris instead, where I can stuff my face with cheese, wine & crepes and not think about missing my family or pumpkin pie.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: dexters
                    Candy Nov 27, 2008 09:40 AM

                    DH and I spent Thanksgiving in London a few years ago. We did not even bother to try tio find anything like an American Thanksgiving dinner. We went to Il Falconieri in Old Brompton Rd. and had a fabulous dinner with fresh grilled sardines.

                    This year we are staying at home and I am roasting a goose this afternoon. I've not done one in some time and got to thinking that having some goose fat on hand would be a good thing.

                    Happy Thanksgiving!

                  2. q
                    queencru Nov 27, 2008 03:34 PM

                    Last year in London, my friends made a traditional meal. Everything was pretty easy to find/make without much effort.

                    Japan was a different story. No one had ovens, so if you wanted a Thanksgiving meal you had to go out for it. We had one place in my city that served a traditional dinner, but I had a huge lunch the day my friends went and skipped it. We had another potluck for Thanksgiving as well. I don't remember it having that many traditional items since there was a limit to what you can make in a toaster oven/microwave. I believe my friend made a sweet potato casserole, we had KFC chicken fingers, salad, some Japanese contributions, and probably Kraft Mac and Cheese. I also created the highlight of the evening by stepping in the leftover cake.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: queencru
                      Sam Fujisaka Nov 27, 2008 04:48 PM

                      Yes, the stepping in the cake cermony! Very Japanese onThanksgiving! You afe highly honored.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                        l
                        lost squirrel Nov 27, 2008 05:11 PM

                        This year I had a potluck Thanksgiving at a friend's house, she doesn't have an oven or a microwave. Just two burners and a toaster.
                        It wasn't good.

                        Last week though, a friend shut down her bar and we had a real thanksgiving there. Another buddy and I cooked a 20lb turkey the Bittman way and brought it to the bar. The bar owners roasted their own turky, provided stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and just a few Japanese ingredients like sausages.

                        Last year we went to a restaurant, but it's not as fun as spending the day cooking.

                        1. re: lost squirrel
                          steamer Nov 27, 2008 05:28 PM

                          I just sort of ignored it, seems pointless without a football game on TV.

                      2. re: queencru
                        w
                        WTBD Nov 30, 2008 07:53 AM

                        My first Thanksgiving abroad was in Japan, when I was on the JET Program in 1994. About 12 of us crammed into my friend's house - a British vegetarian. We didn't have a turkey, partly out of respect for her non-meat lifestyle, but mainly because we couldn't afford one (let alone cook it without an oven!) I can't say I remember much about the meal, but the company was great. And we all slept like little sardines next to each other in her 6 tatami mat room, bundled in a mountain of futons... Not quite like Thanksgiving at my mom's house!

                      3. Veggo Nov 27, 2008 05:30 PM

                        Barimundi and Morten Bay bugs in Australia, blood sausage and boar in Munchen, yellowfin tuna in Nicoya and Tamarindo in Costa Rica, churrasco in Brazil, lobsters in Providenciales, pollo with scotch in Ixtapa, chiles en nogada in Michoacan, cheese-stuffed strawberry grouper in Belize, simple chicken in Canaima Venezuela at Angel Falls, chicken with black bean sauce at a paladar in Havana, Chicken Gabrielle between St. Marteen and Saba, jerk chicken in Jamaica, and nicely traditional turkey dinners in Bermuda, and at Los Pelicanos in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

                        1. babette feasts Nov 28, 2008 02:48 AM

                          I made pumpkin and pecan pies for the other Bhutan expats, who were having spit roasted suckling pig and grilled chicken (all other poultry is banned b/c of bird flu concerns). They might have even had cranberry sauce, I don't know because I took off for Kathmandu, where I had Italian for dinner (not really my first choice, but it was a long day and that was sort of the first restaurant I stumbled on). I could use a dose of Mom's mashed potatoes and gravy, and fighting my brother for the best bits of turkey skin, but otherwise not too nostalgic.

                          1. Passadumkeg Nov 28, 2008 03:30 AM

                            Caviar, deep fried sturgeon, kolbasi, kapusta, potatoes and copious amounts of vodka, back in the USSR. Whale steaks, shrimp and dried lamb (spekkemat) and flottekake w/ copious amounts of Akkovit in Norway. Burbot cacier on buckwheat blini and sour cream, baked whole salmon w/ wild mushroom stuffing w mashed swede and pear and turnip pie w/ copious amounts of Korskonkova vodka in Finland. In Bolivia and Brazil went out for a churrasco in the summer heat or in Bolivia we'd go camping as Las Cuevas water falls (just over the mountain from where the CIA did in Che Guevara) and cooked chicken and trout with the kids over a camp fire. Ahhh... those were the days.....

                            1. t
                              tmso Nov 28, 2008 03:31 AM

                              I guess I count as 1/2 ex-pat, having always had one foot on either end of the Atlantic. This year will be (on Saturday) wild mushroom risotto, roasted turkey legs with gravy, mashed potatoes, corn bread, cranberry sauce, green beans sauteed with butter, stewed mixed greens, and sweet potato pie/tart (no pie pan). Before the meal, I'm going to put out a fairly traditional antipasto spread, supplemented with local terrines, served with iced tea. One of my guests is bringing a case of mixed bordeaux. So it's a mostly American meal, but adapted by immigrants in the US, then readapted by myself to France.

                              I don't do it every year, but everyone likes it when their immigrant friends celebrate feasts from their other country. And friends from west Africa often get a kick out of some of the things that Americans eat that look more like food from there than European food.

                              1. o
                                Orchid64 Nov 28, 2008 04:11 AM

                                I'm in Japan and there's no turkey and you don't get a day off for your home country's national holidays, nor do Japanese bosses condone taking a personal holiday for that purpose. I've always had to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Coming home at or after 9:00 pm means there's no celebration at all.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Orchid64
                                  l
                                  lost squirrel Nov 30, 2008 06:22 PM

                                  There's turkey here, especially in the big cities with foreign grocery stores. If not, there is always The Meat Guy http://www.themeatguy.jp/

                                2. p
                                  plateofwander Nov 28, 2008 05:26 AM

                                  i'm living in china and held a thanksgiving dinner for a few of my expat friends. someone noted how there are no ovens in japan, and the same is true here. luckily one friend let me borrow his toaster oven, so i roasted some duck legs ( no turkey here) in that. all i had to work with were two hot plates and a microwave, but i managed to find the ingredients (with a few substitutions, like digestive biscuits in lieu of graham crackers for a pie crust) to make the duck, pumpkin pie, stuffing, and, since there are no cranberries here, pomegranate orange sauce. some friends brough cornbread and mashed potatoes, and it was a success, and infinitely more fun because planning and executing the dinner was like a puzzle.
                                  it was also the first time i've been on my own for the holidays, so it was gratifying to do things my way and do all the cooking. :)

                                  1. p
                                    Piglet Nov 28, 2008 09:21 AM

                                    I lived in Canada for three years, and my DH Iwho was still in the States) would come up and visit me every Thanksgiving weekend. (I'd fly south to visit him over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, in mid-October.)

                                    We'd always do the TG dinner with the works--stuffing, gravy, yams, cranberry sauce, a pie or two--at my place in Vancouver, but with stuffed Cornish hens instead of a turkey--since US TG was a work day up there, there would be no way for me to get a whole turkey cooked up after work unless we had dinner at midnight!

                                    1. jill kibler Nov 28, 2008 09:27 AM

                                      This year we have organized a pot luck. We have even found fresh cranberries for the cranberry relish in the Savueur Turkey edition!!! Everything is avaialble here in Luxembourg, except my family...ah well.

                                      I was in Peace Corps a while back, and wanted to treat some of my friends to Thanksgiving dinner. I could only find chicken (which I had to catch, dress, and roast in a pot on the kerosene burner in my flat.) I was excited because it smelled good, but when we tried to eat it it was like leather....one of those energetic, free range chickens, I guess. The rest of the trimmings were well appreciated, but my Nepali friends could not figure out why I had made the chicken so terrible. LOL
                                      Peace, Jill

                                      1. carswell Nov 28, 2008 09:48 AM

                                        Definitely in the Ignore camp.

                                        Back when I was at university (McGill) many moons ago, I'd join other US students for a potluck T-day meal but, aside from the very rare late November trip to visit family in the States, I've not celebrated it since. And Quebecers tend not to do Canadian Thanksgiving either. Which is fine by me: I've never -- not even as a kid -- cared for turkey, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, soggy stuffing, canned cranberry sauce or other "traditional" T-day dishes, and pumpkin pie simply makes me want to gag.

                                        Guess I ended up in the right place. ;)

                                        1. MsMaryMc Nov 28, 2008 02:20 PM

                                          Many years ago I did a junior year abroad just outside London. The college's cafeteria had pretty awful food, but on Thanksgiving they outdid themselves. It's not a holiday the Brits celebrate, of course, but the sweet little old cafeteria ladies knew they had a few Americans there, and they did their best to make us feel a little less far from home that day. Unfortunately, their best was pretty near inedible--bone-dry turkey, gluey gravy, and stuffing that I could have sworn was flavored with insecticide. My American friends and I ate as much as we could choke down, just to be polite, and then we fled for the train station.

                                          Like I said, this was a few years ago... Believe it or not, there was just one Hard Rock Cafe back then, and it was in London. It was a whole lot less cheesy and overblown than the chain is these days--sort of a faux greasy spoon diner, fairly simple and down-home. It was the only place in London then were you could get a really GOOD, thoroughly American hamburger. That's where we went. I still remember the glorious little touches--French's mustard in jars on the table, real Saltines with the soup, a White Russian with real Kahlua--that I hadn't see since I left home. The turkey and all the trimmings were a nice try, but at least for us three American college students a long way from home, those burgers were the best American-style thanksgiving meal we could have asked for.

                                          1. steve h. Nov 28, 2008 02:42 PM

                                            deb and i were living in seoul. we rented the top floor of a very spiffy house that didn't have a kitchen (we relied on a small bar refrigerator and a two-burner electric for those rare occasions when we ate at home).

                                            long short, we wanted a thanksgiving meal so i bought a full-sized electric stove/oven combo and hired a contractor to run the power and install the unit. then i went off to tokyo on business thinking all was well. big mistake.

                                            i came back to find that power cables were run from the front door and nailed to the beautiful wood wall that ran along one side of the floating staircase to our apartment. the contractor told my wife we could use the stove or the oven but not both at the same time.

                                            well, holidays are holidays. my very young american bride played the cards she was dealt without a single complaint. dinner was superb. we fed maybe 20-30 gi's, most in their late teens-early 20's, who were alone and far from home. they appreciated a home-cooked meal.

                                            maybe my funnest thanksgiving ever.

                                            1. c
                                              cimui Nov 28, 2008 05:28 PM

                                              my sister and all her american expat friends living in basel apparently made a few gigantic pans of rosti and had it with roast goose, soup made out of local pumpkins and pumpkin pie. and then, they played american x-box video games. ;)

                                              1. Bill Hunt Nov 28, 2008 06:53 PM

                                                We just do our best to dine well. I've experienced enough Thanksgiving meals, that to miss a few, would not hurt.

                                                For us, that meal is more about friends and family, than any dishes. One can give "thanks" over whatever meal they are looking at. Now, I will always be more thankful, if my wife is in my company.

                                                Hunt

                                                1. lulubelle Nov 29, 2008 03:16 AM

                                                  My Thanksgiving this year was a progressive dinner--cocktails, mains, dessert--at three different expat homes. There were about 35 of us, mostly American, but with a few Europeans and some locals (Bangladeshis) thrown in.

                                                  We started off with cocktails and appies made by a woman who had lived in South America for 10 years, totally not traditional.

                                                  Dinner was a turkey (American Commissary) and a ham (brought back frozen from the UK this summer) mashed potatoes, stuffing etc. Nothing terribly unusual. I couldn't find red cabbage, so I used green, and you have to buy canned pumpkin instead of using fresh, but it isn't hard to work around.

                                                  Dessert was at my house and was pumpkin pie, caramel pecan cheesecake and apple crisp.

                                                  1. r
                                                    relizabeth Nov 30, 2008 11:26 AM

                                                    We are in London and celebrated yesterday (Saturday). My husband (German) and I had lots of friends over and gluttony ensued. We are vegetarians so there was no turkey (or tofurkey). The local fresh and wild was out of canned pumpkin so there was no pumpkin pie, but otherwise, it was pretty traditional. Plenty of 'this is just like Christmas dinner' comments from the Brits though.

                                                    1. pikawicca Dec 2, 2008 06:12 PM

                                                      Strangest was the fish-turkey in England in 1967. Mom invited lots of Brits and ordered a huge bird from the local butcher. I helped her get the bird in the oven, then went off to play tennis with my boyfriend. Came back an hour later, entered the house, and asked my mom why the house smelled like fish. Turned out the clueless turkey farmer fed his birds fish meal. Thankfully, our British guests didn't know what turkey was supposed to taste like, so we were cool.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: pikawicca
                                                        Passadumkeg Dec 3, 2008 02:04 AM

                                                        How did mom fit a huge bird in a tiny European oven. I caught a large turbot once and couldn't fit it into my little Norwegian oven (or into my miniscule Norsk fridge..

                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                          pikawicca Dec 3, 2008 12:14 PM

                                                          We were living on a U.S. Air Force base, and had U.S.-made appliances.

                                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                                            bbqboy Dec 3, 2008 12:30 PM

                                                            weird. the main thing I've gotten from this thread is the lack of ovens, (and ranges)
                                                            around the world. I had no idea. :)

                                                            1. re: bbqboy
                                                              Sam Fujisaka Dec 3, 2008 12:37 PM

                                                              I've lived outside of the US for 35 years and have had ovens for the last 30. In Bolivia it was a huge clay/brick wood fired dome, however.

                                                              1. re: bbqboy
                                                                l
                                                                lost squirrel Dec 3, 2008 06:28 PM

                                                                I have two burners, that's it.

                                                                I have my eye on a combined microwave/toaster/oven/steamer contraption though. Jack of all trades, master of none!

                                                                1. re: bbqboy
                                                                  lulubelle Dec 3, 2008 09:59 PM

                                                                  I have American appliances. Locals have ovens, but nowhere the size of ours. Microwaves a a big thing though.

                                                                  1. re: bbqboy
                                                                    q
                                                                    queencru Dec 4, 2008 04:35 AM

                                                                    One of my friends in Japan got a fairly large microwave with convection oven, but I still don't think it would have held a full-sized turkey. Another thing with the slightly older Japanese apartments it that the power capacity was minimal. In my first complex, if you have the AC, TV, and microwave on, it overloaded the circuits. I ended up having to move out because the environment was so humid, but the circuits would not have taken a dehumidifier.

                                                            2. Passadumkeg Dec 4, 2008 02:32 AM

                                                              There seem to be 2 (or more ) classes of expats. The embassy-military-internat'l corp.folks, that have access to US (commisary) stuff and the the educators-researchers-nonprofits that live on the local economy. The gulf can be vast. I remeber the embassy folk always had Butterballs (how, scatalogical!) and even Wonder Bread. Others learned to find and use the local foods.
                                                              We lived quite happily w/ what was available until we had kids. Then we felt some perverted need to feed them traditional American fare. Peanut butter ordered by the case, traditional holiday foods, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. In retrospect, how odd.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                MMRuth Dec 4, 2008 03:18 AM

                                                                I lived in Thailand, England, Sweden & Germany until I was 12, as my father worked for a large multinational. We did not have access to U.S./Commissary food, though when we lived in Heidelberg, where there was a large U.S. military prescence, my mother would, very rarely, access the commissary through friends whose husbands were in the military. I so envied those Wonderbread/Skippy peanut butter/Welches grape jelly sandwiches in the lunchboxes of others! We did occasionally 'sneak' into the Officers' Club on base for Sunday brunch, as my father had gone to West Point and still wore his West Point Class ring. And getting a grape or orange soft drink from the vending machine after church on one of the military bases each Sunday was a big treat.

                                                                For Thanksgiving, my recollection is that, when we lived in Germany, we used to go to London for the long weekend, and have a Thanksgiving meal at one of the large hotels. We used to also go to The Great American Disaster in London on Beauchamps Place (now closed) for hamburgers and milkshakes. Another treat was to drive to Frankfurt to the Sheraton hotel for hamburgers. That said, we usually ate, and my mother cooked, what was available locally. I still remember her trying to carve a Jack o'Lantern out of a cabbage for us one Halloween.

                                                                1. re: MMRuth
                                                                  MMRuth Dec 4, 2008 03:28 AM

                                                                  Oh - and my Junior year of college, I visited a friend who was spending the year at the University of Sussex, and somehow we managed to cook a Thankgiving dinner for his friends in the tiny kitchen available to him.

                                                                  1. re: MMRuth
                                                                    Bill Hunt Dec 4, 2008 02:59 PM

                                                                    Only experience that I have is our flat in London, Mayfair. Listening to what some of you have done with similar appliances forces me to respect the lot of you much more. I just flat cannot imagine doing it. Guess I'm either not creative, or hungry enough!

                                                                    My hat is definitely off to you. Now, I've done some one-burner meals camping, but that is not hard, if you plan a bit.

                                                                    Hunt

                                                                2. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                  Sam Fujisaka Dec 4, 2008 04:39 AM

                                                                  At the internatiuonal agricultural research centers we get a booze and wine order every year, but have no access to US or comissary type goods. Priorities!

                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                    Veggo Dec 4, 2008 07:14 AM

                                                                    Sam, as I gobbled above, I have been in many countries during "Thanksgiving", often in areas that didn't know or care a hoot about it. I'm happy to go with local fare and drink. When I'm on the road I embrace a joke line I heard years ago : "I go with the flo, and my flo is linoleum."

                                                                    1. re: Veggo
                                                                      Sam Fujisaka Dec 4, 2008 12:03 PM

                                                                      Ah'm gon' use that 'un.

                                                                3. q
                                                                  qbdave Dec 4, 2008 12:18 PM

                                                                  While living in Australia we celebrated each year w/ traditional T-Day dinner for our Aussie friends, probably 4 - 5 couples at our home. This was always a highpoint of the year for my colleagues. Turkey's are available locally but quite expensive.
                                                                  On the Saturday after T-day the Women's Auxillary to the Royal Melbourne Children's Hosp., a long standing American Women's group in Melbourne, sponsored a T-day dinner at Parliment House in Melbourne. One Turkey was prepared for ea. table of 10 and included all the "fixin's". One at ea. table was designated as the carver and we always enjoyed a wonderful day.

                                                                  1. g
                                                                    gfr1111 Nov 5, 2009 12:02 PM

                                                                    I lived in Singapore for about a year. I had just arrived about two weeks before Thanksgiving and was invited by Chinese Singaporeans to a Thanksgiving Dinner at one of the many clubs in Singapore. I can't remember the name of the club for certain, but it may have been the Tanglin Club.

                                                                    Every expat on the island seemed to be there, mixed in with about 30% Singaporeans. The Swiss, Germans, British, Australians, Malaysians, Indians, Sri Lankans, etc. were all in attendance. Most of the food items seemed to come from Australia by way of an elaborate grocery store there called, "Cold Storage." Some of it came from embassies. There was a traditonal American menu. However, there was more. It was quite a feast, because people from all over the world brought their own countries' dishes, as well.

                                                                    It was certainly one of the most memorable Thanksgivings I have experienced, made more so by the kindness of the Singaporeans who took this new arrival under their wings and made sure that he did not feel lonely at Thanksgiving. Over the next year, it was a kindness I saw again and again in the Singaporean people.

                                                                    1. Passadumkeg Nov 5, 2009 03:26 PM

                                                                      Many of the places I worked, and for my kids in Korea, Thanksgiving is, of course, not a holiday. In Bolivia, however, we did have off, but had no turkey. Because the weather was so warm, we took the boys and camped on top of the third of three waterfalls at Las Cuevas. We cooked chickens on forked sticks over wood coals and in the morning, caught trout for breakfast and during the day hiked through the tropical flora and discovered ancient ruins. It was just over the mountain from where Che Guevara was killed by the CIA. We enjoyed it so much that we repeated the event the next couple of years. What fun to see wild toucans sitting on a branch noshing fruit.

                                                                      1. KaimukiMan Nov 5, 2009 05:58 PM

                                                                        My second Thanksgiving in Korea i was able to get a turkey from an expat with commisary priveleges. Potato and sweet potatoes were avaiable, and bread for the stuffing was no problem, nor were most of the vegetables. I could have gotten cranberry sauce from the expat friend, but its never been one of my favorites. Another expat friend made some great dressing with a korean vegetable cracker (think v8 flavored ritz), and ginko nuts among other things.

                                                                        What I also remember is that Thanksgiving coincided with "Kim Jang" the end of the season time for making Kimchee. So I was busy shopping not only for thanksgiving dinner supplies (including makings for apple and pumpkin pies) but one of my Korean friends and his mom were along for the shopping trip buying cabbage and chilies and whatnot for the kimchee. Along the way we found a place that was selling christmas trees. It was an interesting couple of evenings with me making thanksgiving dinner, my friends mom making three garbage cans full of kim chee, and other friends making paper chains and popcorn strings to decorate the tree with. I'm probably one of the few people around who think of thanksgiving when i smell kim chee.

                                                                        1. lulubelle Nov 5, 2009 08:46 PM

                                                                          This year I am spending Thanksgiving on a large river boat in The Sunderbans, which is the world's largest mangrove forest. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundarbans I am hoping to see a Royal Bengal tiger.

                                                                          Last year we had a huge American Thanksgiving potluck, this year we'll be eating Bengali food.

                                                                          1. i
                                                                            inibble Nov 20, 2010 12:28 PM

                                                                            I've lived abroad several times in my life, and usually ignore American Thanksgiving (except one time in China when Mom bought a tiny little turkey for $50). I now live in Canada, and ignore both Thanksgivings, since one is too early in the year for me and no one around here celebrates the other day. I do buy a turkey sometime in between and have a small party with friends, but otherwise, US Thanksgiving seems best celebrated in the US.

                                                                            1. rworange Nov 30, 2010 05:17 PM

                                                                              With over 100 schools teaching Spanish in Antigua, GT the restaurants cater to the many Amercans in the city and offer a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

                                                                              My stepchildren not only never heard of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, they never heard of Thanksgiving. I didn't want their first real American Thanksgiving dinner to be of some unknown quality in an Antigua resturant. Since I live in the sticks it seemed pointless to hunt down American ingredients. The local supermarket Paiz (aka Walmart) did have frozen Butterballs on sale which were ignored.

                                                                              We don't get the Amercian channel on tv that had the Macy;s Parade.

                                                                              Still, there is something about this time of year that has me craving pumpkin pie and such even in the tropical heat.

                                                                              So I bought some buttertop white bread, sliced deli turkey, a jar of imported Helmann's mayo, a dusty can of OceanSpray cranberry sauce that has been on the shelf of Paiz since I moved here over a half a year ago. Unfortunately bread and butter pickles were not to be had. Gherkins just don't do it for me on Thanksgiving.

                                                                              I rounded out the dinner with pumpkin empanadas ... or whatever the heck the are called here.

                                                                              I've hosted a few Thanksgiving dinners where people from other countries were guests and the overall impression I get is that they don't like it because it is bland.

                                                                              Here in Guatemala, the land of the bland, the turkey sandwiches went over big time.

                                                                              What was really surprising was that everyone was absolutely crazy about the original Hellman's in a jar. First they thought the jar concept was 'cute'. Mayo is in squeeze containers here. Although Hellman's is available in squeeze containers, the taste of the jarred stuff was notably different ... rich and eggy.

                                                                              I would have killed for Wonder Bread. Sliced white supermarket bread here always has a stale quality to it and even the fancy buttertop needed toasting. White bread always tastes like generic bottom of the line bread.

                                                                              What was swell though, was my 'fusion' sandwich ... the sandwich ingredients on one of the wonderful, yeasty, soft Guatemalan pan Frances rolls. .

                                                                              And for all the bitching I've done about HFCS in OceanSpray, I savored every chemical-laden bite.

                                                                              In Guatemala, the equivalent of Thanksgiving is All Souls Day on Nov 1st. The dish on that day is fiambre an elaborite chopped salad with over forty ingredients. The day has the same feel as Thanksgiving with families getting together to picnic, the stores closed and the busy streets desserted.

                                                                              Like turkey, fiambre lasts for days. Leftover fiambre does not lend itself to the same creativity as leftover turkey.

                                                                              On Nov 2nd the artificial Christmas trees go up, like the Christmas tree sponsored by Gallo in the photo below. Beer and the baby Jesus. I've heard of the Misa de Gallo, but I don't think this is what it means.

                                                                              Egg nog appeared at Paiz. Oh boy, I thought. Supermarket eggnog with real sugar ... nope. While they couldn't gett their hands on HFCS locally, to give it the same flavor they used corn syrup.

                                                                              But I digress.

                                                                              Though my family wasn't much interested in Thanksgiving, I was. I have never been so profoundily thankful to be a citizen of the United States.

                                                                               
                                                                              1. Bill Hunt Dec 2, 2010 04:58 PM

                                                                                Well, not actually "abroad," but in Hawai`i this year. We celebrated Thanksgiving at La Mer, and dined on Chef Ives Grainier's Tasting Menu.

                                                                                Now, we did have our house-sitter catered for Thanksgiving, so we knew we had leftovers upon our return, so maybe that was not totally fair. Still, we dined on the cuisine of the Island, until we returned.

                                                                                Hunt

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