I was initially ambivalent about having the traditional Thanksgiving feast this year. We haven’t been short on fun and excitement during our stay in Taiwan, which has included several vacation like excursions. Even though setting up house here still definitely presents challenges on a regular basis, there is a sense of living in a travel brochure. I also felt a lack of spirit for the holiday that I attribute to a void of community celebration that one feels in America. Add to that that I’m still regaining strength after surgery and there will be a week long national holiday for Chinese New Year. We are still thankful people and say so regularly. Did we really need this holiday in particular? Greg said we should go ahead with it and invite some Taiwanese friends. So, I proceeded to schedule shopping and cooking.
It wasn’t easy to find a turkey, even though Mom had already told me she had seen them in Costco. I looked and looked when I was there on Monday. Providentially, I ran into my upstairs neighbor while there. She had seen them. Due to the masses of people, even on a non-crowded weekday, she left her cart with me and went to look around. She found a pre-roasted bird, but neither of us wanted to buy it. Finally I spotted a frozen raw turkey on an aisle that she had suggested. The box-packaging was unfamiliar to my eye, so I hadn’t recognized it. I plopped it in the cart with the Christmas gifts and other food I had found. We had the ‘star of the show’ so we could build around that.
The next thing to do was make an invitation to our friends Sylvia and Susan, and Susan’s husband. (See picture above: Sylvia on your left, Susan on your right) They are ‘our realtors’ and support team, but do such a good job making us feel welcome and cared for, that we wanted to say thank you to them. They are fun to be around, too. Their quick acceptance made preparations all that more enjoyable.
Tuesday was the day to go to ShiDong Market. I wrote about that some in “Loaded Granny Cart.” I found many things for our traditional meal, but not yams or pumpkins that looked enough like what I was used to. When I got back, Jesse made bread mostly by himself. I would use some of that for stuffing.
Wednesday I made the cranberry sauce, but the rest of the day was too full of doctor’s appointments and Chinese lessons, so I got behind and couldn’t finish my shopping until that evening. Greg went and helped me buy a few more things at Carrefour, a store more like most American supermarkets. I went ‘out on a limb’ and bought some apples from Japan for making pies. I couldn’t even taste them while making the pies since I can’t chew anything yet. However, we still couldn’t find even canned pumpkin and I wanted imported brown sugar. Greg said he would get them Thursday at a small store up the road that specializes in imported groceries.
After a good night’s sleep, Greg took the kids on a combo run-bike. You can ask for details from them if you want them. They were gone for three hours and came back looking well exercised and invigorated. I had finished baking the rolls. The pie crusts were in progress, with me on a steep learning curve with the higher humidity here. I didn’t panic, though, and all turned out fine. Greg and Carlie went out for the last two ingredients.
From that point on I had lots of help with the cooking. Carlie and Greg diced vegetables for stuffing, Natalie sliced carrots, Jesse peeled potatoes, the kids all took turns with ongoing clean-up, Greg got things in and out of the oven and sampled the rolls…. I got a break midday for a while and heated and stretched my jaw. Then it was back to work on the beans, potatoes, and carrots.
Our guests arrived around 6 PM while Greg was making the gravy and carving the turkey. Susan’s husband wasn’t able to make it due to unexpected obligations. Our hearts were warmed by their enjoyment of their first Thanksgiving meal. Susan said it was like walking into a movie! They expressed particular enjoyment of almost everything, but seemed to especially like the mashed potatoes, turkey, pies, and rolls. Our offer to send home some left-overs was eagerly accepted. Jesse and Natalie packaged pumpkin pie for breakfast, rolls for lunch, enough for Susan’s small family, too. Then we just sat around and visited.
It was a very pleasant evening of discussing the foods and sharing stories of life. We talked about everything from shopping to religious rituals to giant Taiwanese spiders. Susan seems interested in learning to make bread, so I’m hoping she takes me up on the offer to teach her. It all reinforces that the greatest pleasure in being here is getting to know people that I wouldn’t otherwise meet. One of the things God created us for is to live with and love one another. I like doing that.