Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Abroad

A lot of people have asked me, "Kimber, do they have Thanksgiving in Scotland?" And I have answered,  "No, that's a silly question." A better question would be, "Kimber, how did you celebrate Thanksgiving while living so far away from home?" Well, I'll tell you! (You were worried I wouldn't, weren't you?)

The first step to a successful Thanksgiving abroad is strategic friendships. Now, I'm not saying I made friends with certain people months ago in anticipation of this one holiday. That would be.... crazy. But what I am saying is, it helps to have American friends with flats. Living in the dorms, I have not the space nor facilities to prepare and serve a holiday feast. So I had to finagle some invitations to other people's festivities. That's the first way in which strategic friendships pay off. The celebration to which I was invited was of the potluck variety, so I needed a place to cook. This is the second way strategic friendships pay off. One of my friends who was recently liberated from the dorms graciously allowed me to come over and use his kitchen. (Thanks, Morgan!)

The second step to a successful Thanksgiving abroad is creative shopping. I had several dishes in mind to make, and while they were ultimately a success, it was not without a few adjustments on my part. For example, one of my dishes called for two cups of shredded cheese. Easy in the States. One bag of shredded cheese generally equals two cups. Here, we run into two problems. First, no shredded cheese. Second, everything is measured in grams and milliliters. As a result of this kind of issue, I ended up with an extra block of cheese, way more butter than I could have ever used, and a kilogram of frozen broccoli. What's more, I was totally unable to find a couple of things I needed, like cinnamon and corn meal (for making cornbread dressing, or "stuffing," if you prefer). This last missing ingredient would have been disastrous if not for a successful execution of step three...

Have great parents. Ok, to be fair, this isn't one you can really plan for. Unless you had the inside track at conception, you kind of have to work with the parents you've got. As I've known for a while, mine are pretty great. In this case, that is illustrated by the package I received from them a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. It contained (among other things) mini marshmallows, a can of french fried onions, JELL-O instant pudding mix, and two bags of stuffing. Essential ingredients for making sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, broccoli casserole, instant pudding, and cornbread dressing, respectively. And each of those four ingredients (with the possibly exception of the marshmallows) is difficult to find in this country. So hooray for my parents! (And for the $50 they spent to mail that package.)

So, armed with all those ingredients (and a healthy supply of red wine), my sous chef Sabrina and I produced four great dishes over the course of about 6 hours and took them over to the home of one of my compatriots for dinner. As it turns out, our dishes made up a significant chunk of the meal, but no one was complaining. Because they were great. And if they were complaining, I didn't notice (remember the red wine).

The long and short of it, readers, is that it was delightful Thanksgiving. Certainly not as great as Thanksgiving at home, but it was a pretty good alternative. Besides great food and delightful company, the best part of Thanksgiving was explaining various aspects of it to the non-North Americans. My favorite things to explain were the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the football game, and Black Friday. Some of it seems a bit silly when describing it to someone not from the US. But that doesn't make it me miss it any less.

Except Black Friday. Forget that shit. Happy post-Thanksgiving!


For a much more poetic and touching take on Thanksgiving abroad, I encourage you to read this article by my dear friend Michael McGuire. He tells it like it is, and I will admit, it got me a little emotional. Enjoy!


  1. Forget that sh!t indeed, Kimber Wiggs.

    The fact that you could not find shredded cheese deeply concerns me. Perhaps I would not be able to live abroad after all.

  2. Yeah, it was pretty troubling. I had to grate it myself! WTF?