The Random Writings of Rachel: Thanksgiving Abroad

Thanksgiving Abroad

Of all the distinctively American holidays, the one I deem most worthy of "bringing with me" when I leave the country is Thanksgiving. This year, we decided to invite 5 of our coworkers and their spouses and children (13 guests) over for a Thanksgiving meal on the Saturday before the holiday, since work this Thursday wouldn't give me the time I needed to cook.

This is what I consider the #1 rule of celebrating Thanksgiving abroad: Don't get your heart set on a turkey. In my experience, turkeys can be hard to find, extremely expensive, and, besides that, you may not have an oven. Don't stress. Thanksgiving doesn't require a turkey, it just requires food.

Also, do not be dismayed if you can't find Thankgiving-themed decorations or even craft stores to buy supplies for making your own decorations anywhere. Remember, the food is more important that decor, especially for this holiday. I did make an effort with what we had, I wrote "Happy Thanksgiving!" and "Lord, we thank you." on signs in Chinese and taped them to the wall. So, basically our house was less decorated than the average dorm room, but remember, I'm of the theory that the food is what matters.


Angel was in charge of cleaning and setting up the room and running (hey, literally running since we don't drive, get it?) to Walmart several times for last minute-ingredients. Side note: "Milk Beverage is not the same thing as 100% Milk. Milk Beverage tastes weirdly like very sweet kool-aid and I wouldn't recommend adding it to mashed potatoes.) I made the food and made little food labels for the dishes, too. I've always scorned fancy food labels, because, why do we need to be told that mashed potatoes are mashed potatoes? And I'm right--we, those who have grown up eating mashed potatoes our whole lives, don't need to be told that, but people eating mashed potatoes for the first time don't know what they're eating until they're told. Nearly everything we served was a completely new dish for our guests, so I made labels.



It's always fun to me to see how others respond to trying out some very typical American food for the first time ever. At this particular meal, the deviled eggs were universally disliked (except by Angel, who ate about 10 of them). The mashed potatoes and fruit salad and rolls were huge hits (the rolls were normal dinner rolls I bought from the Walmart bakery, but I think many of our guests hadn't had them before). One gentleman got himself a solid 3 servings of chili, which I consider a vote of approval. The baked beans were pretty well liked as well, they ate nearly all we had. Even if the cheesy buffalo chicken dip wasn't the favorite of our guests, it was a solid favorite with Angel and I, and was the one thing that there were no leftovers of by the end of the evening...because between the two of us, we finished every last amazing bite.




We loved hosting our first Thanksgiving here. I know it looks very small, but considering the fact that I'm working with a two-burner stove, no oven, and a mini-fridge, I think it was the perfect size. I'm so thankful that after less than 3 months of working at our school, we've already built friendships with these coworkers who have welcomed us into their world so heartily. Yesterday, conversations in this home were taking place in a heavy mix of Chinese and English. Several of our guests spoke no English at all--but we are so thankful that we are able to communicate with them to invite them over and hopefully make them feel welcomed and give them a taste of what American Thanksgiving is about--food, hospitality, and praising God for all things.

Also, you can't out-give our friends, so don't even try. You will lose any and all gift wars. Hostess gifts are taken very seriously in China, and every guest showed up bearing food for us at the dinner. We ended up with a total of: 20 lbs. of mandarin oranges, 3 dragonfruits, 9 apples, a huge bag of grapes, a bag of dates. a box of tea, 6 bottled drinks, and a bottle of wine. And we are only two people! I now feel the need to have a fruit party and invite people over to help me eat lots of fruit! Who's in?

28 comments:

  1. This is awesome! I think it was very thoughtful of you to label everything for everyone and it's interesting what people liked and didn't like!!! It looks like it was a good time with new friends and I'm impressed with what you accomplished, too! I don't cook at all but I understand the difficulties of smaller kitchens abroad! :)

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  2. That's so cool! I love how you made the best of it and it turned out great! Also, I would have definitely helped Angel polish those deviled eggs off! So good :)

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  3. A milk beverage that tastes like kool-aid is something that I would like to try, but I agree, definitely not in mashed potatoes. I'm impressed with what you accomplished using such limited cooking resources. If you decide to have a fruit party county me in!

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  4. I too am impressed at how much you did without an oven. I guess that's normal there to not have one? I'm curious about your buffalo chicken dip?! And wow, that is some hostess gifting!! Very generous!!

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  5. It's so great that you're opening your home over there! I agree, it is fun to see what they do and don't like (though it sounds like success this time...they ate pretty much everything but the eggs!) How fun! There's a buzzfeed i saw awhile back where someone teaching English in China showed popular foods from different regions and recorded the reactions. I'll have to see if I can find it again if you haven't seen it.

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  6. Oh, I'm so pleased you had a lovely time! And that you've found great friends! And that they were so generous with you! I'm so happy for you!

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  7. Sounds like a great time...that has gotta to help a lot with missing family back home to already be creating new friendships and opening up your home to them. I love the signs you made in Chinese!!

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  8. What fun! I love that you did this.

    When I lived in England and France we also made an effort to celebrate our Canadian Thanksgiving. Once in France, with my roommate we managed to serve 21 people in our tiny apartment a massive dinner all made in one tiny stove with 3 small burners and a very small oven. Like you though, we stayed away from the turkey. I have such wonderful memories from that day. I'm sure you will remember yours many years from now as well.


    bisous
    Suzanne
    http://www.suzannecarillo.com

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  9. Aw I LOVE this Rachel!! Thanksgiving is also my absolute favorite holiday so it makes me so happy that you're sharing it with friends in China!!

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  10. Oh wow! Sounds like a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration! I enjoyed the photos and report on the food! Sounds like you are going to be eating mandarin oranges for a very long time!

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  11. This is so awesome you got to share this tradition with your new friends! I'm sure they loved trying the food and sounds like you're making wonderful memories:) Send some of that fruit over here:)

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  12. Sounds like such a great time! I'm really impressed you did all that without an oven and just a two burner stove! Also, I was little shocked when I read that he went to Walmart, even though I'm not really sure why that shocked me!

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  13. I love this! It seems like they had a ton of fun trying new food and that must have been pretty fascinating, seeing what they like and don't like! I'm not surprised they hated deviled eggs...haha. I think Americans need to step up the hostess gift tradition.

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  14. I just cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner last weekend as well, so true about the Turkey that was just not happening. Was really fun getting to share traditional recipes from home with my Icelandic family, they were big fans of the deviled eggs which surprised me!

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  15. That's great that you did that. And you got some fruit in return! Kind of humorous that no one liked the deviled eggs, but then I don't always like other people's deviled eggs, either. I like my mom's deviled eggs.

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  16. so sweet of you to host a thanksgiving for your friends :) deviled eggs might be one of my all-time favorite holiday snacks, so i'm not sure what's going on there - but at least we can all agree on the chili :) ooooh, and the milk beverage? who knew there was such a thing? lesson learned.

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  17. I think this is such a wonderful abroad thing to do. When I studied abroad in Wales, the only major American holiday I missed was July 4th. It was weird to walk outside and not see any flags flying or watching any parades. But, we went to the grocery store and bought eggs, potatoes, and beef. We made ourselves a typical Independence Day dinner of Hamburgers and Potato Salad!

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  18. I think it's fabulous that you were able to share you special traditions with your new friends. So true about the wisdom of not having your heart set on a turkey! We spent one Christmas in Hoi An in Vietnam, and I was determined to set up a Christmas tree in our hotel room for the kids. It took a bit of research and negotiation...but I did it. It would have been much wiser to just forget about the tree!

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  19. Such a fun idea! I would have loved to do that in Indonesia!!!

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  20. Thanksgiving is honestly one of the best holidays - and I'm not even American! I was indoctrinated to the way of pumpkin pie when I was a student.
    Your thanksgiving feast looks incredible!

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  21. Thats amazing you did such a great job with only 2 burners and no oven! So true though you have to make do with what you can get, we're having a roast chicken and apple galette since we have no pie tin :P sadly no guests but I think my boyfriends pretty pleased since he can eat all he likes haha I see a food coma in our future

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  22. You did great! I don't like Deviled Eggs or Buffalo Chicken Dip either. In concept they are great, but they just don't please my palette.

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  23. You did a great job lady! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  24. Super happy Thanksgiving wishes, dear Rachel (and Angel). When we lived abroad, (Canadian) Thanksgiving, Canada Day and a more in-depth take on Halloween were the holidays that I imported with me to help keep homesick to a minimum (in theory!).

    Big hugs & tons of happy start of the winter holiday season to you, dear gal!
    ♥ Jessica

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  25. That's so wonderful that you threw a mini Thanksgiving dinner party for your friends! :) We definitely made too much food here too - just had friends over. It was nice and calm :) Hey I'm in for a fruit party! Glad you and Angel had a wonderful Thanksgiving and have a great weekend! -Iva

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  26. i agree, thanksgiving is not about turkey! also, i am not a big fan of turkey ;)

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  27. That's an impressive meal you put together in a limited kitchen!

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  28. I am so impressed by so many things about this. Suffice it to say, I think you both are awesome, and I am glad they rolls were a hit! Thanksgiving without rolls is no Thanksgiving at all.

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