I had my second ever Thanksgiving bonanza at my flat on Thursday, the actual Thanksgiving, and it went really well! I had done a similar event once before when I was living in Mirano because I thought it would be fun to share a bit of American culture with my Italian and English friends living there. It was a great success, and the nine or ten of us had a lovely time.
Now I’m in Ireland and I have a gaggle of Irish, Canadian, and Malaysian friends with whom I felt obliged to share this little piece of home, this staple of American culture. The Canadians already have a bit of an idea how this works as they have Canadian Thanksgiving, but it can’t quite be the same. I don’t know that any group in the world can gorge themselves needlessly quite like Americans. While I don’t endorse this for the rest of the year, on Thanksgiving it’s a traditional requirement.
While planning the event I wasn’t sure who to invite. This was partly due to the fact that I created the event long ago, earlier in the semester, before I knew as many people or had a sense of who my real friends might be. Having planned similar events in the past I’d seen that I’d be lucky if half the people I invited said they would come. Knowing that I’d “easily” prepared food for ten people before, I aimed for a similar number, thinking as few as 6 and up to 14 would be acceptable.
So it was that I created my Facebook event and invited about twenty people, asking them to take the place of my real family with whom I would not be able to share this year’s Thanksgiving. To my surprise I had about ten confirmed guests early on, and the number hovered there for a long time. When I started planning for the food I was expecting twelve guests. Less than two weeks to the event we were up to fourteen which seemed more or less final. Then, less than a week to go, the number shot to eighteen.
I nearly had a heart attack. My apartment is small, intended to house three people. My table seats 4. Three other chairs can be scrounged up around the apartment, and there is a small coffee table with two small couches that can fit three each, if the people have no need for personal space. Therefore, already cramming people into my flat I could fit about 13 not so comfortably. Forget table space.
Now I had EIGHTEEN people coming and only one small oven, a crappy hob, a random assortment of about 4 pots and pans, one big bowl, and a medium sized refrigerator already half-filled with my flatmates food. Fantastic. I spent the 5 days leading up to the event oscillating between heart-in-my-throat-suffocating-me panic and the sort of eerie calm that can only be achieved when you’ve given up all hope and accepted your imminent demise.
The groceries arrived on Monday, having been ordered over the weekend. I willingly paid to have them delivered because even with my bike, it would easily have taken me three trips, probably more. I had done my best to purchase the correct amount of everything, but it was really hard to gauge looking at pictures online and I kept having to do my best to convert between cups, grams, quantities, and all other manner of measurements (ml, sticks, pinches, etc.).
I began preparing food on Tuesday. I had meant to start Wednesday, but I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night with thoughts of raw turkey, un-buttered corn, and moldy bread haunting me. That night I made the mint-feta butter for the corn, the herb butter for the turkey, and the salad dressing. Feeling a bit calmer I got myself to sleep.
Wednesday I had to make all of the things that needed to be made in the oven as it would be occupied all of Thursday by the Turkey. I roasted the tomatoes with rosemary, made three apple pies with individual Thanksgiving-themed designs, baked 2 berry crumbles, and toasted 3 pounds of bread for stuffing. I then went to bed because I knew I’d need all the sleep I could manage to make it through the next day.
Thursday was a whirlwind. I woke up around nine and got myself dressed to go into town to pick up the turkey. As I made my way to the bus stop a torrential downpour began that did not stop as I made my way to the butcher’s, arriving dripping wet to collect my 15 pound bird, nor as I made my way back to Eyre Square to catch the bus home, not even as I walked back to my flat from the bus stop. I created a puddle inside my front door, looking much like a sprinkler as I shivered, spraying water all over the place. I took off my jeans and hung them over the heater, stuck my soggy Uggs underneath, and hung my coat nearby.
Wearing only my orange turtleneck sweater and bright pink boxer-brief underwear, I headed for the kitchen carrying my fifteen pound turkey. I spent the next couple hours making the stuffing and preparing the turkey. There are few things I’ve done in my life that feel as wrong as stuffing a turkey in my underwear. With the turkey in the oven I spent the next while cleaning, skyping my family, and basting the turkey every 20-30 minutes. I take the fact that I purchased a turkey baster and a meat thermometer as measures of my extreme preparedness.
Eventually my jeans were dry again and so I put them back on just as it was time for the turkey to come out of the oven and just before people began to arrive. I had specifically set a relatively early start time because the earliest people had arrived one hour late to my wine tasting event, and I expected the same for Thanksgiving. So it was that without any real sense of urgency I began mashing the potatoes as the festivities were set to begin… and then the first guests arrived. On time.
This shouldn’t really have big as big a deal as it was, but I had unmashed potatoes, milk, and butter in a bowl, gravy stock on the hob, corn in a pot, and stuffing in the oven, and several of these things mere minutes from either being finished or requiring the next step in their preparation. From my apartment door down to the front door where I needed to go to let people in (because I have no door buzzer) is about a five minute trek, down the length of all the other apartments, around the corner, down the elevators, to the front door, and then all the way back again. The next 20 minutes or so were a whirlwind of collecting groups from the front door, turning them into pilgrims and Native Americans, and attempting to finish food preparation.
Everybody was fabulous, playing along with my hand-made Thanksgiving head-dresses. It was heart-warming to see the cooperation and goodwill between the Native Americans and Pilgrims, even if some of the finer points were lost on certain people leading to requests for a game of “Cowboys and Indians” ಠ_ಠ
My guests even humored me when I suggested going around and saying something for which we were thankful. I didn’t do a very good job explaining it because most of them were thankful for me or my food (thanks guys, but you can be thankful for other things too) but I was most thankful for such a fine group of friends who could function so well as my adoptive family.
In addition to all the food I had prepared, Harry and Niamh brought delicious banoffee pie (a real crowd-pleaser). Ruth and Orla brought two scrumptious chocolate pecan pies (which I ate for breakfast and dessert for the next week or two). Liam brought an infamous and somewhat inedible (though highly entertaining and much appreciated) cake. Mel and Éamonn brought a swiss roll and Vienetta (the height of elegance). Kat made cupcakes. Pat brought a mini Heineken keg. Aine brought mince pies. Sean brought Buckfast (oh dear). Aisling supplied a case of Ferrero Rocher. I believe Michelle had something to do with the icecream that I later found in my freezer. Asyraf took care of the juice. Various and sundry other foods and beverages also appeared and I’m not entirely sure who was responsible for what, but it was all fantastic. Everybody contributed and it ensured that nobody was left wanting.
All of these people were so warm, and grateful, and helpful, and fun. I could not have asked for a better group of people with whom to spend my Thanksgiving. Nor would I have ever predicted at the start of September that I would have so quickly found a group of people with whom I so enjoy spending time and who are so completely wonderful.
I really do love my Galway family.