Thanksgiving abroad is a fun thing. Everyone around the world is familiar with the stereotypes because of all the movies and tv shows that highlight it. But they know basically nothing else about it. I’ve had my last three Thanksgiving abroad and each of them was unique, special, and a bit hilarious.
This year I decided I wanted to host a dinner for my friends. Stefano, my Italian roommate, is a chef and could order a full turkey for me. He was so excited about cooking a turkey and specifically requested it. I’ve never cooked a bird before. Like most people, there’s one family member who takes on that responsibility and the rest of us drink the wine and “watch” the parade. So I called that family member, my dad, to ask for advice.
He put together a 3 page document full of family photos, links to websites about how to best cook a turkey, and the step by step ingredients. Naturally there are not many photos of him since he was always taking them. Overwhelmed I mostly skimmed it. (sorry).
I stopped by Stefano’s restaurant for the turkey, and some wine. He got a 9k turkey, which is about 20 lbs. Damn this was a big bird. So I took this frozen 20lb bird in a grocery bag on a tray (because 1. it was frozen and hard to carry and 2. we needed the tray for thanksgiving) to the bus. The bird and I sat on the 333 towards Bondi Beach getting looks, like what is that girl carrying. Just the token American, trying to get my turkey home, don’t mind me.
The fateful day arrived, a Monday to accommodate some schedules. I went to the store to buy the last minute items but somehow forgot all the important things like string and a baster. I called my dad on facetime with my roommate because the bird was still frozen and the neck was inside of it. He tried to hide his rolling eyes, while he said kindly said I was supposed to defrost it yesterday. Again, I was overwhelmed so I just poked it. I ran to get real string and texted my French roommate Martin to get a baster.
An hour later, the turkey was defrosted, neck removed, and we were in business. With Zeus, the dog of the house, stalking the turkey’s every move and with dad back on facetime, we cleaned the bird, and tied it. When I say we I mean Stefano. I don’t cook meat well at home. I kind of understand where vegetarians are coming from. We stuffed 250g of butter in this turkey, all her oiled up with some herbs and spices we threw her in the oven, ready to move onto the other dishes.
Luckily, I had friends coming early to help. My Sicilian friend Ale, Argentinian friend Josefina, and Jordanian friend Malik came to help. Cutting potatoes, onions, garlic, celery, peppers, brussel sprouts, green beans, etc etc. I am a master delegator so I spent most of my time twirling around giving people tasks. The plan was to make everything vegan except for the turkey. From the stuffing to the butter to each dish of vegetables – everything was vegan and actually delicious. Seriously, I made up the vegan stuffing recipe and it was bomb so comment below if you want it.
By 6pm the bird was beautifully brown and ready to be cut. Initially I thought I’d have a small dinner for my roommates and some close friends. But as an extrovert I get drunk and start inviting everyone. By thanksgiving I had 20 people invited. But as an event planner I knew the 20% drop off would save me so we ended up with a perfect 15. Everyone helped carry out the dishes outside to the table under our outdoor pergola in our lovely backyard.
Unfortunately, we had lost the chance to facetime my dad for the cutting of the turkey since it was 2am on the east coast. He had sent me a variety of videos to help us out. I think he went to bed a bit stressed that he was leaving us and honestly I was not inspiring much hope. I played the video from Buzzfeed on how to cut a turkey for Stefano as he stood there with a knife poking around. As it is really just a large chicken “we” (read Stefano and Ale) figured it out in the end. The wishbone was broken in the bird but since Stefano had done all the work it was only fitting he got the wish.
Finally, we walked out with the turkey around 7pm to a table overloaded with food and friends as it started to rain. Cuddled under the pergola around this 6ft table covered with every east coaster’s thanksgiving traditional items, we poured the wine. A speech was demanded and then likely regretted and I stood up happy to oblige.
I looked around the table of this international family I put together over this crazy year and smiled. We hailed from 10 countries including, America (obvi), England, Argentina, France, Australia, India, Italy, Jordan, Ireland, and Brazil. I explained that thanksgiving is supposed to be about appreciating what you have in life and sharing that appreciation with others.
2020 was a full stop. Everyone’s plans, lives, careers, families, finances, and health were affected. Personally I feel like my 2020 was a jack pot all things considered.
I am thankful I am in a country that supported paying citizens to stay home, prioritized protecting people over the economy, and invested in those businesses when we could reopen in July after a pretty casual quarantine.
I am thankful that my company kept me on contract and then extended that contract throughout the year even though as an immigrant I didn’t qualify for any salary coverage assistance from the government. Not having to worry if I was going to be able to pay rent when alone, on the other side of the world, during a pandemic, is more of a mental saving grace than I can even explain.
I am thankful to my friends in Sydney who kept me sane and smiling and those who made my heart flutter and race.
I am thankful to the Australian landscape for keeping me healthy physically and motivating me to run my first 14k ever.
All things considered, I am very thankful.