Friday, November 23, 2012

A Taste of Thanksgiving Abroad

As an American living in Hyderabad, I’m always excited to celebrate Thanksgiving. In fact, despite having lived in several countries over the past ten or so years as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service, Thanksgiving is an American holiday that I have always celebrated with enthusiasm.

                                    Public Affairs Officer, Carla Benini, sharing her apple pie recipe

As many Indians may already know, the roots of Thanksgiving were planted in the earliest days of America’s existence.  Brave and hopeful new settlers seeking opportunities in the “new world” were greeted with a harsh New England winter soon after they landed. Only half of the original Mayflower settlers survived but those who did found themselves in an unlikely allegiance with local Native Americans, who taught the settlers about local farming techniques to ensure a good harvest. Sure enough, there was cause for celebration at the end of the planting season and the local British governor helped organize a feast in which Pilgrims (settlers) and Native Americans gave thanks and celebrated their bounty at the dinner table.

On November 22, while Americans may  not be thinking specifically about the Pilgrims or how cold that first winter in 1620 was, we do believe Thanksgiving is an opportunity to consider all for which we are thankful.  Some Americans choose to commemorate the day by volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank as a means of giving back and helping out those who are less fortunate. Others use it as a time to gather with family and reconnect with old friends.

Thanksgiving is synonymous with serving a belt-breaking amount of food. Turkeys are the main attraction, and are served with such dishes such as cranberry relish, stuffing and sweet potatoes. But no two stuffing recipes are exactly alike—most Americans cherish their family recipes that have been handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter over the generations. I recreated my mother’s apple pie last year and will do my best to come even remotely close on her pumpkin pie this year. With grandparents born in Europe, I am accustomed to an ethnic twist at our Thanksgiving dinner table. Pasta in some form was always served while my mother made sure she baked her Christmas, stolen, a little early, so we could all enjoy her Dutch treat.

One of the reasons why I cherish Thanksgiving when living abroad is the challenge of recreating a typical American Thanksgiving with locally procured food. In Brazil, I made a cranberry relish out of the locally grown jaboticaba. Last year I made my own sausage for a stuffing from pork I found in Secunderabad. This year we spiced up our turkey Indian-style by using local spices.

Carla Benini is the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General, Hyderabad.

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