24 November, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from Germany!

Image source: pixabay. Aren't the little turkeys adorable?

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and once again the holiday passed without fanfare in Germany. As a primarily North American holiday it is only known here through the lens of American entertainment media and is not celebrated. Over the past few years I've struggled to figure out how to celebrate Thanksgiving in Germany. Do I go all out and cook all the Thanksgiving dishes that I know from home (minus the turkey, of course)? Do I go low-key and cook a few favorites? Or do I ignore the holiday completely and just do and eat whatever I normally would?

In past years I've tended toward the last option. I usually just go along with whatever happens to be on the cards for that day, maybe make some mashed potatoes and think about all the Thanksgiving feasts I'm missing. It's a bit surreal to have a holiday that was so important for the first 23 years of my life be just another day here, and it takes the holiday spirit out of things. And since I don't have any American friends here, the opportunity to get together for "Friendsgiving" is limited.

This year, despite the lack of fellow Americans and it being just another workday for my dear husband, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make some of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes. (It helps that my internship is over and I have time on my hands.) I started cooking and baking early in the day, and by the time Maxim got home from work I had made a vegan pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, cinnamon-maple sweet potatoes, rice stuffing, and mushroom gravy (links go to the recipes I used). As well as being my first year making a Thanksgiving dinner in Germany, it is also my first year making a vegan and gluten-free holiday meal, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. I decided against seeking out a vegan turkey alternative, since the side dishes and gravy were always my favorites on Thanksgiving anyway. It was a very veggie-focused meal, which is exactly what I like!

While preparing the meal, however, I ran into several roadblocks when it came to finding ingredients. As I've mentioned in a previous post, one of the foods that is impossible to find in Germany is canned pumpkin. That means every time I want to make something that uses it, including pumpkin pie, I have to buy a whole pumpkin, roast it in the oven, scoop out the insides and puree it myself. I'm not complaining, since I enjoy taking whole foods and making something new and delicious out of them, but it definitely requires time and planning that I wouldn't have to invest if I were making pumpkin pie in the US.

Another roadblock involves spices: the two most important Thanksgiving spice mixes, pumpkin pie spice and poultry seasoning, are unknown and unavailable here. Replacing pumpkin pie spice was not a problem, since I found a pie recipe that listed the amount of each spice rather than calling for pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice, but the poultry seasoning presented more of an issue. I assumed I would have all of the necessary herbs and spices at home, so I didn't look up a recipe until after I had gone grocery shopping. I found a recipe easily enough, but it turns out that the primary spice in poultry seasoning, sage, was missing from my spice collection. I decided to simply leave it out and up the amount of the other spices, and despite my trepidation it ended up tasting delicious anyway.

As well as the meal turning out delicious, I was able to recreate a bit of the Thanksgiving atmosphere with the magic of YouTube: At Lindsay's suggestion I found a livestream of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and watched/listened as I got the meal together. I also caught the tail-end of the dog show (no pun intended), which is always a joy to watch.

And despite the relative lack of holiday spirit, there are benefits to Thanksgiving not being a holiday here: I was able to go grocery shopping the day of for the potatoes and mushrooms I forgot to get before. I'm sure that's not a problem anymore in the US either, since so many stores are open on holidays anyway, but if I had had to deal with a German holiday yesterday I would have been in a lurch when it came to groceries.

All in all, I think this is the Thanksgiving I've enjoyed the most since I've been in Germany. I enjoyed the process of cooking my favorite traditional Thanksgiving foods (with a vegan spin), I enjoyed eating them, I enjoyed the obligatory TV watching, and I'm still enjoying eating the leftovers. I hope I am able to do something similar in the coming years and maybe even invite some people over to share the feast. Thanks for reading my holiday ramblings, and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers!

No comments :

Post a Comment