Sunday, December 5, 2010

Turkey in Turkey

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Istanbul!

Last week, Katy and I kicked off the holiday season right with a (surprisingly) sensational Thanksgiving dinner party. This year was my third time missing Thanksgiving, and while it’s not as much fun without the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football, family, and traditional cranberry sauce (still in the shape of the can, of course) there is an element of fun that comes from celebrating traditional holidays abroad. Without the comforts of a home kitchen, the ability to readily read labels or navigate the grocery store, and without the crafty skills and holiday prowess of Martha Stewart, it is difficult and amusing to get everything together.

On Thanksgiving Day, obviously, we had to work. Katy and I consoled ourselves that evening by going out to a nice dinner with a lot of her American co-workers. After some beer samplers and delicious food in a quaint neighborhood of Istanbul with a nice view of the Bosphorus and the bridge, we moseyed over to Cevahir - the largest mall in Europe – to do some Christmas shopping. This will be the first Christmas either of us has missed at home, and we decided if we couldn’t go home this year, we would make it the hap-hap-happiest Christmas ever. We were shocked to be able to find such a jackpot of Christmas d├ęcor in a basement home goods store, and after wading through lots of ridiculous excuses for holiday decorations (think cloth Dora-the-Explorer lookalike treetoppers and stockings only sold in bad gem tones), we finally came away with a poinsetta, some wreaths, a medium-size Charlie Brown tree, ornaments, and several strands of flashing lights (because they actually don’t sell Christmas lights that don’t blink. Apparently.)

Our new front door decoration.

Thanksgiving, however, would not be complete without a huge feast and a turkey. On Sunday, we invited many of our friends over for a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner. Most of our friends aren’t American so Katy and I decided to provide a few of the staples then see whatever else turned up on the buffet in the potluck style dinner.

Our acquisition of a perfectly cooked Thanksgiving turkey overcame many obstacles. First, finding a whole turkey was quite difficult. Katy requested the man at the grocery store order us one, but when I went to confirm the order – “Turkey. I want. Please. Turkey. One turkey. Please. I want. Sunday. I want. Thank you.” the butcher informed me that the turkey only came in pieces and that we would not be able to carve our bird like a proper American should do. As I struggled to converse with the butcher, a man walked by and said, “Celebrating Thanksgiving?” Thank you, God. As it would turn out, he was a Turkish man with an American wife, American citizenship, and, most importantly, fluent English. He decided to help me order a bird. We left the grocery store where he called the “chicken store” in our neighborhood and instructed them to have a bird ready for us the following day. He and his wife even accompanied me to pick up the turkey. I think this might have been one of the nicest and most helpful things anyone has ever done for me.

Setback number two happened when Katy and I placed the bird in our “large” toaster oven that night. Unfortunately, we realized that the bird was just not going to fit.


Luckily, some hardwork on Katy’s part minus the bird’s large legs enabled the turkey to get crammed into the toaster oven Sunday morning for a day long toaster oven miracle.

Sunday night went very well, and we had about fifteen people over for an amazing meal. We even managed to cram everyone at the same table. It was a very Happy Thanksgiving despite the lack of America.

Katy and I are currently getting ready to have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas ever. It’s been pretty non Christmasy here – the weather has been hovering at about 70 degrees for the last few weeks, and it is a Muslim country of course. However, we have our apartment festively decorated, Christmas music constantly playing, and we are planning a Christmas Eve party, a Christmas movie watching party, and a cookie making day.

Our festive living room!

The tree!

My flashing bedroom Christmas lights...

I hope all of you are having a fabulous holiday season.

Merry Christmas,

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