Friday, November 25, 2016

Thankful: Part One

This year Thanksgiving was a little challenging. Maybe it was because I was short on time and saved the grocery shopping and start of the food prep until Wednesday afternoon. Or maybe I was feeling extra pressure because we had friends visiting from America and I wanted to be sure they didn't miss out on a proper holiday meal. Or maybe it was because of a few curve balls that South Africa threw at me along the way.

I had a good reason for getting a late start on my shopping. It was because of Starbucks. Within the past six months a new mall, called the Mall of Africa, opened nearby and it contains many nice stores and a Starbucks. I didn't visit the mall or Starbucks for the first few months they were open because I heard there were huge lines and massive traffic and I wanted to wait for the excitement to die down. But a friend had organized a get together at the mall for Wednesday morning and I wanted to go.

I had already purchased my turkey last week. I didn't want to miss out because turkeys are not always easy to find. I got the largest turkey in the store which equated to just over seven pounds.  Fortunately, Mr. Deep's holiday party was scheduled for Thanksgiving evening and he was not going to be home for dinner. Otherwise we likely would not have had enough turkey.  Meanwhile, I noticed during my Wednesday shopping trip that there were much larger turkeys now in stock but what was done was done and I have a small oven anyway. The turkey was so small that none of the websites I looked at provided cooking time for a turkey under ten pounds. Finally I found a Canadian website with a turkey cooking calculator and determined that stuffed my little turkey would take about 2 hours and 45 minutes to cook. Since we were going to eat our dinner in the evening, I would need to put my turkey into the oven at 5:30 p.m.

I had the turkey but I needed to get everything else. And that's where I ran into a few snafus during my Wednesday shop.  First, I couldn't find celery. I think all of the other Americans living in the area got a jump on me and snatched up all the celery. No big deal, I was able to find it at another store but instead of being able to buy a big bunch I had to buy the pre cut crudites type. Not a train smash as the South Africans would say.

I also planned to make green bean casserole. I am not really a fan but my friend mentioned it and I know some people feel Thanksgiving is not complete without it. So I bought a non Campbells brand of cream of mushroom soup thinking cream of mushroom is cream of mushroom and then quickly learned that this is not the case. This cream of mushroom was actually like soup you would get if you ordered cream of mushroom in a restaurant. It wasn't a gelatinous white substance that maintains the shape of the can after you pour it out. Instead it was brown and kind of watery which is honestly how cream of mushroom soup should be. At first, my casserole was kind of runny but luckily I cooked it a day in advance and it seemed to firm up overnight. 

Not surprisingly I also couldn't find the french fried onion rings that go on the top of the casserole but I was able to find a substitute...funyuns. If you don't know what funyuns are then you didn't eat lunch in an American school cafeteria in the 80's. They have the consistency of styrofoam and are sprinkled with an onion flavored seasoning. I bought them because I had no choice. AND I know I am not the only American in Joburg that went this route because I got the last bag of South Africa's version of funyuns that they had in the store! Side note as I write this I am munching down what remains of the bag of funyuns. Clearly I have lost all self control. 

The third challenge was the pie. In South Africa you can't find canned pumpkin or a pre-made pie shell and you definitely can't find a pre-made pumpkin pie. Because I'm too scared to make my own pie crust I decided to make a graham cracker crust instead. 

Just to go off on a tangent for a moment the reason I am too scared to make my own pie crust is because of my mom. I know every adult likes to blame his or her mom for everything but I rarely blame my mom for my problems. If you've been reading my blog you'll notice that I haven't blamed my mom in any of my posts over the course of almost two years and 140 posts, but my fear of making pie crust is definitely my mom's fault because she always told me it was very difficult and I never once saw her make her own. I think I had a good plan with the graham cracker crust but then I couldn't find graham crackers so instead I purchased ginger snaps and made a ginger snap crust. 

For the pumpkin filling I bought cut chunks of pumpkin and roasted them with coconut oil and sugar in the oven. I then immersion blended them into a puree. All was going well until I realized the pumpkin volume had reduced a lot during cooking and I needed another cup of pumpkin. I could have gone back to the store and repeated the whole process but instead I threw two bananas into the mix and blended it all together. I then proceeded as if I was using canned pumpkin adding eggs, evaporated milk, etc. By this time you can imagine that I was feeling pretty proud of myself for my extraordinary ability to find creative solutions to problems. 

The crust was looking good, the raw filling was looking and tasting good (I'm not scared to consume raw egg.) So I put the pie in the oven and got to work on another project, completing the South African census. Yes, somehow the South African version of the census tracked us down and I agreed to fill out a huge booklet of information. No one seemed to care that we aren't South African and there were no questions in the booklet about nationality. The census form contained a lot of interesting questions and was a strong reminder about the difficulties faced by many people in this country. Maybe I'll write a post about it in the future.

One of the census questions was "has any member of the household suffered from diarrhea in the past three months?" Because I wanted to make sure that I answered all questions as accurately as possible, I went upstairs to ask Mr. Deep if he had diarrhea at any time during the past three months. While we were discussing his answer, I remembered the pie and ran down the stairs to get it out of the oven. It was a little well done but nothing too severe that couldn't be camouflaged with whipped cream.   

Despite my late start and other issues everything was on track. Thanksgiving day I made the stuffing, the salad, and cut and peeled the potatoes. Amazingly I had time to spare and I sat down to relax and work on my blog until it was time to put the turkey into the oven. And then, at 3:30, the electricity went out. 

To be continued....Read Part 2 now. 

1 comment:

  1. LOL! a typical SA story so far... Moving on to the next. It's like binge watching!


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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.