The great turkey experiment of 2013

When it comes to Thanksgiving, I’m a dreamer in theory and a traditionalist in practice. I spend the first weeks of November imagining all kinds of possibilities, and this year at least, filing them on Pinterest.

But when it comes down to the day-of, I stick to what I know which is what we all know from way back when – the cornbread, the sweet potato pie, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and the big ole Norman Rockwell turkey.

Spoiler: it all came out awesome.

That’s where things went differently this year: the turkey. After doing this the expat way for years here in Israel, we discussed trying something new. Our Thanksgiving dinner invitation list has shrunk since the kids, and we end up wasting much of the turkey – namely, dark meat.

This year, we ordered the whole turkey – which is expensive in Israel, no ‘free turkey with your purchase!’ – but hacked off the thighs, legs and wings before preparing. They went straight into the freezer to be used for soups (mmm… winter’s coming).

I was a little worried it would affect flavor, but with the white meat still on the frame, I was promised by the internet it would be ok. While I was at it, I figured, my disfigured turkey may as well cook flipped – breast down – which I never normally do for the classic turkey effect.

Result? Totally. Worth it. No basting required – though I did once out of habit. It cooked for about 3 hours down in its own bed of olive oil, water, celery, onion, garlic and spice juice, and then another 40 minutes breast-up to brown it.

If you can get past looks, you can make yourself a kick-ass white meat turkey and later on, some kick-ass turkey-based soup.

By the way, I’m taking a percentage of credit for, after 4 or 5 years, finally influencing the acceptance that people in my neighborhood order whole turkeys from our supermarket enough to require a sign:

Thanksgiving in Israel, ceasefire edition.

I just OWNED my Americanness at our local Mister Zol.

Usually my Australian huz deals with the turkey ordering and picking up. Blasphemy, I know. I’ve been passive about it because I always felt silly ordering a whole turkey at a chicken counter in Israel.

So when I approached the counter, my language evolved from ‘um, so, we ordered a turkey?’ to, ‘oh yes, it’s simple, I just put it in the oven, after I add a bunch of spices and herbs, olive oil…’

The boy behind the butcher counter dumped the bird between us and gave me a startled look – ma’am, this? – and I smiled and responded, “קטע של אמרקאיים”

As the poor guy comically stuffed the turkey into several plastic bags, a mother approached with her two kids. “What is that?”

“It’s a whole turkey.”

“Oh! I thought it was a giant chicken!”

“Well, it is a giant chicken…”

“Kids, look – that’s a whole turkey!” Then she remembered – “Oh, it’s that holiday – Thanksgiving?”

Not to worry American Anglos of Israel! We’ll make headway yet!

As I strapped my turkey into the passenger seat (yes), I started laughing out loud.

Whole turkeys. Native holidays. Foreign holidays. Rockets. Sirens. Ceasefires. More sirens. Egyptian presidents. Hillary Clinton’s hair.

Needless to say, there’s a lot going through my mind when it comes to being thankful this weekend. Not to get political – no one here is happy politically – but putting aside what should or shouldn’t or can or couldn’t be done about our epic neighborhood problem, Israelis across the country are breathing a tiny, silent sigh of relief: Our brothers, husbands, sons, fathers, bosses, and classmates are not going to war this weekend.

I’m grateful for laughter that keeps us sane, keeps us glowing, creeps up even while the sirens are going off, even if those sirens go off every 10 minutes, even if that siren is my son, who does a perfect siren imitation after only hearing it twice.

I’m grateful for tears that begin to slide down cheeks, to cleanse us as some of the pain begins to fade in the coming weeks… if we really have weeks to spare.

I’m grateful that, hopefully, my brother is granted the weekend off-base, after an impossibly long week of serving his country within ridiculously unspeakably close range of enemy rockets and mortar.

I’m grateful that there are places in this world where children only know peace.

And I’m hopeful those children also, and always, know gratitude.

 

If you miss what you’re leaf-ing behind…

I discovered a place where you can stroll on Erev Thanksgiving and feel for a second like you’re home in North America: Gan HAPa’amon in Jerusalem.

The leaves are colorful, noisy, and abundant. You can crunch them, kick them, and show your kid a lil taste of motherland in just a few steps. While learning colors.

Thankfulness.

It was technically Koala’s second Thanksgiving, but it was the first he could actually eat at. And eat he did. The toddler with three nationalities has plenty of room in his little belly for turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes and pie. But then, who doesn’t?

And who doesn’t love drumming the 8-kilo turkey before mama starts the marinating?

Excuse the moment, but I also wanted to list a few things I’m thankful for this year. I’ll try not to lay on too much cheese, since we all just had a healthy helping of poultry. But…

It’s been on my mind a lot lately – how much I have. Hopefully I’ll never fully know or understand how much I should be grateful; all I can do is hope the good in my life is as plentiful as I feel it is now.

I’m in love with my son. It’s just such a complete, wholesome, out of bounds kind of love that I can’t fully express it. All I know is that I can never hold him enough, see him enough, feel him around me enough. He’s perfect for me, and I imagine that my husband and I are perfect for him. Like we are puzzle pieces jigsawed from the same board, and now we’ve all found each other.

And then there are the pieces still missing; the little one, the koala-to-be. I feel so lucky to be doing this all over again. Though there are times when I really wonder if I can love two kids like this. Is it possible? Do I have enough space? I honestly don’t know, but somehow humanity has birthed multiple children per family, so I’m about to find out how far the reaches of motherhood truly go.

In general, life is good. I try to appreciate as much as I can, and I know that being human, I’ll never truly get to point B in that respect. But I think about it often – what I have, and what I think I don’t have. And what I have is more than I ever could have wished for to keep me going in my life.

Thankful.

Yes. I celebrate Thanksgiving. Every year.

There are some modifications, of course. I serve the big holiday dinner on Friday night, since this Thursday is a weekday in Israel, like any other. I don’t have every exact ingredient; fresh cranberries are near impossible to come by out here.

But I do manage to order a whole turkey from my favorite meat counter in Jerusalem. And I don’t have to look very far (not past Emek Refaim street, anyway) to find some good ole Shop Rite brand canned cranberry sauce.

And this year, like any other, I will participate in the American holiday – no matter how sketchy its roots, no matter how exaggerated its celebration. And while no one ever takes seriously the ‘going around the table and saying what you’re thankful for’ – why, this year I will.

It’s been an intense year since last Thanksgiving, when I was just visibly pregnant and we all joked about everyone at the table wearing maternity pants after dinner. I have a lot to be thankful for, and luckily for me, it’s all corny and wonderful.

My little start up family is awesome. I’m thankful for my not-so-start up job. A good trustworthy landlord is always something to be thankful for – and on top of that, a good trustworthy apartment. Living in Israel has its many moments, but I like living here, I like that this is my culture right now, and I like that I’ve been mindful enough to make good decisions and end up where I am today.

And, most of all, I’m thankful that even thousands of miles across the world, I can pre-order a whole turkey one time a year and cook that sucker well.

Israeli turkeyliciousness.

Happy Thanksgiving 2007.

As I’ve done for my last two Israeli Thanksgivings, I went to work today and am planning a big Thanksgiving Friday night Shabbat dinner of juicy Americanness.

It wasn’t until I had eaten my first slice that I realized the humor in me choosing Mama Oaf turkey slices for lunch today… Actually, they are really, really awesome and I thought on this day of thanks I’d share that fact with everyone else.

Your welcome.

turkey

By the way, Israelis consume more turkey per capita than any other country in the world. (Thanks Alan!)