Since the Americans volunteered to host November's residence hall dinner and party, we decided to prepare an authentic Thanksgiving meal for all of our deprived European friends.
Only, soon it became quite obvious that we hadn't thought the situation through.
There are nine Americans at the residence hall and not one of us knows how to cook or bake! I've previously seen Eileen eat a plate of grated carrots for dinner because she had nothing else, Cathy eat two baguettes and a hunk of cheese in lieu of cooking, Kristen eat soupy mashed potatoes, Claire feast on plates of fries, and Ariel congratulate herself for "cooking" a salad with both (bagged) lettuce and diced tomatoes. And well, I can't judge because everyone knows that my main staple is Frosted Flakes and frozen fish. It's a special occasion when I make myself some fried eggs and toast - check me out - Madame Gourmet!
Suffice it to say, we had a daunting task ahead of us and we were nervous. Ariel stepped up to the challenge and coordinated the shopping and the purchasing of the ingredients, as well as the finding of the recipes for the various dishes. We reminded ourselves that no one, save for us, had any idea what these foods were supposed to taste like anyways, so they wouldn't detect any imperfections... or so we hoped.
We set to work at 11am and did not stop until dinner was served at 9pm. I made the cranberry sauce and the cornbread, in addition to employing my peeling prowess for the apples and potatoes. I also volunteered to help Ariel oil and season THREE turkeys! What at adventure. She was much braver than I was; I whined and cringed the entire time I rubbed in the oil (ewww!) and distributed the pepper over its cold, pale flesh (yuuuck!). The instructions called for removing the neck and gizzards - whatever that means - and so I closed my eyes and reached in to pry them out. With a yelp and a shudder, I retrieved the goods, and sent a silent apology to the poor turkey for what felt like an invasion of privacy. Ariel (thankfully!) offered to take care of the other two, and did so with grace and courage, I might add. Still, I could hardly watch.
Eventually, after a hard day's labor and confusion over measurements (what is 3/4 teaspoon multiplied by 7 but taking into account the fact that we were using a tablespoon?!), we served 3 seasoned and browned turkeys, a vat of mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, vegetarian and regular stuffing, green beans, carrots, cornbread with honey and butter, yams, cider, 4 apple pies, 4 pumpkin pies and ice cream! phew!
It was a masterpiece feast. Not a morsel of food was left, and my cornbread, which my fellow patriots said tasted like pancakes, was perhaps the quickest dish to go. Booyah! And by the way, weren't pancakes delicious the last time I checked? Yes. Yes, they were.
Three American friends of ours at the residence hall, plus our honorary American (but so much cooler British) friend, also pitched in to save the day. Cheesy as it is, I was so proud of each one of us for working together and making the best of an intimidating situation. The food was cooked with love and tasted equally as fantastic as any T-day dinner I've had at home. The night really was the manifestation of the American Thanksgiving history: different cultures breaking bread together. Twas beautiful.
Throughout the night, everyone wrote what they were thankful for on the "Wall of Thanks", taking the extra time to trace their hands in the shape of a turkey and sign their names, too. I wrote how I was thankful for the residence hall, the friends I've made and constant fun they both have provided me, for the opportunities to experience new cultures and places, and for my healthy family.
To kick off the party, we played some good old country music and taught everyone how to do the electric slide to "Sweet Home Alabama". It proved to be an amusing challenge!
Though Thanksgiving at home can never be replaced, the residence hall dinner left me with the same feelings I enjoy with my family: warmth, happiness, satisfaction, peace and gratitude for the infinite blessings life bestows upon us.
Happy Thanksgiving! Bon appétit!
Paige Smith is currently a sophomore at California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo. She is studying in Paris for the Fall 2011 semester.
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