If you bought your Thanksgiving turkey at a local supermarket this year, you probably didn’t get the entire bird.
I did — head, feet and other body parts included.
In fact, I ordered two turkeys from a local farmer here in Moldova for a Thanksgiving feast we just finished eating with seven other Peace Corps volunteers and our host family. I cooked them all a traditional meal of turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and cranberry sauce — well, actually, a sauce I devised from dried cranberries, apricot jam and pomegranate juice, since you can’t buy fresh or canned cranberries here. Champa made a delicious beet salad for the first course.
For dessert, I baked an apple pie and improvised a pound cake with a package of evaporated milk that I found in the market, which I served with cherries harvested this summer from the family tree. I was also lucky to find a can of whipped cream.
One of our Peace Corps guests, who once managed a restaurant, made a sweet potato pie and also brought a jar of cranberry sauce sent from home by her daughter. Our main beverage was our family’s house wine, which they call Vin Champa, or Champa Wine, since she helped them make it.
All in all, it tasted like a real Thanksgiving feast, brightening the mood of all of us who were thinking of our families and friends back in America. For Champa and me, Thanksgiving is our biggest holiday of the year, the one time when both of our sons and their families come to our North Carolina home with their families, an occasion we treasure. In this blog, I’ve avoided writing about my family, wanting to keep that part of our lives private, but there’s no way to describe our Thanksgiving here today without saying how much we miss them.
Our Peace Corps friends missed their families, too. Peace Corps encouraged all of us to find ways to get together, so nobody would be alone unless they wanted to be. Champa and I were among those able to host a dinner. Others went together to restaurants, even if it was to eat pizza. Others gathered in the capital city, Chisinau, to watch an American football game airing at a local barbecue restaurant opened by former volunteers.
One reason I wanted to host our dinner was because I remembered being invited to a Thanksgiving feast in Kathmandu when I served in Nepal four decades ago. I am still grateful for the turkey and other dishes served by Ashton and Bill Douglass, who was working then for USAID in Nepal. It took a long time, but today I was finally able to repay my debt to them, albeit indirectly.
Incidentally, we now have some leftover turkey, apple pie and other goodies. If you’re hungry and in the area, stop by and join us. I promise, we won’t serve you the turkey heads.
Here’s our menu: