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Talking Turkey


I ate Thanksgiving turkey twice on Thursday — first when I usually eat breakfast, then for dinner.


The early meal was for a television story on TVR Moldova explaining our holiday to viewers across Moldova and Romania. Cătălina Russu, a television reporter who lives in Ialoveni, invited me to join her as she broadcast a live story from Jeraffe, one of Chișinău’s top restaurants.

As her story began, as shown in the first clip above (also on YouTube), we discussed Thanksgiving foods and traditions while the chef, Nestor Perez, prepared a turkey roll stuffed with herbs and butter. I had not previously met Nestor, who lived in America for many years after leaving Venezuela and now lives here with his Moldovan wife. Thanksgiving Menu 2017After our first segment, we all took a break and then moved from the kitchen to a table to eat the cooked turkey with pistachio-infused rice.

I shared my own Thanksgiving menu (seen here) with Cătălina and showed her how American kids use their fingers to make turkey pictures for placemats. The highlight, though, was Nestor’s food, shown in the second clip above (also on YouTube). It was fabulous despite the early hour. You can see for yourself in Cătălina’s story, which is easy to follow even if you don’t speak Romanian.

As soon as her second segment was finished, the cameraman and another reporter pulled up chairs so they could try the turkey, too. By 9:30 a.m., I was done and heading back to Ialoveni by bus to prepare the next round. (Around the same time, my Peace Corps Volunteer colleague Anne was discussing Thanksgiving on another television program here.)

I bought the turkey for our meal from a local farmer, who delivered it on Wednesday to our host mother. I found sweet potatoes at a downtown store. IMG_9393Champa discovered dried cranberries in the market, which I cooked with juice and brandy to make a sauce. One of our local stores now sells Parmesan cheese, so I bought some and combined it with mashed potatoes in a casserole. For my peach pie, I used slices of local peaches we’d bought last summer and froze. We made cookies with chocolate chips and brown sugar we bought when we were home last summer. We bought the Armenian and Georgian wine during our recent trip there.

We were prepared, in other words, and had even finished the desserts and some other items earlier in the week. Our host family and a Peace Corps Volunteer from Minnesota, Cindy, arrived in the evening. We then ate too much, laughed too much and went around the table to each say why we give thanks.


It was such a lovely day. The only thing that could have been better would have been sharing Thanksgiving with our family back home, who we missed even more than usual throughout the day. We’re thankful we will be back together with them next year — and thankful to have found another wonderful family while we’re here.

Thanksgiving in Moldova

img_1549If 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.

img_1533One 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.

img_1562Our 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.

img_1522One 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: