NORMALLY, OUR THANKSGIVING would be spent with friends and family back in the USA. But without a recognized holiday here and with the distinct lack of family, you sometimes have to improvise.
Saturday night the John Deere expat community gathered in a restraunt not too far from here where 7 or 8 families dined together on a traditional Thanksgiving menu: Turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and some pumpkin soup (who doesn’t have pumpkin soup on their Thanksgiving table?…it was excellent, BTW). Unfortunately Melissa stayed home with the young ones who were sick, while Anna, Chase and I went to enjoy some good old English conversation (Topics included such things as, “What? Your kids didn’t have to get the Meningitis vaccination?!?) I give credit to the organizers, it was an excellent meal and atmposphere and a nice getaway.
ON SUNDAY, THANKSGIVING HIT ANOTHER GEAR.
All week long Melissa and a couple of other American expat wives in Neustadt had been scheming on a Thanksgiving dinner for our families. And it was a rousing success – It had all the marks of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie…all of it just like if you were having Thanksgiving dinner a Grandma’s house. With a few additions.
THE PRE-DINNER APPETIZER FOR THE MEN WAS A CUBAN CIGAR. I had forgotten entirely that the lifelong ban I’ve lived under for Cuban cigars doesn’t necessarily extend to Europe, so I was quick to jump at the offer. Maybe a little too quick, because it was only when I was sitting on the patio smoking a cigar with the fellas and noticed the kids gawking at me shockeyed through the windows did I recall that they probably have never seen Melissa or I smoke a cigar before, and that I might have just erased 10 years of no-smoking education from their minds (“Ah, but I don’t inhale, kids.”).
After the dinner and desert were down and the conversation was still on high, Brian then broke what is sure to become another new Thanksgiving tradition – some Polish Buffalo Vodka. I don’t know how Polish Buffalo Vodka is different than any other kind of Vodka (it’s all grocery store Smirnoff to me), but I am pretty sure that when I’m offered a Vodka from the place where Vodka was just about born it would be downright uncouth to turn it down. It was not a bad chaser for Turkey and pumpkin pie.
WE MIGHT HAVE STOPPED THERE, BUT FRANZ WAS NOT TO BE OUTDONE. Franz and Sabine were two of the local neighbors from nearby that accepted an invitation to join us for the American holiday. Franz is probably in his fifties with more genuinely interesting stories than days I have on the earth, so when the vodka came out he started to to tell about his friend who does a little moon-shining. Soon, Franz disappeared from the house only to return a few minutes later with a clear unlabeled bottle of pear liquor made in someone’s backyard. That was genuinely pretty good too, but I think by that time you probably could have served us all a flute of antifreeze and we would have been sitting around commenting about how smooth it went down.
So our traditional Thanksgiving dinner from the last years this year was replaced by a dinner with our family from Iowa, one from Missouri, a Ohio family with Spanish roots, and German family in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It had a traditional American fixings, bookended by Guban cigars, Polish Vodka and German moonshine.
And that was not a bad way to spend it at all.