Thursday, November 19, 2009

Misfit Thanksgiving

It’s 5:30 in the morning in South Carolina and I have serious Time Zone Confusion.  I’m wide awake and ready for lunch and the rest of this country is still sleeping.  We came home for Thanksgiving.  We decided we would rather be home for Thanksgiving than Christmas.  Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that you don’t know you are going to miss until you move somewhere where it is not celebrated.  Who knew it was possible to wax nostalgic over a tin can of jellied cranberry sauce?  Anyway, the logistics of preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Switzerland were so mind-bogglingly insurmountable, it was easier and less expensive just to fly 8,000 miles and cook it there. 

Let’s begin with my teeny Euro oven.

It is the size of an Easy-Bake.  Remember those?  You cooked mini cakes and pies with the heat from a little light bulb?  My Swiss oven has two little racks that fit a 9” x 13” baking pan each.  In order to roast a turkey, bake the stuffing, make the pies, brown the rolls, etc., I would have had to begin cooking Thanksgiving dinner in, like, August.  This is assuming that I could even find the raw ingredients.  For a solid month, every other question on the Swiss website has been from American ex-pats trying to procure the following:

A turkey.  Answer—Must be ordered from a  butcher well ahead of time.  Cost approximately 7 dollars per pound.  Not unheard of to pay 170 dollars for a large bird which will, of course, be Swiss and not frozen.
Brown Sugar.  Answer—Doesn’t exist.  Make your own using white sugar and molasses or special order online at astronomical prices.
Cream of Tartar.  Ditto.
Vanilla Flavoring.  Ditto.
Self-Rising Flour.  Ditto.
Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce.  Answer—Available at the American Market in Geneva.  Cost--$7.30 per can.
Don’t even get me started on Pepperidge Farm Bread Cubes.

Do you see why we have come home?  By the time I got my act together enough to order everything online, it would be Valentine’s Day.  One poor guy on that website was looking for Kahlua to make White Russians for his guests.  He had ex-pats all over Switzerland checking every grocery store and liquor store in the land.  The only place anybody could find Kahlua was in the Duty Free Shop at the Geneva airport.  The problem was that the shop was located inside the security check.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I would change my cocktail choice before I purchased a plane ticket just so I could buy a durned bottle of Kahlua. 

Besides, if we didn’t come home, Domestic Son, Charming Daughter and Small Son would be left to fend for themselves.  I have visions of Small Son eating Ramen Noodles or Kraft Mac & Cheese looking forlornly out over an emptied-out college campus.  Since we have no extended family in South Carolina, every year we invite all of our friends and neighbors who also would be eating by themselves to our house for Misfit Thanksgiving Dinner.  It has become a tradition, Misfit Thanksgiving.  I never know who or how many are coming, so I just set up tables for about 20 and we play it by ear.  We eat, we drink, we play cards, we drink, we dance stupidly to the soundtrack from the Big Chill and then we uh, drink.

One year, Domestic Son, back when he was still Juvenile Delinquent Son, introduced a number of the ladies to Jaegerbombs.  One of the ladies subsequently drove her car into a neighbor’s backyard swimming pool which involved various First Responders.  Domestic Son is no longer allowed to mix the drinks at Misfit Thanksgiving.

One year, we set the house on fire.  The ladies were all in the butler’s pantry dancing and singing along with Charming Daughter’s karaoke machine.  The men were consuming large quantities of brown liquor and watching football in the den.  No one was left in the dining room except one poor chap who had yet to realize that dinner was long over.  Right after “I Will Always Love You” finished and just before commencing with a stunning rendition of “Leavin’ on a Jet Plant”, I heard a little voice coming from the dining room.

“Hey, your mirror’s on fire.”  And then, a little louder, “I said, HEY!  Your MIRROR is on FIRE.”

Sure enough, the candles on the mantle had set the wooden frame of the mirror hanging over the fireplace ablaze.  Well, let me be the first to tell you that throwing a vodka cranberry on an open flame is not really effective.  We eventually put out the fire without the aid of any First Responders.  I was later able to salvage the mirror by scraping off most of the charring and painting the gold frame black.  It’s hanging in the bathroom now and every year on Thanksgiving we have to share that story with the newbies and take them into the powder room to see “The Mirror That Caught On Fire in 2003”.

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