The Thanksgiving Issue

As I write this post,
I’m polishing off the last few bites of a phenomenal Thanksgiving feast—let’s call it my fourth or fifth Thanksgiving this week. Am I embarrassed that I’ve eaten an entire pumpkin pie since last Thursday? Hell, no: pumpkin pie is the new breakfast of champions.

While the rest of the world may see Thanksgiving as gluttonous and macabre—a celebration of a fictional feast between Pilgrims and Indians that precedes the near destruction of American Indian civilization, accompanied by the mass slaughter of millions of turkeys—we expats in Kazakhstan see it as a challenge. You better believe we had a real Thanksgiving.

The menu may have been the same, but the food tasted better this year than ever. This is how we made it happen:

Purchased in pieces by the kilo—whole turkeys are hard to come by. We cooked up four breasts and three legs, and paid almost $75 for said turkey parts. We decided on three flavor varieties (cajun-spiced, butter-bacon-infused, and traditional brined), then spent two days pre-celebration in turkey-prep-mode.

Mashed potatoes
24 potatoes for 12 hungry people, all of them in need of a good scrub—the potatoes, that is.

Homemade, from scratch—crumbled bread, dried cranberries, onions, spices—and delicious.

Stovetop stuffing
Delivered via the diplomatic pouch approximately one week before our celebration. What’s Thanksgiving without Stovetop?

Collected in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s American commissary. These were the classic, can-shaped variety.

Broccoli & rice casserole
Because several of those dining with us were vegetarian, this dish was offered to supplement the meal.

Plentiful at Almaty’s Green Market—it’s root vegetable season!

Good lettuce is hard to come by, but this salad was a beauty—complete with crumbled feta.

String bean casserole (a.k.a. green bean casserole)
Two families contributed this American holiday classic—but not because the ingredients are easy to find. Green beans, now out of season, can be purchased at METRO or Ramstor (both large, local supermarkets)—for a pretty penny. French’s fried onions and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup both made their way to Kazakhstan via the pouch and in our friends’ HHE shipment (and just in time!).

Sweet potato casserole
I believe that sweet potato casserole is the cornerstone of Thanksgiving. Thanks to sliced, canned tubers (and the diplomatic pouch), these featured prominently at our event.

Corn bread
Your standard tasty muffin—but in muffin papers!

Pear bread with rosemary syrup
This was an experiment, gathered from the pages of Real Simple, and a wild success. So successful, in fact, that two of our guests nearly ruined their dinners on the stuff.

Pumpkin pie
Ours was made from a pumpkin purchased for our Halloween party: carved, cooked down, and heavily spiced. Cardamom makes for pumpkin pie perfection.

Apple tart & Apple crisp
Courtesy of Almaty’s eponym, the apple, we enjoyed two apple-based desserts.

Mulled wine
Last but not least, what winter holiday celebration is complete without something warm, spiced, and boozy?


The chef, hard at work. He is thankful for track suits and mustaches.

And now, a catalog of Thanksgiving Day plates:


The hostess.


The host.


The vegetarian.


The vegan.


The all-dark-meat.


The fireman.


The award for “most colorful.


And what’s Thanksgiving without a little Soviet ice cream?


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