Thanksgiving in Taiwan

The morning of Thanksgiving was full of high expectations, and when I looked at the to-do list that I had made the night before, I wondered what possessed me to think I could get everything done before work in the afternoon. I would’ve had to wake up at 5am to accomplish it all. Come 9:30am, I was still drooling on my pillow, my mascara sludging its way down my cheeks. My boss called me at 10am to tell me about a scooter she found that I might want to buy, and she’s the only reason I woke up early enough to get the majority of my tasks done.

When I realized the time and just how much needed to happen before 4pm, I had a moment of panic. I called my mom over Skype to ask for her recipes, jumped in the shower, raced to a boutique grocery store that would have the few remaining items I needed, unloaded the items on the counter once I returned home, then cursed my fridge when I figured out I’d forgotten something. The fridge smirked back at me, showcasing all the food I needed to prepare. I promptly responded by shutting the door, turning to begin cooking, and nearly colliding with an open drawer.

I was soon hard at work. I sliced four apples, placed them on a cooking sheet, then mixed the topping in a separate bowl; we don’t have an electric mixer or beaters, so I hand mixed everything. I’m being literal. Squeezing the butter and cinnamon-sugar between my fingers, I finished combining the ingredients and began dropping chunks of the mixture on top of the apples.

As I put the tray into our small convection oven, I momentarily froze and cocked my head to the side, considering the consequences of my potential failure. Over ten people would be eating this food. It’s my first Thanksgiving dinner in Taiwan, and our oven is the size of a large microwave. Our cooking utensils would confuse most professional chefs. In fact, our can opener has consisted of me ramming a large knife into the lid of the can repeatedly until I could bend the lid back to create a quarter-sized hole.

Snapping out of my thoughts, I tilted the pan into oven. Since the pan was longer than the oven, I had to put it in at an angle so it would fit. Apple crisp: check.

Voila: apple crisp

Mashed potatoes were next on the list, so I grabbed a large pot and filled it with water. As the water came to a boil I started work on my nemesis: green bean casserole. I don’t like it, I don’t eat it, I’ve never cooked it, so it was going to be the most difficult dish for me to make because I had no idea what it should taste like. Mom’s recipe stared at me from the counter, and I read it multiple times before pulling the ingredients out and assembling them around the recipe. Washed and cut the beans, set them aside, moved on to the bulk of the casserole. I took ingredients from drawers and cabinets and the fridge, substituting some for others and neglecting some entirely. Turning to check on the boiling water, I smacked my forehead into an open cupboard door. Luckily, I’ve built up a resistance to this cabinet door because I hit my head on it nearly every time I cook.

Dunked several small potatoes in the boiling water. Took the apple crisp out of the oven. Closed a drawer so I wouldn’t bruise my leg. Hand mixed the casserole one last time before sliding it into the oven with a smirk and a quick, “At least I’m not eating it.”

The green bean casserole undercooking in the oven

Over the course of the next couple of hours I finished the apple crisp, the green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and prepared the sweet potatoes. Everything took much longer than expected in the oven, but at 4pm I plopped down on the couch for a fifteen minute break before work. Fast forward five hours when I returned from tutoring to a full apartment of friends eating a Thanksgiving feast. I very quickly filled a plate with turkey from a local hotel and some sides. Everyone was enjoying the company and the food, and leftovers were scarce.

Even the green bean casserole was a success, even though I later found out it was completely undercooked. It was essentially raw green beans loafing around in a mushroom/cream of mushroom soup bed. Doesn’t matter to me: I didn’t eat it.

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