Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Traditional American Thanksgiving in Kiev

We want to experience a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, Anya said. And we will help!

But, of course! I had met Anya at English Club - a Let's Start Talking follow-up outreach of the church here - and we clicked immediately. I had been praying for a language teacher for myself and wanted a guide around Kiev. She offered to be both and refused any payment. So Anya wants a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner? 

You got it, girlfriend!

As the saying goes, all's well that ends well. And bottom line, we had such a nice evening.

So tell me what you know about Thanksgiving, I had asked Andrey, below right, as we were planning. Well, you prepare a big meal with a turkey on a large platter, the father carves the turkey and you go around the table and talk your blessings.

That's exactly right, I had to laugh. Every family in American is like that. At least in the movies, which is his source of information. 

Oh, allow me to introduce our Thanksgiving day bunch: Andrey, right, set to carve turkey. Andrey lives here and so do I while his parents are in the US. Next on right is dear Anya, the instigator of this dinner idea, from English Club and a special friend, next is Aunt Sofia who's a houseguest too for several weeks, far end is our brother Vladimir, wrapping up a 3-month stint in Kiev as local evangelist, then is Slava and Oksana, both from English Club. And finally Masha, Andrey's friend. Oh, behind the camera is. . .yours truly. 

This was the perfect number of guests considering the space available. Besides that, one guest cancelled and five others were no-shows. But we won't talk about them, will we? Anyway, it meant more pumpkin pie for the rest of us.

Everybody had notions about the presentation of the turkey: That he should be brought in whole on the platter and carved at the table a la Norman Rockwell. That works for me as long as someone else is making the fanfare and doing the carving. Andrey got nominated to carve because he is studying to be a surgeon. Later that evening when I was sorting through the meat and looking over the turkey carcass I reminded myself that Andrey has been studying surgery of the bile duct. Another kettle of fish, so to speak, than sawing through wings, gizzards and dark meat.

Anyway, back to the pre-dinner analysis of resources, as I like to call it. Since I'm a guest here myself, I needed to do some scouting around.

Oven racks. Besides one regular oven rack, the oven has a shelf, below, typical of Soviet-style ovens. So we had two oven shelves, a good thing indeed. Check.

Pie pans: There's one pie pan in stock in this household. That's 100% more than most households in Kiev so we're making progress.That other form won't help us much with pumpkin pies... 

Progress: found aluminum pie pans at Karavan, the local ultra-super-modern supermarket. Pie pans, check.

Now on to location and space. The living room would be our dining area. Andrey had a special plan for transforming the coffee table into something more substantial. Here's the Before picture.

The Oven: In the post dinner analysis, this oven and I had our differences. We didn't understand each other. We speak different languages. More than just the Celsius - Farenheit difference. 

Let's get in close to the oven temperature control. Thanks to a magnifying glass, I learned and the number at the 8:00-o'clock-position says 150 degrees Celsius. That's medium heat and that's where we want to cook our turkey.

But oh, if only it were so easy. You see, just because Oliver Oven says that's medium heat, doesn't mean that it will be medium heat. See, it's a communication problem. I'm learning to understand this oven. The secret is to pay less attention to the temperature setting and more attention to the flame. An oven thermometer or, even better, a meat thermometer would have made all the difference in communicating about what was going on in the oven. And if there are any of those in this town, it's a well-kept secret.

Bottom line, after Tom Turkey had been in the oven 6.5 hours, when I decided to call 'er done. And a slow oven has a domino affect on other things that need to go in the oven too such as Oven Roasted Potatoes, Beets and Onions.

So our meal was ready at 8:00 rather than 7:00 as planned. Fortunately guests were easily amused in lots of ways. Including the video, Universal Studios Free Photo Booth. Thanks to cousin Marilyn who pointed me toward those amusing videos. When I first saw them myself, I laughed until I cried.  (Rated PG.)

Oh and another one:Jay Leno and the Universal Studios Free Photo Booth.

Besides videos, people played UNO. And they watched television. The neat thing about Russian folk, Ukrainian folk, is that they're so low maintainence. They're so easy to cook for. So easily entertained.

And I must say that the pumpkin pie was excellent, made with real pumpkin, topped with real whipped cream.

So, at the end of the day, we had a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. We carved the turkey at the table. We went around and mentioned our blessings. Everybody went home happy. And feeling stuffed. And thankful. Check.


Nancy said...

Hi Eileen,
So fun to find your blog! A neat way to keep up with your life in Rostov on Don in between your visits to Prestoncrest.
Nancy Fowler

cindy b. said...

O, this is great .... I enjoy your blog so much! It's almost like being there!You'll soon be leaving Kiev and back in Rostov . . you are a blessing to me.

Eileen said...

Hey Nancy, What a delightful surprise to hear from you. Thanks so much for stopping and saying Howdy. Say, by fun coincidence here - Cindy b, whose comment follows - lived in McKenzie with you and me. . .way back when. Right? (early 70's). Write to me (email) and I can give you Cindy's real name, you might remember each other. Small world, eh? =)