How do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Germany? Or even more pressing, what is Germany thinking in not having Thanksgiving? Sure, sure, Germany doesn’t have the tale of pilgrims-meet-indians-and-flourish-in-a-short-lived-but-heartwarming-coexistence, but surely it sees value in eating yourself into a gravy-induced stupor, the only coherent words coming from you at this point being “Well maybe one more sliver a pie’ll do me.” Which brings me to this: What is Germany thinking in not having pie?
Luckily for me, Thanksgiving wasn’t too hard to procure. The Fulbright Alumni Association in Frankfurt hosts an “American style” Thanksgiving every year, featuring a whole turkey for every table! And they tried. They did. All the components were there: the sweet potatoes, just served in boiled wedges, not mashed with brown sugar and pecans. The stuffing, they just had the nerve to not serve my grandma’s. The green beans, just served mixed with herbs and cauliflower rather than with the subtle compliments of cream of mushroom
soup and fried onions. The mashed potatoes, except… okay, here’s where they really missed the mark. All of these sides came out in small-ish bowls, and we helped ourselves family-style. When they brought out the mashed potatoes, Beth leaned in to me and whispered, “Wait, we each get our own bowl, right?” No such luck. The bottom layer of my plate was decidedly not mostly mashed potato.
Really though, it was wonderful that the Fulbright Association hosted this meal: it is, in a microcosmic sort of way, indicative of what this year has meant to me. Living abroad is, by default, the cultural exchange J.W. Fulbright wanted this program to be; every day involves some amount of reassessing what I’m used to in America, and seeking some way of making it work here, if not foregoing it completely, or conversely, improving upon it. A car? I’ll make do with a bike. It’s my American life, Germanized, as this dinner was an American dinner, Germanized – and when it comes down to it, I’m of the mind that pre-dessert schnapps wouldn’t be a bad tradition to implement in my own future Thanksgiving feasts.
But, appreciative as we were, we American Teaching Assistants were not to be satiated by a German attempt at our favorite meal; lacking a proper feast, we would do it ourselves, and this time, it will be smothered in gravy and bound by cheesy sauces, and there will be a regulation amount of mashed potatoes. So, we did just that, and I’m quite impressed by our resourcefulness. We deviled
our eggs, we stuffed our mushrooms, we made made rather than open a can made cranberry sauce (a revelation), we had Stove Top stuffing compliments of Joe and the postal service (which still had the nerve to not be my grandma’s), we topped our green beans with fried onions. And it was delicious. There’s that sense of comraderie I’d been missing, as we ate until we all slumped in our seats, and as we took a walk around Bingen, and as we went back to Beth’s for seconds.
That sense of comraderie was negated the next morning, when I got up at 4 in the morning, expecting to hit up some sweet deals at the Kaufhaus, and maybe hit a few Bingeners in a struggle for the last half-priced souvenir bierstein. Imagine my disappointment to find they don’t celebrate Schwarzer Freitag here, either.
So that, I suppose, takes me to where every Thanksgiving blog should wind up: a list of what I’m thankful for this year (please excuse my sap).
- Thanksgiving. What a wonderful concept for a holiday, which I take for granted when I’m stateside.
- America, which I also take for granted when I’m stateside.
- A fantastic group of Fulbrighters here, if their willingness to come together and transport casseroles and cookie doughs via train for a Thanksgiving dinner isn’t indication enough of how fantastic they are.
- A fantastic group of friends back home, who make the thought of getting back to America that much more attractive.
- A wonderful family and a best friend of a brother; sometimes I can’t believe my luck in winding up with them.
- A boyfriend who ships me Stove Top and who didn’t bat an eye when I told him I’d be leaving for a year, and who hopefully sticks with me despite being stuck at a measly number 6 on the “What I’m Thankful For” list.
- This experience, which has given me a chance to live in a beautiful part of the world, experience things in a new way, meet new people, develop new skills, and reinforce that this is not what I want to do or where I want to live forever. I love it, but I am incredibly thankful that this year has not brought up some identity crisis I’d have to struggle with; instead, I only feel more strongly that library science is the route I want to take – and having some sort of rough outline of the future, even if this isn’t it, is definitely something to be thankful for.
- You, for reading. Thanks for taking some interest in my year.
Happy Turkey Sandwich Week. That bit, at least, I don’t miss.