Depending on where you are in the world, a can of pumpkin is a prized commodity in November and it might only be available at an American store. The experience of trying to track down such a shop and attempting to visit it before and after work (only to find out that the man running the store pretty much only opens it when he feels like it, but who can blame him...there can't be that many people in need of Nerds or Mountain Dew on a daily basis in Munich) can induce a minor panic attack. This is especially true if you tend to be a last-minute person and have your mind set on a warm batch of pumpkin bars (pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting...no, it's not a normal Thanksgiving staple). At least I learned my lesson and two Libby's (popular brand for canned pumpkin) have been comfortably sitting in my cupboard since early October.
While pumpkin plays an integral role, turkey is obviously the star, the centerpiece, the It Girl of Thanksgiving. This holiday is arguably the most enjoyable of all celebrations in the US. There's just something about indulging in a never-ending meal (literally...we usually have leftovers until I swear off turkey for another year) in the company of family and close friends. Or at least the food coma that ensues makes sure that you stay put, surrounded by the same people for at least three hours, until your physical capabilities have returned to normal and all your energy is no longer concentrated on the need to digest.
Celebrating Thanksgiving abroad? Working on Thanksgiving and don't have time to start cooking until the evening? Refer to Scenario #1. Can't be bothered to cook a meal for friends, but you are nevertheless an enthusiast of the holiday? See Scenario #2. Do you live with other North Americans and plan to merge Canadian and American Thanksgivings for a culinary extravaganza? Consult Scenario #3. Warning: This is not an article that will provide you with recipes, just some anecdotes you may be able to relate to if you've celebrated Thanksgiving in another country.
Scenario #1: B- for Effort
Temporarily residing in Germany for Thanksgiving can be an interesting conundrum, full of new life experiences and discoveries.
Pan Issue: The pan you own is too big for the amount of pie mix you made.
Pan Solution: Be in possession of a very small pan that perfectly sections off a third of the large pan.
Can Opener Issue: Realization that you don't own a can opener.
Can Opener Solution: Watch videos on YouTube and try to convince yourself that you can open the can by putting pressure on the lid with a spoon in a circular fashion or by rubbing the top of the can back and forth along the sidewalk in front of your house, causing neighbors to think you've lost it (no, I didn't actually do that). Then take another trip to the store to buy a can opener because you figure it will probably take less time then the techniques outlined above. (I gave the spoon a try but didn't see the effects on my hand or the utensil going very well).
Time Issue: Low on time and skill.
Time Solution: Discover the wonder that is instant mashed potatoes. Just add water and in 2-3 minutes you are left with delicious goodness. I may be spoiled for not having much experience with instant foods before, and yes I am aware of the definition of instant, but the fact that mashed potatoes created themselves from a soupy substance in a couple minutes in front of my eyes blew my mind a little bit.
Turkey Issue: As far as I'm aware, there is no such thing as instant turkey and when it comes to meat that's probably for the best.
Turkey Solution: Risking being a disgrace to your country, call a REWE rotisserie chicken from the dugout to prove itself in the absence of turkey.
Lesson learned: Don't plan to have dessert and watch football at a different apartment from where you ate your main meal. This might seem like a good idea, especially with the time difference between parts of the US and Europe, since it gives you the opportunity to politely excuse yourself before the final game of the day and fall into a coma of digestion exhaustion at home instead of under the disapproving eyes of a die-hard Seahawks fan. However, being too full to move and having to carry pumpkin pie to a friend's apartment for dessert, as well as being upright in general, is not enjoyable to say the least.
Scenario #2: Thanksgiving Cheat
Can't find the time or the space for a Thanksgiving bash? Check out restaurants in your area or ask around for places that may offer a scrumptious meal to satisfy the annual Thanksgiving intake. Expat communities in the area where you're living, such as those supported by InterNations, will surely have an idea of where you can get your fix. There's also the option of throwing the meal concept out the window and settling for Thanksgiving in a bottle...turkey and gravy or pumpkin pie flavored soda anyone? No, these products are not made up.
Scenario #3: Functional A+ Thanksgiving
What could be better than staring at a plate full of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and a volcano of mashed potatoes with gravy sitting innocently in the middle? Add ham. Add broccoli cheese (a must for any dinner party, according to a Brit). Add friends of various nationalities. Combine celebrations and make it a North American Thanksgiving. Not only does this give you the opportunity to learn about a variety of Thanksgiving meal traditions and recipes, (if you're as lucky as I was) you'll also get to spend the day snacking while helping your flatmates turn the kitchen into any foodie's dream. Although you might forget to pick up disposable plates and have to make a last minute dash to Aldi, where the only ones available are Halloween themed.
However you end up celebrating Thanksgiving, don't let the family show you their meal via Skype. Thanksgiving at home is unmatched but importing the Thanksgiving vibe isn't impossible. Happy Turkey Day!