Thursday, December 12, 2013

An American Thanksgiving in Otautau

After a fairly disappointing Halloween, we decided we weren't going to let another American Classic get by without all the bells and whistles. As Thanksgiving drew near, we decided we were going to throw a big American Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for all of our coworkers. Turns out, they were very excited by the prospect, and the whole thing was a huge success. but it was quite a team effort, including calling in recruits over skype to figure out exactly how a Thanksgiving dinner comes together. Luckily, our divide-and-conquer approach and days of preparation really paid off.

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for: The women in my family being such amazing cooks and for teaching me the basics so that I am fairly capable in the kitchen.  Also very thankful for social media and modern technology. I acquired recipes via email, facebook, and skype, and got some walk-through tutorials during the actual cooking for a few tips along the way.  So if your Mom/Grandma/Sister can't cook it for you, at least she can send you the recipe and skype you through it!

First item to prep in advance: Homemade noodles!!!

I got pretty fast at these after the 6th batch. I had sore arms by the time I got around to the pie crusts:

I was in charge of Pecan Pies. Rebecca was in charge of Pumpkin Pies. Grandma relayed the intricacies of crust-making. Mom talked me through the filling and judgment calls on baking times with the 'Karo syrup' alternative I had. It's hard enough making these things for the first time, let alone the added stress of not having the actual ingredients. finding substitutes for things like Karo Syrup (and French Fried onions for Green Bean Casserole!) are really tough!

Also thankful I didn't get paged during some of my critical cooking times. I was actually on call that weekend, and was afraid I would get called away at the exact wrong time.

Pie number one in the oven... waiting anxiously. (note the foil ring around the crust of the baking pie - another pro tip from Momma Scherder!)

Oh Yea...

Meanwhile at the Whiting House, Aaron and Rebecca were prepping the house, setting up a giant dinner table, and getting the pumpkin pies and prep work done for the next day. We had planned for a 1:00 luncheon, so it was up at 7:00 for me to get the turkey into the oven.   Whipped up some appetizers while that was doing its thing and got all my stuff ready for the mashed potatoes and noodles.

Also thankful that turkeys in the US don't cost $90. Because they do in New Zealand.  Yep... I feel like all the money I've saved by Dad going out and hunting those turkeys all those years has now been spent on one turkey in New Zealand.  That's ok. 15-pound turkey: $90.  Actually feeling like it was Thanksgiving: Priceless.

Meanwhile across town: Rebecca and Aaron were whipping up some dishes too.
Rebecca and I discussed that we were thankful for dishwashers too. I'll be even more thankful when I have a full-sized one again. Mine is a single layer mini one. Thanksgiving cooking just destroys every dish you own.
 Some Whiting Creations:
Kumara (NZ version of sweet potatoes). Rebecca made a really tasty casserole out of these.

Cranberry Sauce


So the Table was set, the guests had arrived, and we were ready to sit down for our Kiwi Thanksgiving:
My Pride and Joy.

One big happy, loud family dinner. It was funny because we had all the normal American foods, and we didn't think about having to explain what all of the dishes were. they had never heard of Green Bean Casserole, for example.  and they were all so intrigued by pumpkin pie. They eat pumpkins all the time here, but never as pie. Iced tea was another one that they were leary of, but drink hot tea like it's going out of style. Such a foreign land....

The Desserts! Our Pumpkin and Pecan pies were awesome if I do say so myself. And Dulcie made a cheesecakey dessert and homemade whipped cream. Kerry made us cat cookies, and Margaret make homemade shortbreak cookies (which they call biscuits here).

Kerry's cat cookies. She is more of a crazy cat lady than I am a crazy cat guy now. We had all heard a lot about these cookies. She just got the cat cookie-cutters right before Thanksgiving, and was excited to use them. It was good to finally see and taste them.

So I'm thankful for a successful Thanksgiving dinner. Thankful for getting to skype to my family on Thanksgiving Day. Thankful for my New Zealand Family and their Southern (NZ) hospitality and for being able to repay some of their kindness by helping throw a big American Dinner for them.  

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