I moved to Uganda in October 2007. Looking back, this was interesting timing, seeing as it was right before all the major holidays of the year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and all 4 of our family members’ birthdays).
My first Thanksgiving in Uganda, I was living at the Ogenga’s house, and had come to the conclusion within myself that since this is Uganda and there is no Thanksgiving Day and I would just go throughout the day as if it was any other day.
But God works in mysterious ways. The previous week, Pastor had received 2 big (live) turkeys as a gift. So for a week these turkeys have gobbled near my window in the courtyard, waking me up every morning. Thanksgiving morning rolled around, which happened to be a public holiday. Around 11am, Mama passed me and asked, “Isn’t Thanksgiving coming sometime soon?” Mentioning that it was today, she quickly responded, “Well, lets have a Thanksgiving meal.”
Truthfully, excitement and panic flooded me. Mmm…. turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie. I was salivating just thinking of it. BUT how in the world can we pull this off? I had never made Thanksgiving. That was Dad’s joy. And he and Janece always have a menu planned a month in advance, shopping finished 2 weeks in advance, and begin the prep work at least 3 days before the actual day. Now I am here, the day of, 11 am, with only a live turkey. What the heck do I even do with that?!?!
But with some encouragement and willing hands to help, I decided to give it a go. As I made a menu and the list for the market, some of the boys around the compound took charge of the turkey. Yep, you imagine correctly. Catch the turkey, chop its head, put it in a basin, pour boiling water over it, pluck the feathers, and luckily for me, remove the innards.
After going to the market, remember EVERYTHING here is done from scratch, I came home with a load full of goodies. Thankfully Betty [Crocker] gave me step by step instructions on how to make stuffing and how to stuff a turkey.
Now this process was something all of its own. It is amazing what you take for granted as you eat it. The direction said, “Make sure the turkey is thoroughly washed inside and out.” Then take 1/3 of the stuffing and…. “WHAT!!??!! You want me to shove it where? Do you realize that in doing this my whole arm is inside this turkey that gobbled me awake this morning?!” But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to have this American feast. (At this point, I was so grateful for all that my dad did behind the scenes, since if we are honest, all I really did growing up was eat and wash dishes.)
After placing the turkey in the oven and instructing some of my helpers on what to do for carrots, pumpkin, mashed potatoes, and green beans, I remember thinking to myself, “This just might work.” We were busy and still had a lot to do, but things were moving along for an early dinner feast.
That is until the power went out. Ugh. This is annoying any time it happens. But especially inconveniencing when the oven that is cooking your turkey is electric rather then gas.
“Great. Now what the heck are we going to do?!” The turkey had only been cooking for and hour and a half and according to Betty Crocker, had at least 2.5 hours to go. That is 2.5 hours in an oven that consistently on and at a consistent 350 degrees. Hmmm. What to do now? There is no telling when the power will come back on.
So after much debate over what our options were, Jaja (my Ugandan grandmother) and I decided to put the turkey in a sauce pan, wrap it up with banana leaves, and put it on the charcoal stove, in hopes of steaming the turkey. About an hour into the turkey steam bath, the power come back on.
… A dilemma again. Leave it, or put it back in? Leave it, or put it back in? After a bit of eeny-meeny-miny-mo, we went with the oven route, testing our luck once again. Bad choice. Another hour later the power went out again. Ugh!!! Turkey is the key ingredient to Thanksgiving!
By this time it was almost 7pm, the rest of the fixing were ready and on the table, and the feasters were starting to get hungry.
With a headlamp, Mama and I carefully cut into the turkey to examine its edibility. Although still a bit tough, we determined it was cooked enough.
The final outcome was delicious. Though I didn’t get around to turning the pumpkin into pie, it was nice to eat something that reminded me of home in Texas. And the whole ordeal has given me a great story to tell throughout the years as Thanksgiving approaches.