Thanksgiving festivities started Monday evening when my roommate S and I decided that we should actually mark the occasion somehow. Like good 20-somethings, we created a Facebook event inviting our friends over for non-Thanksgiving. We had no interest in trying to cook a full Thanksgiving spread in our kitchen, or even a turkey, so we invited people over for snacks. As I see it, the best part of living abroad is being able to take the best parts of your culture and leave the rest, and combine different cultures. So we had a celebration in honor of Thanksgiving rather than a traditional Thanksgiving feast.
Tuesday I trekked to the main bazaar (bazroba ბაზრობა) for ingredients for my contributions: pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies (with Barambo chile chocolate) and green tomato salsa (inspired by multiple recipes). The bazroba was great fun–I got all my ingredients for about 5 lari, and was showered in compliments on my Georgian. I don’t think they get many foreigners there… That evening I hunkered down for the pumpkin slaughter, and transformed the whole pumpkins into puree, since that isn’t available in a can in Georgia. Wednesday morning I made my cookies (slowly and in very small batches with our glorified Easy Bake Oven). We made follow-up trips to the big supermarkets (Smart and Carrefour) to make sure we had all our ingredients and had purchased other necessary things like bread and drinks. That evening we cooked up a storm–I assembled my salsa, and S made an amazing pumpkin pie. Thursday we scrambled to make our apartment less dirty, roasted some garlic and mixed some sangria. I had a full day of work that day, and I amused myself and my (adult) students by having an arts and crafts hour making hand turkeys. They seemed to enjoy the break from work, and it got me into the spirit of thankfulness. I returned home from work and readied the apartment for guests–we didn’t invite too many American friends, because we were afraid they would be disappointed in our non-traditional Thanksgiving. Instead we had a mixed crew from many parts of the world–the plurality were, I believe, Germans. It was one of our guest’s birthday, so we marked the occasion by putting a tea light candle on top of the pumpkin pie (we improvise). Amusingly, we realized that we didn’t have nearly enough drinking vessels for all the people we’d invited, so we scrounged around the apartment for various things in which to serve beverages–a yogurt cup might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but it transports liquid to your mouth quite effectively.
Friday I had a more traditional American Thanksgiving with more established ex-pat friends–we had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce, the whole nine yards (I made an apple-quince crisp and some bacon-wrapped dates). This event couldn’t have been more different from the previous night, but both events captured the most important part of Thanksgiving–spending time with people you care about. The rest of the weekend was one of my most “American” in Georgia–Saturday I went to a Super League basketball game and watched the Police defeat the Army, and that evening I hung out with Americans and watched Ohio State beat Michigan in American football (yay on both counts!). Watching an American college football game abroad is a very strange phenomenon–I haven’t been in a room with only Americans in a long time, and I found it disconcerting.
In the best Thanksgiving tradition, I still have plenty of leftover turkey and some sides. But like a good ex-pat, I’ve been combining cultures while I eat them. Mashed potatoes with Georgian cheese make an excellent potato pancake, and leftover turkey is really improved by dousing it in tkemali.