I absolutely love entertaining, I love dinner parties (even casual ones) just for the camaraderie. Living abroad I make a special effort to bring a bit of "home" to my fellow expats (which is why I threw a Christmas party in Kuwait in 2009) and to introduce a bit of my culture to my host country friends.
This story is a touch out of date....so hopefully you guys will forgive me for sharing. I wasn't really on the board back around Thanksgiving time (a big US holiday for our non-US members). But I stumbled across this message I wrote to my family back home and thought some of you might be interested to read it. This is about a Thanksgiving dinner I hosted here in the Philippines this last year.
We hosted a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner 3 days late at our house last night. We'd been toying with the idea of whether or not to do one and last week I happened to spot exactly 2 Butterball turkeys for sale in one of the two grocery stores in town (the other store has never carried a turkey as far as I can tell). I bought the turkey and that officially committed us to the deed.
One thing I learned last year in Kuwait is that around Thanksgiving and Christmas time, the stores in any area that has a lot of Americans living in it will suddenly have things like cranberry sauce and stuffing mixes....and I also learned that it goes very fast, when you find it you have to snatch it up. So when we had to make an unexpected trip to Manila on the actual day of Thanksgiving, I worked in a stop at a grocery store that caters to all the wealthy Filipinos and expats that live in the expensive side of town. I have had good luck finding hard-to-get "imported specialty items" at this particular store....you know, stuff like coffee filters. This time I was hunting the last things I needed to make a conventional Thanksgiving dinner. And I had a relatively ambitious menu in mind:
- Texas Kimche
- Lil Smokies
- Sausage Balls
- Devilled Eggs
- Cranberry Salad (minus pecans because I cannot get that here and there is no suitable substitute to be had)
- Ambrosia with Pomello, orange and fresh pineapple
- Turkey with Gravy
- Glazed Ham
- Cornbread stuffing
- Squash casserole (made with zucchini)
- Green bean casserole (you can't buy canned green beans here so I bought rolls of string beans that I will need to cook & "french cut" this evening)
- Candied yams (found some fresh sweet potatoes in Manila!!)
- Roasted coconut rice
- Cranberry sauce
- Sour cream cornbread
- Pandesal (fresh hot yeast rolls they make here that are SUPER tasty!!)
- Apple pie (one of my specialties)
- Lemon squares
- Creme de Menthe brownies
- Mango crisp
Keep in mind, most of these people have never had American food, or if they think they have, they got it at McDonald's. So the spread I laid out was a little overwhelming, nobody even knew where to start. One concession I made since I couldn't cook any Filipino dishes (and probably a good thing since that's probably all they would've eaten), was a large batch of rice. Needless to say, the rice was the only thing I had little left over, because they all instinctively ran for the rice bowl. Around their second and third helpings though, they started to get a little more adventurous and try the other dishes I made. Still, they were so timid about eating that they took only small portions of everything. So the net result was I had cooked waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy more food than I had any capacity to store. I sent everybody home with 2 grocery bags full of leftovers and we still had barely any room in the fridge.
The turkey turned out well thankfully, since I was basically guessing at how to prepare and cook it. Keep in mind that I haven't cooked a turkey since I hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner at my apartment in Atlanta back in 2002, so I'm pretty proud of how it came out! It was very very moist, shocking considering how my oven works (or doesn't). Mariel told me that's only the 2nd time in his life he's ever eaten turkey, the 1st was 12 years ago when his parents (who worked in the US at the time) brought one home with them on a visit. For everybody else there.....it was their first time to eat turkey ever. The ham I baked went pretty fast, too. There were no leftovers of that.
One thing I thought was funny.....I really thought the cranberry salad would be a big hit because it's sweet and they love jello desserts here. I asked how they liked it and the kids reported that it was a little bit "sour". Then I got worried that something had gone wrong, I'd used a can of whole bean cranberry sauce I bought last year in Kuwait, same with the crushed pineapple.....I wondered if the canned goods had somehow gone bad. So Bill got a piece and tested it, and told me it was absolutely fine. I tasted it myself and it was just the way it was supposed to be. That's when I figured out that by "sour" they meant "tart". In other words....it wasn't sweet enough. Hahaha!
So with that in mind, I guess you can imagine that my mango crisp and the creme de menthe brownies, and to a somewhat lesser degree, the lemon squares, were a HUGE success. I did make an apple pie and I was told "it tastes like wine" (in other words? "not sweet enough").
Perla was asking me so many questions about how I made this or that. There were 5 extra kids that came with the Macalino clan, 2 of which were young teen girls who refused to speak for the first hour and just watched everything in a kind of mesmerized trance. Jeil, Mariel and Perla's middle son (and the most outgoing) asked me several times where I "studied cooking" and had I "gone to culinary school". Filipinos love sweet tea but they only buy the powdered mixes here like Nestea, which tastes like crap. Mariel's been hooked on my sweet tea for awhile, and anticipating that would be the drink of choice I had 3 huge pitchers full ready last night at the start. It took us about 20 minutes to run out, so I started to brew some more.
Now imagine I have a kitchen full of people who think this turkey has just shown up from another planet and I've baked it with my witchcraft-like culinary skills, and they are now watching me brew tea. I had to suppress a laugh and pretended not to notice when they leaned in to whisper to each other...."Ohhhh, you see she makes it with boiling water and the bag has tea it"....."Ahhh....now she is squeezing the lemon for the tea"......and no, I'm not exaggerating, that was really the conversation.
All in all, everyone had a great time. The food was mostly a success (the sweet potato casserole didn't come out right, I'll have to find a different recipe or get Mom's since I just looked one up online) and everybody left stuffed to the gills. I've been getting peppered with messages all day going on about how much they enjoyed the food. Jeil said "This is all new to our tastebuds but it's so delicious." That kid cracks me up.
Sorry for the long post but hope you enjoyed it!