The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t

thanksgiving

I don’t know how to cook much, but I do know how to cook a turkey. That’s why, when I was studying abroad in Prague, I was happy to take on the role of turkeysmith and event organizer for our great, dorm-wide, All-American Thanksgiving with the promise that I would not have to cook any other food. Getting a turkey in the Czech Republic is actually fairly difficult, as turkeys are native only to North America and the Czech people aren’t particularly keen on importing American goods as far as I could gather. In fact, there was only one American-themed grocery store in the city of which I was aware, meaning there was only one place to get Oreos, Hershey’s, Kraft Mac and Cheese and, of course, turkey.

I pre-ordered my turkey from the store, Culinaria. Lest you think that me “pre-ordering” anything indicates that I was prepared, let me clarify that I contacted them about two days before Thanksgiving and frantically asked in broken Czech/ mostly English if they had any more turkeys available. Thankfully (THANKSGIVING PUN INTENDED), they did. So I gave them my name and reserved myself a big ol’ 23 pounder, despite the fact that I wasn’t really aware of just how big a 23 pound turkey would be. I knew it sounded a little larger than my family usually got, but hey, there were going to be way more people at this dinner than are in my family! I had no doubt that I would be able to manage it. What a rube I was.

Two days later, it was time to go pick up my turkey and, as luck would have it, my Dad, who was visiting for a week to Czech out the sites (I can’t help myself). My plan for the day: pick up turkey, go to the dorm to prep turkey and put it in the oven, go pick up my Dad from the airport, come home and eat myself into oblivion with 42 of my closest friends.

The plan started out alright. I got to the store and my turkey was ready and waiting for me, all 23 pounds of it, but it turns out that 23 pounds is actually really really heavy. It’s approximately the weight of a toddler, but unlike a toddler, turkeys aren’t nice enough to wrap their arms around you, alleviating some of the heft. It’s just 23 pounds of dead weight. But Thanksgiving must be had! I summoned all of my strength and hailed a cab.

Once I got home, I turned on the oven, then realized that I might not have a pan big enough for the bird. I opened the cabinets and actually found one surprisingly easily, so I loaded it up and got to work. Olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, onions, rosemary, more olive oil. Then, as my Bubby taught me, you massage it all in to loosen the turkey up (because you don’t want it to be anxious on its big day). The oven beeped, indicating its preparedness, and I took a deep breath, steeling my muscles for the final big lift. I opened the oven, then heaved the dinosaur-worthy bird toward it. I say toward because, hey, guess what, the pan size wasn’t my biggest problem. That’s right. The turkey did not fit in the oven. Told you I was a rube.

I scrambled through the drawers, found the biggest knife I could, and started to hack at the thing. So, to summarize, I was hacking at a raw gigantor of a turkey that was supposed to serve a dorm full of people in hours and that just been thoroughly oiled in an ill-equipped kitchen in a country that had just seen the fall of Communism a mere 19 years earlier. I don’t know why the last part matters, but it adds to the drama of the situation and this situation was the definition of drama. As in any good dramatic situation, I realized that I also had a time limit. I glanced at the clock: time to go pick up my Dad.

I warned my roommates and abandoned the turkey to be dealt with later. I got to the airport, hands oilier and garlicier than intended, and met my Dad. As soon as our greetings and hugs were exchanged, I informed him that he had apparently come on a mission from above, and not just because he had flown. If there is one person who would be able to handle the foul situation, it was him (I promise that was the last pun for today).

We got back and he attacked that thing like he had been raised on that island in Lord of the Flies. There was blood (from the turkey), sweat from all the work, and crying caused by the onions.

Meanwhile, I had to find ovens that I could borrow in which to cook the hopefully- separated turkey parts! In a dorm where everyone has their own kitchen, that shouldn’t have been too hard a task. But lest you forget, the rest of the cooking had fallen upon the shoulders of my dorm-mates. That’s right. Their ovens were occupied with their own Thanksgiving contributions.

I searched and searched, and my Dad, my poor, jet-lagged Dad, hacked away at that dang turkey. In the end, we were both successful. He was able to separate it into three pieces, and I was able to finagle three ovens in which to cook them.

Hours later, after naps were had by all involved, I checked on my turkey(s). They were all miraculously ready just on time, and easily served the entire banquet table of people. My friends didn’t disappoint either, bringing a vast array of amazing foods, all in the true spirit of the holiday. My Dad of course joined us as well, because what’s better than a hard earned American meal that would not have happened if it weren’t for your brute strength first thing when you set down in a foreign country? Honestly, probably a lot of things like enjoying the local culture, but it couldn’t have been that bad. You know what they say: alls well that ends in a food coma.

(graphic courtesy of Wan Rosil Wan Othman/Dreamstime.com)

About Amelita Lijek

Born and raised in a Boston suburb, Amelita is heart-breakingly Boston-accent deficient. This deficiency, among many others, has driven her survival instinct to find the humor in all things, even if they are not cat-related. An avid writer, tweeter, and sleep-enthusiast, Amelita can be found regularly cavorting around New York City improving (IM-prah-ving), sketch writing, and seeking out free samples and Wifi (WHY-fy). She also has carefully cultivated Twitter (@aaaamelita) and SoundCloud (soundcloud.com/aaaamelita) accounts, both of which will most likely be cited either as a) her first ventures into a wildly successful comedy career or b) her first ventures into a wild descent into madness or c) a little bit of both.

About Amelita Lijek

Born and raised in a Boston suburb, Amelita is heart-breakingly Boston-accent deficient. This deficiency, among many others, has driven her survival instinct to find the humor in all things, even if they are not cat-related. An avid writer, tweeter, and sleep-enthusiast, Amelita can be found regularly cavorting around New York City improving (IM-prah-ving), sketch writing, and seeking out free samples and Wifi (WHY-fy). She also has carefully cultivated Twitter (@aaaamelita) and SoundCloud (soundcloud.com/aaaamelita) accounts, both of which will most likely be cited either as a) her first ventures into a wildly successful comedy career or b) her first ventures into a wild descent into madness or c) a little bit of both.

Smiles For All