My preparation for Pinoy Thanksgiving started about two weeks prior to The Big Day. Since it’s now the holiday season (has been since September but we’ll talk about that another day) I’m going to give this story a little Christmas flair.
Twas the day before Thanksgiving and I twas freaking out
Are kamote and sweet potato the same thing? I was beginning to have my doubts
The count of turkeys in the yard went from four to three
How very interesting this Thanksgiving is turning out to be
So my Kuya killed a turkey. Me, Maria, Kat, and Quevy watched as he pulled out the guts and cleaned it.
Quervy danced around the metal basin as her sister held the legs, she poked the turkey and said ‘Kadiri, kadiri’ (Gross, gross).
As I watched, I thought about how similar it looked to the dissections I did in biology lab- putting my biology degree to good use! It was actually really cool, there were 5 or 6 underdeveloped eggs, that looked like small tangerines piled inside the turkey among its intestines and organs, and one big egg that was almost ready to be laid-we would have those for dinner a few nights later. Masarap.
Twas the day of Thanksgiving it had finally arrived!
I took a few deep breaths, ‘it will turn out fine!’
I laid out the dishes I had worked hard to prepare
And pleaded, ‘the ingredients weren’t quite right, to be fair!’
Thanksgiving was here! I spent the better part of the day being terrified of how my makeshift thanksgiving would turn out. Kamote casserole, stuffing, a turkey with its head and feet still attached, and a dish I had named ‘Pinoy Apple Pie’ for dessert.
On top of my anxiety, I could help feeling a little bit homesick as I thought of Thanksgivings past. I thought about Hailey’s Thanksgiving Trivia last year, the first year I had Thanksgiving in Florida with my Grandpy, the year my Grandpy surprised me with my crew of cousins and sisters showing up. And of course let us not forget about the Whipped Cream Incident of 2005 that ended with a hot headed baby Dennis covered in whipped cream, and a silent dining room as we waited for the wrath of Dennis to incur. I laughed as I remembered the wall behind him covered as well and how lucky we all felt when he laughed and said ‘Grandpy, you got it all over me!’ I thought about how all of the people I love most in the world seemed so far away from me.
But then as I ate my first Thanksgiving dinner without my family surrounding me, I couldn’t help but recognize certain similarities. Quervy scooping the marshmallows off the top of the sweet potato casserole, just like every other Fowler and Joosten kid has done at one point or another. Romelissa came into the kitchen to check out what I was cooking she popped a marshmallow into her mouth on the way out, she said ‘I want this’. I laughed and said ‘you’re checking to make sure it’s not poisonous!’ and thought of my Grampy and Uncle Larry who are “thoughtfully” always checking all of our desserts for ‘poison’. I could see signs of my family’s love all around me merging across cultures and ages in ways that warmed my heart.
And despite my trepidations, dinner came out wonderfully! The stuffing was spot on, and now the family’s favorite. The kamote/sweet potato casserole was an interesting mix of the two cultures. And finally, the Pinoy Apple Pie. There’s no oven in my house, and I wouldn’t even know where to buy pie crust, so I decided to make the filling for an apple pie and serve it over butterscotch caramel ice cream. To add in some genuine Filipino flare, I added pili nuts to the apple mixture. The pili nut is specific to my region and it often coated with sugar. Served up hot, over ice cream, it was PINAKA-SIRAM (the most delicious!).
After dinner was over, Quervy was in her Nanay’s arms falling into her first Thanksgiving Food Coma and we were sitting in the kitchen in a similar state. I sat there feeling full, and thankful for everything. For my host family who have welcomed me into their home, my community and LGU family who have also welcomed me with open arms. For those who have provided me with this opportunity, and of course all of my family and friends who support me from all over the world and keep me updated on their lives so we don’t feel so far away. My heart and my stomach felt busogon (the fullest) as my Ate got up to wash the dishes. She paused as she got up and said ‘Oh I eat so much!’ I laughed and decided that officially deemed my first Pinoy Thanksgiving a success.