Here’s a post for your afternoon stupor. What were your mission Thanksgiving meals like? Tell us in the comments.
Our first mission Thanksgiving was the day we arrived in Spain. We were excited about getting our first taste of Spanish food, but Hermana Lopez had made us turkey and mashed potatoes, and done very well at it. She even told us proudly that she’d managed to make ‘that typical American meat salsa,’ which turned out to be gravy from a mix. One of us fell asleep during the meal from jet lag.
My second Thanksgiving the four of us bought a couple of roasters. We didn’t know how to make stuffing but we had an idea that sage played into Thanksgiving somehow, so we bought a bunch of sage at the farmers market and stuffed the roasters with it. We put them into cook and went out tracting. When we came back at mediodia the chickens were as hard, dry, and fibrous as sagebrush, and they tasted like it too. No one had more than a bite or two. Our apartment stank of sage for a few days after.
Grenoble, France. Thanksgiving, 1982. Six hard-working but somewhat homesick missionaries wanted Thanksgiving dinner. Since only the two sisters had ever done much cooking (and I think I was the only one of the two of us who had ever done a Thanksgiving dinner for a whole family), we decided to have a district dinner at our apartment â€” with the table set in the doorway so the elders could sit out in the wide stone hallway while we sisters sat at the inside edge. Mission rules, you know!
The turkey was the big thing, of course, but â€” also of course â€” it wasnâ€™t Thanksgiving in France, with Butterballs neatly frozen in grocery cases. We couldnâ€™t find a whole bird anywhere and finally settled for smaller turkey pieces, which we roasted on top of stuffing spread out in a quiche pan. (Come Christmas, we were able to find a whole turkey at a butcher shop but I had to ask the butcher to take the head off. â€œYes, the head and the neck. And the feet, please. No, I wonâ€™t be making soup. Thank you so much.â€)
As I recall, we had potatoes fixed three different ways so that everybody could have their own familyâ€™s traditional way. I baked rolls, and my companion made a â€œpumpkinâ€ pie (we started from scratch, stewing squash). I donâ€™t think we had cranberry. Must have had some green vegetable. I think everybody was happy with the dinner, and after those few hours of being lonely American kids grateful for our families and our church culture and our country and shared traditions, we went back to work trying to find people who were willing to listen to the part of our gratitude that we had to share with them.
I loved France and the French, and ordinarily tried to buy and eat as our neighbors did â€” whatâ€™s the fun of being in a foreign culture if you donâ€™t? â€” but Thanksgiving and Christmas, two little days out of a very long year, you want to be at home, with your family, with everything familiar and traditional and seemingly permanent. It wonâ€™t be permanent, at least not without long years with at least a few empty chairs, but someday everybody will be home and together again. That assurance is what Iâ€™m most grateful for, out of all the blessings I could name.
Neither of my Thanksgivings as a missionary were terribly memorable, although I did spend both of them in a city whose name translates as “food.”