Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving in Israel

Shalom, chaverim! Well, the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza seems to be holding, at least for the moment, so that's certainly something to be thankful for. Last night we had our first Thanksgiving in Israel, and in true American style, the people in attendance at a small gathering of friends included four Americans, a Canadian, a Columbian-American-Israeli, and a Namibian.

We did it potluck style. Our job was to cook the giant, long necked, 18.25 pound kosher turkey, which was kindly ordered, purchased, and lugged upstairs to us by another friend. Whole turkeys are almost never available in Israel, incidentally, since generally no one has ovens large enough to roast them.

As we gazed in dismay at the aforementioned neck, wondering how we were going to remove it when poultry shears and brute force had already failed, we remembered that Elul had returned from his recent business trip to Germany with some marketing swag that included a "multi-tool." With it, he was able to saw that neck right off. We were also short one of those giant needles used to sew up turkey butts, so we raided my grandmother's old sewing kit and used the biggest needle and the strongest thread we could find. It had been so long since I'd roasted a turkey that I didn't have a turkey baster in the kitchen drawer, either. Fortunately, I remembered that I'd bought a new one to use for making handmade paper (a hobby of mine), but hadn't yet used, so I dug through my craft supplies and found it. Score!

Creating a gluten-free stuffing was a little trickier, but we used gluten-free bread for the breadcrumbs and it came out just fine. Our friends had a more difficult challenge, as they needed to make pumpkin pies that were gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy free. They used chopped-up gluten-free cookies to make a crust, cornstarch instead of wheat flour, sweetener instead of sugar, and soy milk and a non-dairy whipped topping for the rest. Getting canned pumpkin was another challenge, because, with extremely rare exceptions, it pretty much doesn't exist anywhere in Israel. Our friends reported that when they asked for fresh pumpkin, they were led to a back room in the store, where a man was somewhat furtively cutting a giant squash that only vaguely resembled a pumpkin, into large slices. Our friends could see no obvious reason why gourd-slicing needed to be done in such a clandestine manner, but it turned the annual pumpkin procurement into a more adventurous event than usual. The pies turned out to be completely delicious.

"Thou preparest a table before me...." indeed!

In addition, our hosts provided guacamole, dill dip, an extraordinarily elegant Columbian sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and a green bean-cranberry dish, as well as plenty of beer, wine, and exceptional Columbian cofffee. The table groaned as we sat outdoors, eating, laughing, and giving thanks for our families, our friends, and for being in Israel, all the while overlooking the sea and the lights of Rosh Ha'Nikra. After we ate all that food, we were the ones who were groaning. I never really understood the French expression "crise des foies" ("crisis of the livers") that was used for when people over-indulged on food, until last night. Ooof!

Shabbat shalom, everyone!


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