This is Thanksgiving week, so I wanted to write a little something about some of my experiences of Thanksgiving that I have had in my life abroad.

Growing up in the US, I have been a part of normal Thanksgiving practices for most of my life.  You the ones – the turkey, the trimmings, the occasional drunk relative that you end up having to listen to for hours as they regale you with stories about their teenage years, which, in case you weren’t around for them, were the best years in the history of the world, and gee, don’t the kids these days miss out on all of the fun that could be had “back in the day”?  Yeah, those.  Oh, and the memories of my father putting so much sage into the stuffing that only he liked the end-result.  My brother, mother and I would endure a few mouthfuls, to be polite, and then relinquish the rest to my father.  Thankfully, I have always been a fan of Stovetop stuffing anyway, so I wasn’t really expecting much from that stuffing in the first place.

Back to the point:  A Maltese Thanksgiving.  Well, the one that I experienced, anyway.  Which wasn’t exactly Maltese, but really more of a dinner that we American students in the international student’s flat complex decided to throw for anyone and everyone that wanted to participate.  It started out as a somewhat small affair, from what I can remember.  All of the international students, everyone from Nigerian nursing students to Indian engineering students to myself and another American there for the archaeology courses, lived in a large complex surrounding a rather dodgy pool that ended up giving a couple of the Canadians eye infections at one point.  I myself only dangled my legs in that water, and never swam in it, much to my relief when they each came back from the local doctor with nasty infections and hefty prescriptions.  Instead, I swam in the open water, on the rare occasions that I got a chance to swim, that is.

Anyway, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, a few of us American students were talking late one night and decided that it would be fun to do something for it.  You know, it would be cultural.  Something to demonstrate to the other students as an American tradition, and one that didn’t discriminate against race, religion, political inclination or anything else.  It was just all about the food.  We each agreed that we would bring something distinctly American, or at least something that we thought would represent something that we grew up eating.  So, mashed potatoes, corn, lefse from one girl (who managed, by the way, to make a really good mock-lefse, giving that she was using potato flakes, a dodgy stove and warped cooking pans – I am still impressed to this day).  I don’t actually even remember what I brought, to be honest.  Something silly, I am sure, like corn or something.  I was enough of a foodie at that point that by not remembering it, I know that it must have been something lame and uncreative.

Before the night of the dinner, though, which was to be held in the *enormous* dining room of one of the larger flats, we started hearing from other people in the complex that wanted to join in, and on top of that, they wanted to bring their own cultural foods to include in the repast.  Well, if you know anything about the first Thanksgiving, then you know that Pilgrims also accepted foods that were native to the tribes that joined them in the feast.  So, who were we to turn that addition?  We gladly welcomed it.

On the night of the dinner, then, to the sounds of CD’s playing everything from Italian rap music, so the popular techno tunes of the day (late 1990’s), literally dozens of us gathered in that dining room to join together in what turned out to be one of the best, and more memorable meals that I would have in Malta.  Copious amounts of cheap Maltese wine was drunk, Indian and Bangladeshi curries mingled with the lefse, mashed potatoes, turkey breasts (that someone managed to locate somewhere, although I can’t imagine how much they ended up paying for it, since turkey in Malta is rare indeed), not to mention the cookies that someone brought, fresh from the local Balzan bakery (remember them, from an earlier post?), the Russian dumplings, the Nigerian breads, and so many other things.  So much that no one was able to really eat everything, but we – every one of us – tried very hard!

After the food, and when the wine started to really take its effect, we moved the table back, and cranked up the music and began to dance.  People showed off their cultural dances and mainstream dances alike.  I did a rather serviceable Irish ceili dance, if I do say so myself.  Someone started to do a little Bollywood style dance and everyone enjoyed the night, well into the wee hours of the morning.  Somewhere along the line, I am sure that the flatware from several flats disappeared into the one hosting the dinner, never to resurface again.  Several chairs were broken, and at one point a few nights later, someone got the bright idea to take one of the broken chairs, dismantle it and use it as a bonfire.  Actually, it made a great bonfire that we used for cooking the Iranian chicken skewers that a friend made.  I can still taste them – a little funny-tasting, since the varnish from the wood on the chairs must have permeated the chicken a little bit, but they were still good.

All in all, that Thanksgiving was one of the best that I have ever had.  No one fought.  There weren’t any people there fighting over who would get the last crescent roll, or how best to make stuffing (do you put it in the bird or not?) and in the end, everyone went back to their respective flats, full, drunk, happy and dead tired.  I can still hear the music, see the dancing and taste the wine.  And I hope that I never forget it.  I have lot contact with nearly everyone that took part in that dinner, but as I eat my Thanksgiving dinner this year, like I have done every year since that night, I will raise my glass just once in their honor and say that wherever they are, and whatever they are doing, I am forever thankful that they were once a part of my life, and will forever be a part of my memories – some of the best of my life.

Advertisements