Happy holidays from Madadgascar!
While I do love my job and life here, I am happy to be describing my last Thanksgiving here. And what an epic one! We had ten Americans, a Malagasy girl, and a French guy. And more food than we knew what to do with!
It all started a few months ago when a French volunteer in my town, David-Pierre, mentioned that he had never had Thanksgiving food. Well, as a food holiday enthusiast (to say the least) I was not going to stand for that. In different but related conversation, I mentioned the existence of the “turducken,” a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. Well, we then decided that we had to try that.
So two weeks before Thanksgiving, David and I were at the market talking to the guys who sell chickens and ducks. I hadn’t really seen any turkeys, but I knew Madagascar had them. In fact, there were a few beauties living in Emma’s backyard! Unfortunately, those were not for sale. We talked to the poultry sellers for a bit, but never made definitive turkey-buying plans. Two days later, a couple of guys show up at my house with a very terrified, tied-up turkey. I decided it would be hard to find another one and they had brought it all the way to me, so after a bit of weighing (thanks, mom and dad, for the luggage scale :p) and haggling, I had myself a turkey.
TURKEYS ARE LOUD!!! Also very weird, the waddle thing on their face feels so strange! The turkey, dubbed Ood (from Dr. Who), only stayed at my house for a day, tied to a tree. He gobbled all afternoon. The name for “turkey” on the coast is just that sound, the gobble that it makes. That evening I took him to the French volunteer house because they have a bigger yard and had made a pen for Ood. Over the next two weeks, at the recommendation of various Malagasy friends, we fed Ood corn covered in vegetable oil to make him fat. When I bought him, Ood weighed around 7 kilos, or 15 ish pounds. We didn’t weigh him before we killed him, but we were guessing the dead bird, void of all innards and feathers, weighed probably 20 pounds. Big bird!
Most of the crowd arrived the day before Thanksgiving, which actually coincided with the first night of Hanukkah. Emma and our friend Zach are Jewish, so they helped us celebrate. We made latkes, a traditional potato pancake, and James read us a children’s book called “Grandma’s Latkes,” which he found in the donated books he received for his town from the “Books for Africa” project organized by some previous volunteers. We also decided to cook the turkey the night before so the oven would be free for all of the cooking the day of. I was actually working, finishing up the mural with the church by my house, so by the time I got home the boys had already killed, gutted, and plucked Ood, and he was all ready to be dressed. It was probably good I wasn’t there while they were doing all of this, since killing the bird I had taken care of the two weeks probably would have made me a little sad.
We nixed the turducken idea, since we found out they are made by machines because you have to debone the duck and the chicken. But we did make a delicious duck in addition to the turkey, and David got to try his hand at making fois gras for the first time. On Thanksgiving, we spent the day cooking garlic-mashed potatoes, duck, two kinds of green beans, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, stuffing, guacamole, bread, fruit salad, banana pudding, and peach cobbler. I was really impressed with everyone’s contributions. It tasted like a real Thanksgiving dinner! In honor of Hanukkah, Emma also made matza ball soup, even though it wasn’t the right holiday (that one is for Passover). She also had a menorah her mother sent her, so we lit that and said the Hebrew prayer as well. We also talked about watching sports, and many of us missed football. As a replacement, we watched videos from the 2012 London Olympics that Christina had downloaded. Allllllmost the same, haha.
I was thankful for my volunteer family, we all were. Most of the people in the room had been here as long as I have, and some had lost family the previous year. We expressed our thanks for our families at home and our new one here in Madagascar. We invited the “First Thanksgiving-ers,” the Malagasy girl and French guy, to break the wishbone, and passed a wonderful evening eating, drinking, and laughing.
Most of the crew stuck around for brunch the next morning, where we finished off a large part of the leftovers. We also made latkes again, because Zach was not there the first day, and had brought applesauce, which you are supposed to put on the pancakes. Delicious! Then most everyone took off and went back home. I was so happy to have all of them in my town to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, but I am looking forward to being home next year!