Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Gluttony

"The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any huge meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it and then chopping and cooking and braising and blanching. Then it takes 20 minutes to eat it and everybody sort of sits around in a food coma, and then it takes four hours to clean it up."
Ted Allen

Thanksgiving has come and gone, as has my most recent guest, Katie. Katie and I worked at the library together in college and have been friends ever since. She had never been to Europe, so I was really excited when she said that she wanted to come here for her first-ever visit. I regarded it as both a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to introduce her to the place I love, even though I wouldn't normally pick Poland as a traditional starting point for European adventures. Still, she was keen to come, and didn't mind that Poland was to be her introduction to European life instead of, say, Paris.

Almost immediately after her arrival, I hosted an early Thanksgiving blowout feast. I invited everyone from work, 16 of whom came. Everyone was charged with bringing a dish and beverage of their choosing. There were lots of great Polish food items, and some other random dishes, as well. I was charged with cooking the traditional Thanksgiving goodies.

So, I went for an apple cider-glazed 22 pound (10 kilo) turkey, with a big pan of traditional stuffing (no oysters, sausage, or cornbread for me!), 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, apple cider gravy, soft pull-apart rolls, and two pumpkin pies with homemade whipped cream. A lot of work, but Katie helped me prepare as much as possible the night before and throughout the day on Saturday, including sawing off the neck of the turkey. (I find it's nice to keep an experienced surgeon on hand at this time of year.) Really, everything got done on time, except the damned turkey, which delayed the stuffing (only room for one giant thing at a time in my small oven) and the gravy. But, since everyone had brought something to eat, no one was sitting around twiddling their thumbs and starving. Thankfully!

I sweated it out in the kitchen, getting things ready at the last moment, but Katie was really good about bringing me bits of food to eat and helping to clean as we went along. I feel it was as successful as it could have possibly been under the circumstances! Instead of brining the turkey, as I normally would, I opted to salt it overnight (as recommended by Cook's Illustrated for those who don't have the space or inclination to brine). It worked a treat, and the turkey was incredibly moist.

My friends hung out until about 1am, listening to music and drinking a bit too much. Having lots of fun, to be sure. It was a great party, and I'm so glad I took the time to share the spirit of Thanksgiving with all my new friends.

I also have to say a special word of thanks to Katie, who came to Poland with an entire suitcase filled with goodies for me. Three enormous cans of pumpkin, for a start! Not to mention chips, sugar, and spices that I couldn't find here. Jeans, a Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and on and on. What an amazing woman! So, thank you again for your incredible generosity and kindness, Katie!

The day after the early Thanksgiving party, we mostly just laid around my apartment, bloated and exhausted--as is traditional to the Thanksgiving celebration.

This year, I'm thankful for many things, but especially for the friends in my life. You make the world an amazing place to be!

More stories from Katie's visit to follow...


  1. What type of sugar cannot you find in Poland?
    Of course, the whole story was very compelling! ..and 'to be continued'

  2. In fact, I can't find American-style brown sugar! What you have here is very different...good, but different. It just doesn't work the same for baking, unfortunately. Thanks for saying my story was compelling, by the way. Hopefully, I'll have another update soon. :-)