I’ve never really been a big holiday person. They’re fun, sure, but my preparation is forever lacking. I always leave my Halloween costume until the last minute, and end up wearing something lame. Valentine’s day has never been a big deal. We keep our anniversaries mellow. So I expected Thanksgiving to pass this year without much fanfare. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with a respectable feast.
One of the ALTs in the next town over has made it her personal challenge to bring Thanksgiving to Akita for the past 3 years. She coordinated the efforts of all of the American teachers in the northern half of the state (for logistical reasons, we couldn’t include any more people) to celebrate pot-luck style. I was proud to introduce the group to Grandma’s Delectable Coffee Cake. It’s so cool having a recipe that actually came from my grandmother, passed down from generation to generation, a recipe I watched her make over and over in her kitchen. I wonder where she got it from? Probably the back of a buttermilk carton.
Anyway, the real trick is coming up with a turkey. Sure, back in the States, free Butterballs practically fall from the sky. But no one here eats the stuff. Turns out you can get these things delivered to your door in Japan with a month’s notice. The other trick is how to cook the bird, as the typical Japanese kitchen doesn’t seem to come equipped with an oven. I did my baking the night before at the community center during the mexi-kaiwa, but not everyone has that option. Even if you do find an oven, it’s about twice as big as your average smallish microwave, so you have to order super small turkeys to make sure they fit.
Water was also an issue, which was certainly a shock, since we get like 70 inches of precipitation here a year. Why we chose to hold the festivities at a house with an inconsistent water supply, I’m not sure. We all met in the town Futatsui, which means “Two Wells”. Apparently, they need three, because the water ran out/was shut off well before Chris and I even arrived. This made cooking and washing dishes a challenge. Restroom runs to the local supermarket were also an important addition to the evening’s events.
In the end, our feast included turkey, stove top stuffing, some kind of green bean-cream of mushroom-fried onion casserole, sweet potato casserole topped w/ marshmallows, pumpkin pie, homemade mashed potatoes, and coffee cake.
The most amazing thing wasn’t the presence of all this food, but rather that it was so genuinely familiar. For the first time since moving to Japan, I thought to myself “I’ve eaten this before, and it’s familiar and good”. Opportunities abound to eat meals inspired by food from India or Italy or wherever, but deep down, you can always tell it’s made in Japan. But for that one night, my taste buds were in America, even if I was eating my mash with chopsticks and watching sumo instead of football.
Which was an awesome addition to Thanksgiving by the way. Highly recommended.