Ah, Thanksgiving... the beginning of the holiday season! … Well, at least in the States. In Köln, the holidays really start to kick-off with Karneval, two weeks before Thanksgiving. Despite the two-week head-start on the holidays, I am ecstatic to report that Christmas decorations and Weihnachtsmärkte in Germany aren't in full display until around Thanksgiving anyway, so you heard no complaining from me about Christmas carols being on the radio before the turkey was carved.
Alex and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a married couple twice, once on the day itself and again the Sunday after. On the official holiday, I took off from work (one of the many perks of having your own Funding in academia... thanks, Fulbright!), and Alex and I pulled together a full Thanksgiving feast for the two of us in our apartment. For the second feast, we joined the regional Fulbright Alumni Association's Thanksgiving dinner in Köln. Both events were definitely memorable!
Unsere privaten Thanksgiving
Celebrating Thanksgiving in a country that doesn't has some challenges. For instance, Truthähnchenare difficult to come buy, and there are no sales in the weeks before the big day. Luckily, we weren't planning to have Truthahn on the menu because (1) a turkey for two people isn't practical and (2) our freezer in our small, European-sized refrigerator fits three frozen pizzas and not much else. A turkey would require the entire space of our refrigerator (maybe). So no turkey.
Alex and I decided to have a plain old Huhn. At most local grocery stores in the States, the only whole birds you can find are turkeys and chickens. So when Alex went into Aldi down the street and picked up a small bird (not bothering to look at the label), we were shocked to find that he had brought home eine Ente instead, and for not much more than what we would have paid for eine Huhn.
We also learned that pie as we Americans know it does not exist in Germany and neither do pie pans. The best we could find was a 31 cm Kuckenform from IKEA for our pumpkin pie (pumpkin filling courtesy of both of our parents!). Rather than a 9-inch pie pan, several inches deep, we were left with a 12-inch-diameter pan a little over an inch deep. Definitely a change from the usual pumpkin pie! Moreover, shortening isn't quite the same as it is in the States, so we ended up substituting butter in our crust (it tasted like a delicious heart attack). An additional challenge was handling the Kuchenform, which—according to the picture on the packaging—was designed for baking pizzas; the bottom of the plate was removable and fit loosely, meaning anytime we got the pie out of the oven or moved it before it had sufficiently cooled, we risked breaking the pie in half. However, we managed to make our pie without making it too ugly, and it tasted delicious!
As far as the rest of the Thanksgiving feast went, we easily completed it with stuffing (a whole loaf's worth... leftover stuffing for days!), mashed potatoes, gravy, egg noodles, corn, warm rolls, and even pear salad (ew) for Alex (a tradition of his family, made of iceberg lettuce, pear halves, cheddar cheese, and pear-mayonnaise dressing... I just stuck to having plain pears and a slice of cheddar).
Thanksgiving mit Fulbright
The best part about Thanksgiving with the Fulbright Alumni Association was that Alex and I had no dishes to wash afterwards. The worst part was that this also meant we had no leftovers.
Every year, the Alumni Association for NRW (Nordrhein-Westfalen) hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for past German Fulbrighters (to the U.S.) and current American students. Unfortunately for us, I don't think other American Fulbrighters got the memo, so Alex and I were the only non-German-speaking guests. This made dinner conversations awkward because the elder Germans at our table were eager to talk with old friends and colleagues in their Muttersprache (and I don't blame them). It was even worse sitting with our stomachs growling as the host gave a lengthy speech at the beginning about who knows what. Alex and I tried (to no avail) to pick out German phrases for nearly 30 minutes before they finally started to serve dinner. Nonetheless, both of us had a great time and shared some laughs with our tablemates.
Dinner was delicious, beginning with a creamy corn chowder. The main course consisted of two large turkeys, stuffing (which tasted like it was made with honey), mashed potatoes, green beans, and cranberries. We ended with a dessert of pumpkin pie, complete with whipped cream (Cool Whip doesn't exist here, but whipped cream—when you can find it—can be just as good).
Overall, our first Thanksgiving was a great success! We ate delicious food, had delicious leftovers, and spent the day together as family (even if it was just the two of us). I'm looking forward to seeing what Weihnacht will bring!