Friday, November 27, 2009


This year I am thankful for many things, not the least of which that I was able to spend this most lovely of American holidays surrounded by family, a rarity with our geographically scattered lot. This year we spent Thanksgiving in Frisco, Colorado in a beautiful cabin in front of a nearly-frozen river, taking walks in the frigid air and enjoying the view of snow-capped mountains all around us.

It was really nice to be with family, but I have to confess that part of me longed to be back in Maputo to be able to enjoy the Thanksgiving tradition we established there. We'd cook a traditional turkey dinner for about 30-35 people each year, and let me tell you, the logistics of tracking down a turkey in Maputo without dropping $100 isn't that easy. I was always in charge of that part of the meal, and the logistical adventures were plentiful.

Two years ago, I couldn't find a turkey in Maputo to save my life (other than the horrendously overpriced ones at Talho Polana and SuperMares), so I gave money to a colleague at Hugh Marlboro's banana empire, who gave the money to a friend who was going to Johannesburg. That person then gave the money to an auntie who bought two frozen turkeys, only to pass them off to someone else who was taking the overnight bus back to Maputo. I got a call around 7am from an unknown number two days before Thanksgiving saying could I please go down to the bus station, that there was a package waiting for me. I sent Zeca, the taxi driver, who arrived at our flat with two completely thawed turkeys in plastic grocery bags. The person who had brought them on the bus had neglected to put them on ice, or even in a cool box. The turkeys were still somewhat cold to the touch, so I decided to cook them anyway and taste them myself prior to serving to the Thanksgiving crowd. I figured that if I got ill, then we'd have roast chicken or matapa or some alternate main dish for the holiday. If I didn't get sick, then I'd serve the two turkeys and simply not tell anyone of their thawed adventure on the bus until well after the meal was over. In fact, this is the first some people are hearing of the story, I imagine. I'm happy to report that Thanksgiving 2007 did not involve any food poisoning, and all were treated to two beautifully cooked, tasty turkeys. :)

Last year there was drama as well, of course. I ran out of cooking gas halfway through turkey #2, prompting Dona Lidia to run to the outdoor market near our house and haul a new canister home balanced carefully on the top of her head. On the heels of that fiasco, the gas ran out at K and M's house, so Rico dashed home and hoisted our new gas canister on his head and brought it over to save the day in their kitchen.

It was a very special tradition, our Maputo Thanksgivings. Somehow we always managed to get all of the traditional foods on the table - turkey, cranberries, stuffing, giblet gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes and pies galore - as well as some great multi-cultural contributions from our guests. Only a couple of us were actually from the US, but somehow everyone got into the spirit of the holiday and pitched in to make a great meal happen.

My favorite part both years was the spontaneous prayer circle that happened in the kitchen prior to serving the food. People from 20 different countries or so joined hands and said a few words about how thankful we were for the family we'd found amongst our newfound friends in Maputo, how nice it was to feel at home and part of a tradition despite being so far away from our own relatives and holiday celebrations. It was really special, something I will never forget.


laundrygirl said...

Sounds like such a cool way to celebrate! I love the idea of so many languages under one roof!

Ancarol said...

Gooood memory and great tradition !! i like meet like this have a lot friends together and kitchen with a lot person that really good to fun together .... as party !

JC said...

Saudades my frenji!! You should write a short story on the "Periplos do Peru" ...
We remembered Thanksgiving a little too late here, and all really missed you and Rico, as well as K and M... Maybe next year in Europe?!