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Who would’ve thunk it?

November 28, 2008

Check out this little pumpkin (well, panda by a pumpkin):

From Falling in


I DARE you not to smile and say “Awwww”:

Yeah, you can’t do it, can you?

Given the utter and arresting adorableness of Baby J, I fully expected to loathe every second of my first Thanksgiving away from the family. Wonderful relatives aside, how could Belgium possibly compete with two (yes, 2!) perfectly cooked turkeys? Fine specimens that inspire a frenzy in the kitchen the moment they pop out of the oven (or are driven up from my cousin’s oven, conveniently located just down the street),  as everyone tries to nibble off as much of the glazed skin as possible in between spatula thwackings from my harried mother as she attempts (in vain) to get the birds to the table in one piece. Or the expertly mashed potatoes? Belgians just don’t have the milk-butter-delumping techniques of Aunt Jannie. And pumpkin pie? Ha. Belgians excel at many desserts but pumpkin related sweets are not among them.

How could the day be anything but a disaster? Well, somehow, some way, it ended up being a perfectly lovely day. An unbiased observer may have even called it ‘fun.’

Most of the day was fairly unexceptional. I moped a bit in the morning and complained to Boyfriend about how I was supposed to be at Eat n’ Park with Amanda having Banana Foster French Toast (the past few Thanksgiving-Eves we’ve gone out in Pittsburgh til 1 or 2 and then headed straight for Eat n’ Park as we’d rather have our carbs via diner food than beer). Then around 2pm I complained about how I should be sleeping in instead of at work and that I was missing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Then I reminisced about how I was an essential part of the dinner preparations and wondered how it could possibly go smoothly in my absence. Finally, I shed a few virtual tears about all the football we would miss that night.

At which point Boyfriend reminded me that a) I’ve never watched more than 20 consecutive minutes of the Macy’s parade (“wahooo! another high school band! yay! some Disney Channel teeny bopper I’ve never heard of is singing!” yeah. I don’t last very long.), b) my “vital” contributions to Thanksgiving dinner are typically limited to chopping celery and vacuuming and c) I’ve never ever watched an entire football game on Thanksgiving.

Right. So. After 75% of my complaints were roundly dismissed as absurd and unapplicable, I shut up and got back to work.  And started looking forward to the night’s event: a Thanksgiving Dinner hosted by The American Club of Brussels.

Which exceeded every one of my (albeit low) expectations!

To start with, nearly all of the US tax group as well as their significant others that were in town (60% of the office is back in the US for training) attended. Although we all spend far too much time together at work, it’s really nice to see everyone in a social setting. ESPECIALLY when they are with their families. (ex: Your otherwise intimidating Bulgarian Senior Manager seems almost human when his charming wife is at his side.) So, surrounded by friendly people with ties to the US, we had some lovely aperitifs and then sat down for dinner.

First course was a delicious New England Clam Chowder. Not sure if that’s a traditional dish or not since we certainly don’t have that at our house, but whatever, it was tasty. Before the bowls were licked clean the waiters started bringing out the side dishes – mashed potatoes, an odd corn soup/bread type dish, jellied cranberry sauce, green beans & mushrooms, sweet potatoes AND… the piece de resistance… cranberry flavored jello. They were supposed to make cranberry sauce but instead they made jello. (Oh Belgium. I love you.)

Cranberry jello goes surprisngly well with Pellegrino.But still doesn’t taste like Cranberry Sauce.

With side dishes ranging from decent (stupid sweet potatoes were sans brown sugar & marshmallows) to delicious (the odd corn thing was particularly yummy) all laid out they brought out the main draw: the turkeys. And not just slices of turkey but  a WHOLE turkey & carving utensils for each table. 

Now, at some of the tables, there was a bit of a fight over who had the honor of carving with the winner typically being the most senior member of the group. At our table? No one volunteered. We had two Belgians who had never had been served a whole turkey, two vegetarians who preferred not to deal with poultry and 6 first-timers who had always left the honors up to our families. As everyone stared awkardly at one another I considered raising my hand but, considering the long distance between the venue and the ER, I did the next best thing: volunteered Boyfriend.

From Falling in


The end result:

From Falling in

A pretty decent plate of Thanksgiving fare. 🙂

The evening drew to a close nicely over some okay desserts – apple tart (they need to work on their Apple pie recipe), an interesting flan type thing and mincemeat pie.

Pleasantly stuffed, Boyfriend and I headed home for the night in time to videochat with the families and join in the Thanksgiving fun back in Pittsburgh & Cleveland. (in this case, the 6 hr time difference was pretty handy)

So, in addition to the other 47 million things I have to be thankful for this year, last Thursday I was able to add “a wonderful Thanksgiving abroad” and “Videochatting” to the list 🙂

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