Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Turkey Time!
Happy Thanksgiving from Uganda! As you probably realize Thanksgiving is an American holiday and thus is not celebrated in Uganda. Being the only Americans in the house it was up to Anne and I to plan the menu, prepare the feast, decorate, and invite the guests. Let’s just say it’s not an easy task when you want to use ingredients that are not available in Uganda and have an oven that runs on Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. Despite going to about 5 different grocery stores in Kampala we neglected to find canned pumpkin, stuffing in a bag, and pre-made pie crusts. Luckily, I had gone into town that day to buy some last minute ingredients and was thankful to find four large packages from Anne’s parents containing stuffing mix, brownie mix, and pumpkin spice cupcake mix- it sure made things easier! We started the cooking process Wednesday night around 9pm and it lasted until 2am when the apple pie I was making from scratch finally looked done enough. Although it was only supposed to be in the oven for one hour, one hour become an hour and a half and then two hours later I was ready to call it a night- pie done or not.
The next morning I got up early to continue the baking. Luckily Anne and I had assistance from our cook, Goretti, and our cleaner/cook, Irene for the day. In town the day before we had stopped at another house the Sister’s have and I was happy to receive step-by-step directions on how to cook a pumpkin pie using real pumpkin. I am used to making a pumpkin pie with Libby’s canned pumpkin and cool whip, however, when in Africa and there is no pumpkin, cool whip, or milk remaining you have to adjust. So we chopped, peeled, boiled and mashed the pumpkin, and used milk powder to replace the milk the recipe called for. A rare find in Kampala of graham crackers allowed me to make a graham cracker crust for the pie. When it first came out I was skeptical, but after Anne and I taste tested it we were satisfied, and I have to admit real pumpkin tastes way better then the canned stuff. With all our baked goods complete (banana bread, pumpkin bread, apple pie, pumpkin pie, lemon poppy seed muffins, brownies, pumpkin spice cupcakes, rolls) we were ready for the turkey.
 Now I thought the pumpkin pie would be tough so you can only imagine the fear I was feeling over the main dish. We have many turkeys roaming around the backyard, and we had one killed that morning in preparation for dinner. The worker who killed it  plucked the turkey out back and put it in a cardboard box in a cupboard in the outside kitchen. Imagine a dead turkey hiding in your kitchen cupboard- a bit terrifying. Anne and I picked up the box, removed the turkey and took a good long stare at it. What did we get ourselves into?! We quickly decided gloves would be necessary for this as it was still bloody and had a big long neck sticking out of it. Anne washed the turkey outside by the spigot, and by that point we were grateful that Goretti had arrived and could help us. She assisted us in stuffing the turkey with carrots, onions, and some unknown meat pieces that came from the inside of the turkey, buttering it up, and putting it in the oven. Now we just had to wait.

Sister Jacinta decorating the front door of the school
With the turkey roasting and much of the baking done I went to the school to help decorate one of the classrooms for the Christmas carol concert they were to have the next day. Sister Jacinta, the headmistress, said that there would be a Christmas tree for the classroom to bring with us. The way she was describing the tree I expected something short probably around knee level height, but I realized I was clearly wrong when one of our gardeners proceeded to stuff a good twelve foot tree he had chopped down from the yard into the pick-up of the truck. It wasn’t your typical American Christmas tree, but it worked and I couldn’t help my self from laughing when we arrived at the school and six children proceeded to pick it up/drag it into the classroom. I had help from the children and two of the teaching staff to decorate the room with papers they had colored (aka shading.) We also hung candies on the tree in place of ornaments, hung yarn from either ends of the wall, and put up paper snowflakes. We spent a good two hours decorating…and well let’s just say it was colorful. It was definitely not your typical American decorations as the children did not know who Santa Claus or reindeer were, but we tried and it looked festive. As we were nearing the end of decorating I received a frantic call from Anne wondering if the turkey was done. Shoot, I had thought we would get back earlier then we did and I had left Anne in charge of managing the rest of the Thanksgiving meal, which is not an easy task for anyone, but especially for someone who is not used to cooking much.

Anne and Irene busy in the kitchen
When I arrived home the food was almost all completed. Anne had done well. We had many baked goods, a turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans, millet and mushroom sauce for the Africans, fruit, peas, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Our food covered two whole tables and was a feast for the eyes. Although we were planning on eating at 7pm, and told the Priests and Brothers we had invited to come early they all came rolling in on African time after 8pm. The night went well and there was much laughing, talking, and eating. It was a relief to see people enjoying the meal we had prepared and worked so hard on. Usually on Thanksgiving my family goes around the table and we all say what we are thankful for, we did not do that this year, but I will write it down here instead. This year I am thankful for my Ugandan family and friends, the wonderful Sisters I live with and the beautiful memories we have made here along the way.

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