Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

This marks the third year that I have not made it home for Thanksgiving. My freshman and sophomore years I had Thanksgiving at my dorm back at Mudd with the (23 my frosh year, 40 or so my sophomore year) of my friends that were also on campus. Last year I managed to put myself in charge of the production. Having successfully pulled off organizing Thanksgiving for 40 last year I decided that it would be a good idea to take charge of making sure it happened here in Budapest. As it turns out, organizing Thanksgiving abroad is a somewhat larger project than organizing Thanksgiving at Mudd for 2 main reasons:

1) Here we are spread all over the city rather instead of being concentrated in a small area.

2) Foods that count as traditional in America and thus show up in larger than usual quantities near Thanksgiving are not necessarily foods that are common in Magyarorszag.

The first one is not that big of a deal, it just requires a bit more logistical planning. The second...
Sweet Potatoes I love sweet potatoes. They are delicious baked and my mom's sweet potato casserole is one of my favorite foods at Thanksgiving. Hungary on the other hand is not quite so familiar with them. I had been watching for them in the various different grocery stores and at the fruit and vegetable stands and even Tesco (the closest equivalent to Walmart here) for a while and they seemed to be completely non-existent. On Monday I do not have class until noon, so in the morning Christina and I headed to the giant market. The first floor of the market consists of a ridiculous number of fruit and vegetable stands along the sides with various meat stands and baked goods stands in the center. We figured that if there were going to be sweet potatoes anywhere they would be at the market. Sure enough, at the two stands in the far back corner of the market there were unlabeled piles of what looked like sweet potatoes. One of the stand owners knew enough English that with my limited knowledge of Hungarian I was able to confirm that they were in fact sweet potatoes. This worked out fine, the process of finding them was just rather time consuming.

Cranberry Sauce
Another very traditional Thanksgiving food. At Mudd we usually end up with a homemade cranberry sauce and some sort of cranberry relish and possibly also cranberry sauce from a can. When we went to the market I was watching for cranberries, but, unlike the sweet potatoes, we did not have any luck there. Charlie and I went to Tesco to hunt later, thinking that perhaps it was just hiding somewhere strange, but no. The only mention of cranberries we found in the whole store were dried cranberries in a box of granola - not exactly useful for concocting cranberry sauce. We eventually gave up on trying to locate cranberries.

This one was especially frustrating since Hungarians seem to like nuts. Walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios and almonds are all very easy to find. Things like cashews and macadamia nuts are rarer but can still be found with minimal searching. Pecans though... nincs. Rumor has it that they can occasionally be found in small quantities at exotic markets, but I did not have any luck. Thus pecan pie and pecan topping on sweet potatoes and such things were out of the question.

Pumpkin Pie
Tesco had pumpkins back about a week prior to Halloween. These days, there are no pumpkins anywhere (this was another thing I had been watching for at the market). There is what seems to be butter nut squash at every small fruit stand and a different winter squash in all of the grocery stores (it intrigues me, none of the grocery stores have the butternut and none of the stands have the other kind). The flesh of the squash in the grocery stores has a similar texture to pumpkin, so I got a chunk of it and decided to see what happened if I turned it into a pie. This involved more improvising since evaporated milk also seems to be hard to come by here - or at least I have been unable to recognize it if does exist. Despite all of the improvising, it came out great, so Christina and Alison looked for another piece of the squash when they went to the store on Thanksgiving morning. Even though they were at the same place I had bought the squash the day before, it seemed to have vanished. Thus we ended up with a single 'pumpkin' pie... such is life.

Despite all of this, the whole production went off amazingly.

As per usual, I made crescent rolls - about 100 of them. I don't know if it was the European flour, or the fresh eggs or if I just managed to do something exactly right, but they came out extremely light and fluffy. I was very pleased.

While I was working on the rolls and baking the pumpkin pie, Chelsey made deviled eggs. When we were done cooking, this meant that we now had 100 rolls, a pie and several plates of deviled eggs that we had to get from Christina's apartment to Kevin and David's apartment (where we were all meeting to actually have dinner). We decided that it would be less awkward to just walk than to try to take it on the metro, so we made quite the procession as we paraded down the sidewalk of one of the largest streets in Budapest carrying a tub-o-rolls, a pie, several plates of deviled eggs and a pot of butternut squash (Kyle had joined us by that point). I was rather amused by all of the double takes we got from the Budapesti that we passed on the way :-)

Dinner ended up starting around 4:30 and, despite the fact that the cranberry sauce was missing, it was a very impressive spread. Even after everyone had been through and taken heaping plates of food there was a LOT of food left on the tables.

All 40 or so of the people who showed up ended up stuffed and happy, so the meal was a resounding success :-)

I hope everyone else had an equally wonderful Thanksgiving!

No comments: