Headlines predict that a bunch of folks will suffer in the coming days. I cannot imagine a worse fate than traveling home for Thanksgiving in the United States in winter weather. There’s a John Candy/Steve Martin movie that displays some of the agony.
Travel can be an ordeal, but the combination of the busiest travel period and bad weather raise the stakes geometrically. I feel sorry for anyone caught in the storm or the crowd...or both.
Fortunately, we had our turkey feast last Saturday. That was the only day on which we could get all the necessary players together around a table. The meal was a success, partly due to the arrival the day before of a care package from the US with Pepperidge Farm stuffing. No Thanksgiving meal is possible without that ingredient. You cannot imagine how happy I was to greet the DHL driver at the door, especially since I had just fired up my laptop to look for a recipe for stuffing.
At the end of the day, what was stuffed was all the dinner participants...but all left just enough room for a piece of my apple pie just like my mother used to make.
Have you noticed that the word “terrorist” has become the go-to, all-purpose title to hang onto anyone a politician or leader feels should be maligned. The only threat is to the politician’s own reputation, so an appropriate amount of mud must be slung to fool the masses.
A current case in point is the leader of Turkey. Some citizens are complaining about the last trees in the one remaining park in Istanbul being cut down to make way for a Jewish-owned (irrelevant, but interesting fact) shopping center. The prime minister has called these citizens “terrorists” and “foreign agitators”. Of course, foreign media are also criticized for making him look bad, when they report what is actually happening and explain the true reason for civil unrest in a country he wants to rule with an iron hand.
His reaction displays typical signs of a paranoid dictator...or an insecure elected politician.
I had requested a seat on the right side (starbuck in nautical terms...or something like that) of the plane. On past flights to Dubai, I had been seated on the left side. I wanted to enjoy sights on the other side of the usual flight route.
There is bad rape (not a subject expect to ever cover) and good rape, or rather rape seed. These are pressed to make cooking oil. In springtime, rape seed fields color Germany yellow for a few weeks.
I was surprised by how small Bucharest looks from the air. I had expected a much larger city. Urban sprawl has not been inflicted upon the notoriously poor country. I did spot the stadium, where Steua Bucharest tries to play soccer. Romania is not known for its tourism industry, which is evident from land use along the Black Sea coast. Land is cultivated right down to the shore, and beach towns are not to be seen.
Although out the other side, I noticed that the city of Constanta. This surely means nothing to anyone reading this garbage and had been unknown to me...until last night. Strangely, this city was used in a novel I read in bed last night. I had not idea at the time that I would pass over it the next day.
Turkey did not interest me, either the right or left side of the plane. This was a good thing, because most of the country was overcast.
I particularly wanted to get a look at Baghdad, which seems to have been in the news a whole bunch during the past ten years. Unfortunately, clouds appeared just after passing a large airport, which may or may not have been Baghdad Airport. My impression of Iraq is one of a brown country. The only color I spotted was a bit of grey, which was the Tigris River, and orange of the occasional flame where gas was burned off at an oil field.
One of the few, if not only, traditions maintained from my youth is to “celebrate” Thanksgiving. Of course, this includes no giving, no thanks, and to thanksgiving...with the possible exception of being thankful that gifts are not required. This is an occasion to enjoy a huge turkey dinner.
Over the years, I have had to beg, borrow, steal, or buy the necessary supplies and often make due without one or two key ingredients or elements. Despite the distance from Plymouth Rock, we do a rather decent job of replicating tastes of yore.
This is one event that my children also enjoy and even demand its continuation. Number One Grandson experienced his first such meal, with his high chair being placed at the head of the table. The jury is still out, but he seems to prefer noodles (which does not surprise me, having had a weakness for Chef Boyardee spaghetti in a can).
For many years, we were forced to use frozen turkey from France or Poland. These tasted about the same, but were rather small (9 pounds) compared to giant, “manufactured” turkeys straining tables in the United States. Fresh turkeys are now more available, but are usually cooked at Christmas, so are difficult to find in November. Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and the like have found their way to German stores, but not Thanksgiving. Despite this marketing injustice, I have found a supplier that can deliver a decent bird, so we had a 16-pounder this year.
Ocean Spray has been kind enough to start exporting to Europe, so we no longer are forced to use the related, yet different, Preiselbeeren. Each trip to the United States by friends or family demands the sourcing of a package of Pepperidge Farm stuffing, without which no Thanksgiving meal would be the same. I have tried to replicate the taste with a homemade variety, but my daughter refuses to accept my effort. She is addicted to the real thing. The only addition, from France of course, is a bit of bubbly and Bordeaux wine, neither of which I recall from my early years.
The date of this feast is moveable, requiring only a day in November or early December when all can find time to stuff themselves with too much good, old American cuisine like my mother used to serve. The only change this year is the dessert substitution: my wife made an apple cheesecake, instead of my usual apple pie. I blame the proliferation of cooking shows and the Internet. Some things cannot be improved by the inexorable march of technology, and the traditional Thanksgiving spread one learns to enjoy from an early age in New England is one.
_Believe it or not, the ancient turkey (99%) is what America should be, while the bald eagle (1%) is all that it should not be...but has become. Unfortunately, the turkey and the country have changed...
“possible to see in the Thanksgiving turkey—with its artificially swelled breast, its easily distracted mind, and its undignified end—a symbol of the supposed-to-be-declining country that it feeds.”
I frequently patronize a fruit and vegetable shop owned by a small Turk. He's one of the friendliest and nicest people I know. I consider him a friend. His face lights up each time I enter his shop and not because he knows that his daily turnover will soar.
He knows my likes and dislikes. He refuses to sell me bad quality, even if something is on display. He knows that I demand to know origins of anything I buy and is proud to source the best products. He will often lower the price, if I wince at the cost of some exotic fruit flown in from afar. If I mention dissatisfaction with something that I have previously bought (occasionally an avocado will be over-ripe), he is clearly pained. He does not charge for the next one or throws in one for free. He gives me only the freshest items from the his walk-in refrigerator, and not items available to the general public.
His reputation has spread far and wide. Customers drive long distances, passing other similar shops, to patronize his shop. It has nothing to do with race.
He knows that I am problably the only customer that has bothered to learn the history of his country and mentions current events, which I have spotted in my scan of daily headlines. He's proud to explain some events or pained by others. He's happy to live in Germany and grateful for the opportunity to make a good living, but is proud of his heritage. He pays back by offering good quality and friendly service (a lesson many German shops could learn).
He knows that I explained the significance of Gallipoli to his daughter, before her trip to Australia. She had grown up in Germany and has less connection to the country of her parents. It took an American to explain the unfortunate and enduring connection between Turkey and Australia to a girl that grew up in Germany.
He wants to show me his hometown, Istanbul, and I want to see it. I need a local guide to help me wander the vast Great Bazaar without getting lost, tempted, or ripped off. I also need a guide to show me the architectural magnificence of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, formerly known as the Cathedral of St. Sophia (the Greeks and the Turks seem to have "issues" lasting several millennium). This has nothing to do with religion; both are testimony to man's creative genius and talent.
Cultural diversity makes my life more interesting. As much as I like Germany, I would not enjoy living in a town peopled by only one race or nationality. After all, variety is life...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.