Turkey Day, Neno style.
05.11.2014 - 30.11.2014 30 °C
Yes, the great American holiday of family, friends, food, and football. For the first time in my life, I was without the first of those. Combined with a lack of family and temperatures into the 90s, not to mention having to work, Thanksgiving day itself was a bit different, to say the least. None the less, we enjoyed a great meal. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, candied carrots, white beans with kale (okay, something similar to kale), salad, and cranberry sauce was shared with six or seven of us. Combined with an always entertaining game of Cards Against Humanity, it would have been a satisfactory celebration for Neno. It was only Thanksgiving round one.
Round two happened on Saturday. I've never seen so little kitchen space utilized so efficiently to produce such an elaborate spread of food. Three kinds of poultry, turkey, guinea fowl, and chicken. Steak. Mashed potatoes. Green beans. Roasted sweet potatoes. Dressing. Ginger mashed pumpkin. Gravy. Cranberry sauce. Homemade challah bread. And now for the twist. Seasoned ground beef. Refried beans. Mexican rice. Homemade salsa and guac. Sour cream. Chipati (very similar to large flour tortillas). Yes, I basically just described a burrito that puts Chipotle to shame. Oh yeah, and dessert. Apple pie. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin roll. Honey cinnamon ice cream. While the meal on Thursday was delicious and filling, Saturday fully induced the Thanksgiving-famous food coma.
My cooking and baking for the meal started Friday night. My original plan was to make a pumpkin cheesecake, along with pumpkin pie and the ice cream. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication in my grocery order, so there as 9oz. of cream cheese on its way back to Neno, instead of 900grams. Change of plans. Pumpkin roll with cream cheese frosting instead. While I was waiting for the cream cheese and evaporated milk, for the pie, I got to work. With beans on the stove, I baked the cake part of the roll. While that was in the oven, I made powdered sugar. For those curious, you blend regular granulated sugar. Once the cake was done, I rolled it up in a towel and put it in the fridge. Next, I made the pie crust. When I finished that, the other items I needed had arrived, so I whipped up the pie filling and slid it into the oven. With that baking, I blended the frosting together. Out of the fridge came the roll. Laying flat, I generously applied the frosting, rolled it back up, and placed it back in the fridge. The last piece of the puzzle for the night was the ice cream. With the beans now done, I placed them aside and heated the milk (made from powder) and added honey, sugar, half the cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. With egg yolks already set out, I went through the process of slowly heating them in order to get custard, and not scrambled eggs and milk. Lastly I added the remaining cinnamon and a bit of ginger, before straining into a shallow dish. At this point it went into the fridge to cool. As I pulled the pie out of the oven, my time in the kitchen was done for the night. Pumpkin pie, done. Pumpkin roll, done. Ice cream, ready to churn.
First thing Saturday morning, I pulled the frozen ice cream maker from the freezer and churned the ice cream. Returning it to the baking dish and placing it in the freezer once it was done. Besides stirring the ice cream from time to time, to help it freeze better, I was done with the desserts. For the rest of the morning, I watched, smelled, and listened, as Marco turned our kitchen into a Mexican restaurant. Originally, the plan was to eat around 4 or 5, but as we realized that wasn't going to happen, we helped ourselves to a "sampling" for lunch. It confirmed it, my plate would be made up mostly of a giant burrito, with small sides of typical Turkey Day foods.
Around 4:30 we went over to the house that was hosting dinner. At this point the guinea fowl was still alive. I helped here and there for a bit, but mostly just tried to stay out of the way. Finally, as the last thing to cook, I fried the chipati that Marco had been rolling out. About halfway through, Joe took over. It was at this point I found out I had been making tortillas, using only a thin layer of oil. With joe at the helm, each piece was dropped into ¼ in plus of oil, truly frying it, and hence, chipati. With every pot and pan in the kitchen used, most twice, all possible serving dishes in use, and an overused oven, which at one point had bread, steak, and chicken cooking at once, now only baking apple pie, it was 8 o'clock. Time to eat!! Well, after we explained the smorgasbord of food sprawled out on the table to the Malawians.
As I slowly sank backwards and began to slouch in my chair, the sure onset of food coma, I felt a small grin slide onto my face. Pure satisfaction. The only unfortunate thing was that I didn't have a comfy couch to sink into while semi-consciously watching football. A few hours of relaxing and chatting later, room for dessert had magically appeared in my stomach. Between the pumpkin roll frosting, the buttery-goodness of the apple pie, and the richness of the ice cream, I didn't even get to the pumpkin pie. All in all, I am positive I consumed more butter in one night then I had since I arrived in Neno. The latest says it's healthy for you, right?
Oh. And the best part. There were plenty of leftovers for dinner on Sunday!
Thanksgiving is a strange holiday. With the story we are all taught about its beginnings a sham, and it now serving as the official beginning of the overly commercial, month-long, Christmas shopping spree, the basic premise is easy to forget. Thanks. This year, I am thankful for all of the new people I have met since July. For everybody that worked together to bring an odd American tradition to rural Malawi. For the opportunities that I have had this year to travel the world and gain perspective on the battle for social justice and equality. For supportive family and friends. For this crazy ride we call life and all the ups and downs, failures and triumphs, good and bad along the way.