Celebrating such a family-oriented holiday during the pandemic was tricky. Traveling to meet the family is one thing but what if I get them sick? I was lucky that I had Stephen here to share the holiday cheers (more like a lot of cooking and eating food).
Thanksgiving is such a quintessentially American holiday, isn’t it? Turkey, gravy, and lots of dishes made with autumn vegetables. Growing up in Korea, I thought Thanksgiving Day was a Christian holiday. Why? Probably a lot of Americans who lived in Korea at that time were Christians, mainly military families.
Although it wasn’t my holiday, I have a distinct memory about Thanksgiving Day and it’s not about turkey. My mom has a friend who’s married to an American military officer and they used to live on the US military base in Seoul. It was a special day when we went. Very exclusive, she had to get us at the door and we had to sign into a visitor log. It was like a little American village with all American stuff. Burger King, a food court with a soda fountain (drinking soda out of a cup and you can refill again and again? What?), the biggest pizza I’ve ever seen, it was so exotic.
And one day, when I was about 10 years old, she invited us for the Thanksgiving feast. I think I had good food, honestly, I can’t remember that well except for one thing: pecan pie. Oh, the pecan pie. I had one little bite of it and it was enough to make an impression. That was my very first time tasting such a delicious treat that blew up all my senses. It was so sweet, so sticky, so flaky, so crunchy, and so-so different than anything I’d ever tasted in my life. She sent us home with some pie and I worshiped the thing and savored every bite of it. Funny, so now I associate Thanksgiving with pecan pie, although I never had pecan pie at actual Thanksgiving dinner.
It was good. Relaxing. It was our first time cooking and celebrating Thanksgiving on our own. I’ve had an amazing feast prepared by my mother-in-law a couple of times and I still remember the smell and coziness. Our friends here in Anchorage were kind to invite us for the last few Thanksgiving dinners so we got to celebrate with our adopted families. But this year we were on our own (thanks pandemic) and we made the best out of it.
When we were traveling, we roasted duck because we were in Eastern Europe and it was the easiest whole bird to get other than chickens. But since we are here in Americal, we decided to go all in. We bought a small turkey (13.4 lbs) and brined it overnight. We lined up sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, beets, and green beans to accompany the main dish. I made my Korean pumpkin porridge to add a little flavor from my home.
My first time roasting turkey and it cooked beautifully with some help along the way. I had to google how to use the leave-in thermometer, asked my mother-in-law how to cook a turkey without a roasting pan, and adjusted the recipe because my oven wasn’t hot enough. But I have the same principle toward all cooking; cook with care, don’t be afraid, and enjoy the outcome. And it was the same to cook a large bird like a turkey.
We had our own little Thanksgiving with a few of our favorite dishes. It was an all-day cooking affair but we had a great time. I couldn’t help but miss the coziness of Stephen’s parents’ house and their Thanksgiving feast. Hopefully someday soon we can make a trip to see them. But until then, we have each other and a fridge full of leftovers.
That was my quarantine Thanksgiving. How was yours?