Thanksgiving in Sweden... Twice (part 1)

Each year we plan a trip to the US for Thanksgiving.  I hadn't given thought to the importance of the holiday for me.  I guess I took it for granted.  Thanksgiving was always there for me.  I still consider New Year's my favorite holiday, but Thanksgiving is a very close second.  The warmth and love and food and football is always amazing.

I had hosted Thanksgiving dinner in Sweden back when we lived here in 2006.  I wanted to spread the spirit of the holiday to my new family.  That dinner went well.  I had my mother on speed dial to make sure I got the recipes right (I did).  Everyone loved it.  I still remember the satisfied faces of my in-laws as they sprawled out on the couch with a case of "the itis".  Ah, memories.

This year we wouldn't be able to go home for Thanksgiving.  Apparently Uncle Sam and his cohorts did a little research and Expat Jon had crunched his numbers wrong at tax season in 2012.  Vacation money would be going to the IRS this year.  Swedie and I decided to take that bucket of lemons and make some delicious lemonade.  Let's have a Thanksgiving extravaganza here!  Cool.  We started going through the list of people to invite.  She named family members.  I named friends.  The list kept growing.  It was starting to get awkward.  Well, do we really have to have [insert family member]? I'm closer to [insert friend] than you are to [insert gender pronoun].  [Insert wife "no you didn't!" face].

So we decided that in order to keep this marriage together we'd have two separate Thanksgiving dinners.  One for family and one for friends.  I personally wouldn't mind having a million people in our apartment.  We could be like a soup kitchen for all I care.  To me that's what Thanksgiving is all about.  Who cares about comfort and fire hazard capacities?  Comfort food will win the day.  I've been to Thanksgiving dinners where people eat off of a paper plate on their lap while sitting on the couch.  I know about the "kids' table" that's embarrassingly small when you're a pre-teen and you REALLY want to eat with the adults instead of your little cousin that somehow shoots soda out of his nose whenever he laughs (and he's easily amused). The point is, it's not about everybody being super comfortable.  It's about everybody being there.  Alas, I didn't make the final decision.  Swedie prevailed.  I'd be cooking twice.  Oh well.  I was still very excited about this.  Thanksgiving in Sweden!

I put a menu together.  Both dinners would have Turkey, dressing (stuffing), collard greens, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, cabbage, cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie and lemon cake.  I'd make sweet tea for those that don't mind a possible run-in with diabetes down the line, and soda/beer for the cowards.  I got the recipes that I needed from Mom and went to City Gross.  I'd say that's as close to Wal Mart as I've been here.  They have a wide variety of stuff there!  Lucky for me, they have an American section.  I found cranberry sauce in a can.  I'm so glad I didn't have to make it from scratch like I did in 2006.  It turned out delicious back then, but I wasn't trying to do that again... twice!

I had everything and began cooking on Wednesday night.  The turkey takes time, Grasshopper.  Speaking of turkey, the price for a fresh turkey in Stockholm is ridiculous!  They were huge (6.6kg/14.5lb and 9.9kg/21.8lb).  The 9kg turkey costed 998:- ($114.72).  I don't know if you recall, but I had this little IRS run in recently.  We took that fat ass turkey right to customer service and swapped it for a frozen bird.  Momma didn't raise no fool.  I'll thaw that bad boy out before the Sunday Thanksgiving dinner.

Swedie's family is all white people, so the first guests were early.  I was still putting the finishing touches on dinner when they were arriving.  I was actually feeling a little stressed.  I was representing my country's holiday on this night.  Things had to be right.  I was representing my mother's food.  It couldn't be nasty.  I was actually very happy that my mother-in-law was early.  Bash LOVES her (as do I).  Bash also LOVES "helping out" [read: getting in the damn way] in the kitchen.  Good thing he LOVES her more because he got out of the damn way.

The family loved the food!  Well, except for the cornbread.  The cornbread was universally disliked.  I think it may be the fact that I used filmjölk where the recipe called for buttermilk.  It works as a good replacement in pancakes, but not so much in cornbread.  It was what I'd imagine eating the contents of those packets that come in new shoes that says: DO NOT EAT would be like.  Dry and flavorless and grainy.  You live and you learn.

Everyone did that thing Swedes do while they eat where they mumble, "Åh va gott!" between passionate moans.  It makes a chef feel like a superstar.  Thanks family!  Over dessert and coffee (not my family tradition, but you try having a dinner around Swedes without coffee and see if you make it out alive) we went around the table and said what we're thankful for.  I love this tradition and I'm glad to have shared it with my family here.  An old Air Force buddy of mine was in town as well.  He was late as hell to the dinner (guess his race), and his presence made the giving thanks part a bit awkward.  As a courtesy to him, people were saying their piece in English.  So nice of them.  Until one brave Swede dared to ask the magic question.

       - (in Swedish) Is it okay if I say it in Swedish?

Of course it is! Thanksgiving at Casa de Rollins is a multi-lingual one.  Speak from your Swedish hearts and let us know what you're thankful for.  Everyone followed suit then.  People shared their thanks in their native tongue.

All in all it was a beautiful and successful evening.  I shared that I was thankful for my family.  Everyone from that evening is special to me in some way.  Thanksgiving was a huge success!  Until next time...

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