"Okay. So. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being 'Wen you're being an idiot, just stop this nonsense now', and 10 being 'helllllllll yeeeeeeah', where would you say you are?" I asked Babs and Louise, our fabulous host in Dubai.
"Five..." said Babs, "...not that a 1 has ever stopped you."
" 'On a scale?' You are SUCH a geek. Seriously," said Louise. She would know. We used to work together in Singapore.
We were at the poultry aisle in Spinney's, a supermarket chain in Abu Dhabi. In particular, we were all staring at a trough full of frozen Butterball turkeys. It was mid afternoon on Thanksgiving Thursday, and I was testing the momentum behind my crazy idea to throw together an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner out here in the Gulf. If we went through with it, the plan was to buy a turkey now, thaw it in Louise's car outside while we chatted over cake and coffee, and hope for the best come dinnertime. Given I usually defrost turkeys overnight, there was a serious risk of serving up turkey slices for dinner and turkey popsicles for dessert.
But I couldn't just give up now. Not when we had found any turkey at all out here in the desert. I love turkey. I love its dramatic size, carving it, how its clean firm flesh is such a great canvas for gravy and cranberry. I love picking apart the carcass after dinner, gleefully anticipating a week's worth of snacks. I love turning a turkey's lovely bones into a hearty soup or congee. I loved turkey even way back when my family ate store-cooked ones at Christmas, woefully flavourless and so overcooked you choked on its dryness with every mouthful. Back then it wasn't about eating turkey at Christmas dinners, it was about drowning mostly untouched turkey slices in gravy and mozzerella to make a very messy turkey melt for days afterwards.
Then while at university in the US, I got invited to Thanksgiving dinners with various friends' families, and learnt how to cook turkey myself. Pilgrims pillaging the New World notwithstanding, I like the ritual of sitting down with family and friends with a mountain of food, and being thankful for the year's bounty of provision and affection. So I took the tradition with me back home to Singapore, and later to London, converting (or at least feeding) a few friends along the way for whom I am thankful.
A decade on from my first DIY turkey, was I about to break with my adopted tradition?
"Hey look. These turkeys are defrosted already. And they're halal!" said Herbert, our friend based in Abu Dhabi, coming back from further along the aisle.
I am thankful for Herbert!
After coffee and cake we zipped back to Herbert's flat, and within 4 hours had a gorgeous piping hot turkey (really simple turkey recipe here ) with homemade gravy and cranberry sauce and Babs's ever reliable Rockstar Roast Potatoes. Herbert even invited over a couple of his friends in town to add to the festive atmosphere.
And so, as always, so much to be thankful for as we tuck in. Just a few mentions here:
I am thankful for Louise, who housed us, smelly backpacks and all, drove us all over the gleaming desert, and sous-chefed brilliantly for dinner!
I am thankful for Herbert, who trusted us with his kitchen even though he was flying to Singapore right after dinner. I hope we cleaned up ok!
For Josh and his mother Janet (may she rest in peace), from whom I got the orginal version of the turkey recipe.