030: Thanksgiving

It was truly a mark of the passage of time; the arrival of Thanksgiving. Chelsi could hardly believe it. About three weeks previously an email had sent around to start organizing who would help cook what, but the thought that the day would ever arrive was far off. Part of it, for Chelsi, was the hope that it would be enough time for her situation to change.  But alas, she was still making her home in the Prov house.
Out of the list of things to do in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner, Chelsi had volunteered to cut the meat.  Two other men had already signed up for this duty but she was pretty confident she would be able to subdue them in to taking her direction.  After all she had a reputation to uphold as the Master Meat Carver of Northwest Provence.  The only thing that left her a little unsure was the animal on the menu.
“This is my first time breaking down a pig,” Chelsi confessed. She was staring into the fridge on the front porch at a lumpy white plastic sack.
Big Paul loomed behind her. “Last year we cooked the animals whole. And Sam was in charge of most of the cooking.”
“I heard about last year. He put meat in and on every cooking surface, including the brick fire oven and wouldn’t let anyone open the doors to add anything for hours.”
“Yeah, we didn’t eat till 9pm. And everyone else was stomping around angry.”
“Can you carry it over to the table? I figure we cut it up out here cause I know meat make some people uncomfortable.” She stepped aside so Big Paul could get into the fridge and prepared the rest of her tools.
Her boning knife, which she had taken to carrying with her everywhere. An assortment of bowls and pans for placing different parts: meat pieces, fat and skin, discard. Finally she removed her watch, bracelets and rings.  “Last year’s strategy is definitely not an option since we’re only going to have power till about 9:30. Which will only leave the propane oven down stairs and Ephriam took apart the brick oven.  But if we break down the pig and the turkeys first we can put them on the grill and we won’t need to use any oven or stove space.”
“Okay,” Big Paul said with some effort as he hoisted up and open the bag to get the pig on the table.  “But I wanna try and deep fry the turkeys.”
“Definitely not! You know how many people die every year trying to deep fry their birds! It’s like the fire departments busiest day of the year.” Mostly Chelsi receive graphic mental snapshots of what her arms would be like after 400F oil was spilt over them, trying to wrestle a turkey in and out of the pot.  That’s why I don’t like deep frying anything.
“That’s not true.”
“People who don’t know what they’re doing go out to their garage with a 25lb, half frozen bird. Plop it in a pot filled with too much, too hot of oil.  The oil spits, spatters, catches fire and their garage burns down with them inside. I’m going to start by taking the head off.” Big Paul was standing at the butt end of the pig. “Do you have a knife? You can start taking some of the skin and fat off the back end there.  I figure, we leave half on half off, one side might taste better but if we mix together… plus it’ll help move the cooking process along.”
Big Paul looked down at Chelsi, with her knife in hand, moving the pig’s ears out of the way with the other.  “Is that knife big enough?”
Chelsi looked back up at him. His curly brown hair stuck out in all directions around his head.  Glasses like those Chelsi had in third grade where perched on his nose.  In lieu of a knife he had a glass of cane spirts and juice in his hand. “If you know how to cut through joint properly the size of the knife doesn’t matter so long as it’s sharp.”
They got to work on their separate ends.  As the distinctive fattiness of the pig began to be removed Chelsi noticed that it really looked a lot like a rabbit.  A giant, slightly redder rabbit.  This won’t be so hard after all, she thought.
“Okay, we have enough pork fat here, that if you really want we can try deep frying one of the turkeys.  But we’re just going to do pieces. Two at a time.  None of this stuff with the whole bird.” Something about breaking down animals calmed her down and now that she saw the pig as just a giant rabbit she began to loosen up a bit.

As predicted the power went out at about 9:30am as it did every Thursday, thanks to country wide power shortages and load shedding.  But every one worked together and was on top of their game.  By 5pm the table was spread with buns, Asian salad, tomato pie, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, corn mac, pork, turkey, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, all the fixings for a true American thanksgiving. The older volunteers espoused a Peace Corps Thanksgiving that really was about more than just the food. After all, the mushrooms were just a little too tangy, the potatoes were creamed with sour milk and the pecans never made it up from the embassy commissary, ‘but it’s the one day a year where all the volunteers in Northwest can come together and cook, and eat and be a family.’ Dick had said this to Chelsi with such passion just a week before when she found out there were volunteers who wanted to rebuff with the other volunteers and spend it on their own. I guess every family has a few, Chelsi thought. 
She was thankful for her Peace Corps family, and was more than happy to be spending the day with them. And she said so.  Just before eating every one anonymously wrote what they were thankful for on a strip of paper and put it in a hat.  After, they all circled up and drew strips and read them aloud. Zambia didn’t feel so far from home after all.

Categories: DIY, Food & Recipes, Horror | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “030: Thanksgiving

  1. Sandy

    A very memorable Thanksgiving for sure! You were a rockstar I’m sure 🙂
    Miss you and love you.
    Happy New Year!


  2. Jean Thomas

    You can be a star at anything, Chelsi! Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    2016, can you believe it?
    I can’t. I wish you the best in 2016. Jean


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