TITLE: Australians don't do turkey
By Heidi Wallenborn
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by Heidi Wallenborn-Cramer
Some Australians I know have no idea what Thanksgiving is or why Americans celebrate it.
Turkey is not available year-round in the Land Down Under. When there are any on the market, it’s not in 25-lb packages with red pop-up pegs found in American grocery store freezers. In fact, turkey seems to be an afterthought, sold in bits and pieces.
I moved to Australia as a newlywed in 2007. New friends asked about the “Thanksgiving Celebration” they’ve seen on television and in cinemas.
My husband and I invited 14 people for the experience.
Steve, my Aussie husband, laughed at me when I asked where I could find a 25 lb. Turkey.
“This is not America, love,” he said while cleaning his teeth with a bowie knife.
I called the local butcher.
"Could you get me a 25-lb turkey in a week or so?" I asked.
"Well..." Silence. Thinking that perhaps he didn't understand pounds, I explained that it's roughly 12.5 kilograms. He said he’d get back to me.
I also discovered that there's no such thing as Crisco, Jello-brand gelatin, mini-marshmallows, French Fried Onions, freshly bagged cranberries to make a sauce, or Cool Whip. I improvised. It wasn’t pretty.
Guests arrived, bearing designated gifts of mashed potatoes and gravy, pre-dinner nibbles of cream-cheese stuffed celery, pitted green and black olives, devilled eggs with paprika, wine and soft drinks. They watched me scurry around the kitchen while asking if I needed any help.
“Nope!” I said in my no-nonsense American accent. “Just talk to me and make me laugh.”
And they did. Aussies are good for yarns.
Although I wasn’t able to pull off a genuine traditional Wallenborn family feast, I was happy. My heart warmed to laughter, good-natured fun and camaraderie while waiting for the fowl to finish.
The beautifully browned bird came out of the oven and onto the counter-top to cheers. Steve, the carver, was met by his two teenage daughters’ queries,"What is THAT?"
Because the fixins couldn't fit on the table, the food lined up buffet style on counters. Hardly a scrap was left on the turkey, but nobody went hungry. It pleased me to hear "mmmmm,""this is so good," and requests for recipes strange to an Australian palate.
As the American in residence, I read a history of Thanksgiving. Because the lump in my throat was too big for me to speak around, Steve read George Washington's proclamation of Thanksgiving Day. Afterward, we all gave thanks for anything on our mind.
One guest was impressed with the idea of a Great Nation (caps mine) setting aside one day per year to give thanks to God for His blessings, to remember our beginnings, and that the Australian Prime Minister would be wise to take notice.
Despite springtime rather than autumn weather and the absence of my family, that Thanksgiving Day ranks top in my memories.
I am thankful for new friends, a different country to live in and experience, and the love of my God who takes care of me no matter where I reside.
Psalm 139:9b-10,"...if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast."
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