Thursday, November 23, 2006

Turkey Day

Thankgiving is, at it turns out, a two day yomtov here. Thursday is, a workday after all which means that any partying has to happen on the late side, as we will do tonight with Alan and Lisa at 7:00ish. Late because there's school tomorrow as well and dragging turkey laden children out of bed tomorrow won't be pretty. Then, there's Friday night, the perfect night to sit together and share Thanksgiving treats. We'll be doing that tomorrow night with my entire family who is converging on Jerusalem for a celebratory Shabbat in honor of my cousin Karen's arrival from NYC for Thanksgiving. You may wonder at someone choosing to celebrate here instead of the US but Karen and I have a long history of celebrating Thanksgivings together. From the time that my parents made Aliyah, in 1992, Ira and I and the boys, went to my Aunt Nora's house in Long Island and spent Thanksgiving day with my Aunt, my Uncle Meyer and my 3 cousins, of which Karen is one.

Aunt Nora and Uncle Meyer were fabulous hosts. Nothing was forgotten, all of one's needs were met and taken care of in the most caring and loving way. I always felt that it was the one day of the year where I thought about nothing. I did badger Aunt Nora into letting me bake a pie or something of that ilk but inevitably she'd hem and haw over what I should make and what her menu would be (as if it changed every year) and then, when I would bother her as Thanksgiving was coming closer, she'd inform me that she'd already baked and prepared most things and put them in the frezer. Her freezer was a treasure trove of special things. So, I'd come with a gift and maybe a baked treat and would content myself with washing dishes although even that was a fight as she and Meyer felt that dishes had to be handled with care - as if we weren't big enough to wash dishes.

We honored their memory with Aunt Nora's sweet potatoes this year. Gabe took control of the recipe and with my assistance on directions and flavoring agents, pureed the sweet potatoes until they were smooth as silk and when we served them, heated them until they would remove the roof of one's mouth, exactly as Aunt Nora served them. As for other dishes, it was a mixture of traditional and untradtional. Cranberries were specially imported in from America by Daniel, who brought a large bag for me, Jess and his sister, Miriam. Actually, you can find cranberries in Israel - frozen, with Russian labels, as they appear to be popular in the Russian community. Not sure if cranberries are grown in Russia or if they are like some other Russian fruit and therefore became a popular import.

But back to the two day holiday thing. Here we came to Israel to benefit from 1 day holidays on Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot and Thankgsgiving became 2 days (because now we live in the Israeli diaspora - does this make sense?) and that's without any vacation time. Also, almost everyone in the American community does something to mark the moment. My brother, Jonathan, likes to do something on that day, or, as his wife Barbara says, he gets depressed. It can just be a family gig but he needs to remember the day. Usually, he and some friends have a Chanunkah/Thanksgiving celebration. Sister Sarah has a traditional, on Thursday night, dinner with a group of ladies that she's been buddies with for a long time - American women married to Israel men. They get together, eat, yap and the men watch sports, just like in America. She often has a second celebration with another group as well. Jess has hosted for years, a large gathering of her nearest and dearest, usually on Thanksgiving night, but this year, took the year off and went with Daniel to friends of the family. We wondered what to do and then Alan and Lisa called and we planned a meal with them. I can report to you that it was lovely but it felt different and I did miss some of my familiar people but we all enjoyed ourselves. Friday night we did it again with the ganze mishpocha/the whole family and it was fun but way too much food and way too many people.

So, there we have it. Lots of turkey in the Holy Land.

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