Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving in China

Ten years ago I was celebrating Thanksgiving in China. I was an English teacher in a Chinese Elementary School in Tianjin, China. Their were nine of us from America working within the school. I taught two third grade classes and a second grade class. The students would board at the school during the week and go home on the weekend. They would be in classes from 8 am to 8pm Monday through Thursday and until 5 on Fridays.
I didn't speak any Chinese when I arrived and just picked up what I learned here and there. It made for some interesting conversations for sure! Someday, I'll write more about our daily lives, but for today I will just focus on Thanksgiving.
The Chinese staff wanted to host a Thanksgiving dinner for us. They planned a meal of all Chinese food with the addition of a turkey baked at the hotel nearby.
To supplement the meal a few of us made our favorite dishes as best as we could with very limited American ingredients. Add to this that we cooked on a gas burner that we prayed wouldn't blow up each time we had to light it. One teacher returning for her third year brought a mini, and I mean mini, convection/microwave oven thingy.
It was with this that I decided to make stuffing. Now, the only stuffing I had made until this point was Stove Top, but I had received my November 1996 issue of Victoria in the mail from my stepmother (thanks Eileen!). Inside was a recipe for Savory Mushroom-Pecan Stuffing. Here's the recipe. (Yes, I brought my year's subscription back to American with me.)

Savory Mushroom-Pecan Stuffing
4 Tbl olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 cup each oyster and chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 Tbl parsley, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 baguettes of French bread, dried and diced
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 tsp dry poultry seasoning
2-3 cups chicken stock, or broth

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, mushrooms, parsley, salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
3. Add the bread, pecans, and poultry seasonings. Toss to combine. Add enough broth to completely moisten bread, then correct seasoning and transfer to a buttered baking dish.
4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden.

Yield: 6 servings
Everyone thought it sounded good, so we divided up ingredients and everyone bought what they could find. This took multiple outings and many days. We knew of one Frenchish bakery where we could find the bread. Onions and oyster mushrooms were sold in abundance just down the block by some street vendors. I had some dried herbs I had brought from home and figured that could sub for the poultry seasoning and parsley. No one knew what chanterelles looked like, so we just doubled the amount of oyster mushrooms. The bouillon was finally tracked done with much effort and great expense at some hotel across the city. I never saw a pecan, so we skipped those. We also had no idea how much we should make, so we just used everything we could find and adjusted accordingly. It took forever to chop up the bread and mix everything together, but that was nothing compared to trying to bake it in batches in the mini oven, which, if I recall correctly was in Celsius. Plus, I wanted to try and keep everything hot. Oh well.
Would you believe that it actually turned out ok? Boy, was I thankful! At the end of it all, the only people who even tried it were the Americans. We had a lot of leftover stuffing! I thought the Chinese teachers would be excited to try American food. I was a little disappointed that they didn't even try the various things we had worked so hard to make. I mean, after all, this was supposed to be a cultural exchange. Nope. Of course, we ate the Chinese food. We always did.
Well, imagine my surprise, when just last week, I found the recipe again. We're having it for dinner tomorrow night. It was a lot easier to put together this time! The only substitution I had to made was the mushrooms. I couldn't find either kind, so I'm using just regular mushrooms. I mixed it all together this afternoon, so all I have to do tomorrow is add the broth and bake it. I'll let you know how it turns out!
And to Donna, Janet, Carolyn, Mixi, Sally, Brett, Chris and Lisa, wherever you are, I miss you and wish you each a very Happy Thanksgiving. Xie xie ni!


Kelli said...

Wishing you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving!

Mrs. Bonnie said...

How fun to hear about Thanksgiving in China! My sister is in MOzambique right now. She and some of the other American missionaries put on a big Thanksgiving meal for about 40 people.
They couldn't find enough frenchfried onions for greenbean casserole, so one girl sliced battered and deep fried some onions! Being in a third world country, they have to do some improvising, but that makes it that much more fun!


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