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November 24th, 2011 (02:14 pm)

1986, London, England

My father was on sabbatical, and we were in London for a year. Thanksgiving was, of course, not a day off, but turkeys were reasonably easy to find and my parents cobbled together all the essentials. Thinking back, I'm wondering how they found cranberries; I didn't like cranberry sauce, so I wouldn't have noticed their absence. Maybe they didn't.

The next day, I took a turkey sandwich to school for lunch and told all my friends we'd had an American Thanksgiving dinner the previous night. To my irritation everyone wanted to know if I was eating peanut butter and jam, that being the all-American sandwich that all Americans must eat. (I hate peanut butter and said so. They didn't believe me.)

1989, Springfield, Ohio

We had a big mid-day meal at my grandparents' house. I complained, as always, that I was going to be hungry again at "real" dinner time and they wouldn't be serving a meal, but then when six o'clock rolled around I really wasn't. I woke up the next day with what felt like the stomach flu.

It was appendicitis. My appendix came out that Saturday.

1993, Kathmandu, Nepal

I was in Nepal for a study-abroad program. We were in the month of our Independent Study Project so students had scattered all over the country, but most of us in Kathmandu signed up to come to the expat Thanksgiving Dinner at Mike's Breakfast. There were big steam trays of chicken, stuffing, and mashed potatoes -- no turkeys, because there aren't any in Nepal. Potatoes are a major staple in Nepal, and so is corn, for that matter. I assume the cranberries were flown in, but turkey would have been prohibitively expensive.

"Why aren't there turkeys in Nepal?" Ed asked, some years later. "You'd think someone would raise them just to sell to the people working at the U.S. Embassy. And then you'd think they might catch on. People would look at it and say, 'that is the biggest chicken I have EVER SEEN. Sell me some chicks!'"

It's a good point. The turkey is a fantastic bird for a feast, because it's enormous. During the big Nepali holidays, a lot of families sacrifice a goat, then cook it up for the family gathering. A turkey would work for that, too, and you could probably keep it up in the chicken coop on your roof, along with your chickens.

It's been a long time since I've been to Nepal; maybe they have turkeys now.

Edited to add: Here's an NPR story about Americans celebrating Thanksgiving abroad, and the intro specifically mentions someone buying turkey in Nepal. A small one, for $60, which is a truly eye-popping amount of money in a Third World economy.