Ukrainian Thanksgiving

28 Nov

So. The friend whom I thought was going to Ukraine in January actually got called up this week. She’s in Kiev now. She sends her thanks to all who provided helpful comments on her special blog. We’ll report back on her hopefully successful adventure once she returns to the U.S. In the meantime, I updated my FB Profile Picture and Cover Photo to harken back to THE Best Thanksgiving Celebration EVER — the one that my Peace Corps buddies and I arranged for our Host Families in Chornobai (not Chornobyl), Ukraine.

As I drifted off to sleep last night I thought: In honor of Throwback Thursday, and in the spirit of giving myself a holiday from writing, I totally should re-purpose The Dispatch that I wrote about that truly epic, awesome Ukrainian Thanksgiving adventure/celebration.

When I woke up this morning, I discovered that The Dispatch clocked in at a whopping 14 pages of singled-spaced Arial 11pt font. Holy cow. Told you it was truly epic! And, I gotta say, it really is a damn-fine piece of writing (no wonder so many of you used to clamor: “Write a Book”!), but it is definitely far from blog friendly.

Salvation came from a comment left on my Cover Photo by one of the co-conspirators in that Epic Ukrainian Thanksgiving Adventure: Remember the pumpkin pie? I swear, the was the tastiest pumpkin pie ever!

Yes, indeed, Brooke, I DO remember that pie (actually pieS). They got their own section in The Dispatch, which I am now pleased to share with you in its entirety:


We went to the pumpkin selling babushka’s house on Sunday at the appointed hour of 10:30. A deranged looking mongrel leapt and snapped at us on a chain from behind the fence. We pressed onward anyway. We rang the bell several times as the dog became more frenzied. We were about to give up when the babushka finally appeared and pushed open her door.

She greeted us with a big three-tooth grin from under her folds of dark wrinkles and her brightly colored shawls. She yammered away in Russian, oblivious to our clear lack of comprehension. After managing to pull on her mud boots, the babushka bade us to follow her into the yard past the frothing beast dog. We politely declined and she went on without us. She was gone for about 15 minutes and when she re-appeared she was dragging a burlap tarp behind her, on which was piled 5 oblong light-orange pumpkins. They were definitely not Charlie Brown cartoon pumpkins, but they would have to do. We chose 4 of them and paid her 6 hrv (about $1.10). She was blown away by this outrageous sum and so she tottered off to some other part of her property and returned with an armload of pears for us as well.

Brooke and I posed for a picture with her, thanked her, and went on our merry way, munching delicious juicy pears as we went.

2087_82180671392_1560_n We owe 1,000,000 thanks to my dear friend Carissa for supplying an absolutely phenomenal recipe for making pumpkin pies from scratch. We had to improvise a couple of the ingredients and we took the crust in a direction it’s never been before (using sour cream as a main ingredient), but damn! Come Thursday, we had 2 of the best, biggest, tastiest pumpkin pies to have ever graced this earth. True, they took about 4 hours to make, but they were totally worth it and I will do it again any time I have 4 extra hours to spare.

The pumpkins from the babushka were so big that we were able to make 2 pies with one pumpkin. We decided to use two more to make a pumpkin and rice pudding (one pumpkin served as the “baking dish,” the other went toward the pudding recipe). Ladies and Gentlemen, I tell you this: No American Family Should Ever Have a Thanksgiving Meal without Pumpkin and Rice Pudding! This was truly an amazing dish. I got the recipe from a Ukrainian cookbook, of all places. This is especially interesting because none of the Ukraininas I have met have ever eaten a pumpkin. Pumpkins are considered “pigs’ food.”

Well, I know at least 12 Ukrainians who are now lovers of pumpkin. They could not get enough of the pies or the pudding. They all clamored for more. They all begged for the recipe. I was aglow with pride at my culinary accomplishments. It could not get any better than that, but it did…

* * *

The Dispatch then went on to describe the hilarity, heroics, and happiness that suffused our I Love Lucy-style efforts to make Turkey, Bread, Potatoes, Corn, Cranberries, Hats, and Thanks all within a milieu of truly peculiar cross-cultural “family” dynamics and dysfunction. Good times, for sure.

And, as indicated in the In the End, It’s Not about the Food report that’s currently making the rounds, what really transformed our Epic Ukrainian Thanksgiving Adventure into THE Best Thanksgiving Celebration EVER was the people.

And the hats.

And definitely the beer.  Lots and lots and lots of beer.

I’ll cheers and give thanks to that!


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