November 2001 (and Thanksgiving) 

We’ve just finished another month here in London.  In this journal segment, I want to share our experiences revolving around the Thanksgiving Holiday. 

Judi and I both wanted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and we both wanted to show off our flat to our friends.  We were fortunate enough to get to the large commissary at Lakenheath (about 100 miles northeast of London) the week before Thanksgiving so we could stock up on the trappings and trimmings for our upcoming feast.  We ended up getting a 20 pound turkey.

The trip to the commissary was an eye-opener.  First of all, our timing placed our trip on a payday weekend.  For anyone that frequents the commissary, you know what that means: CROWDS!  Secondly, it seemed that all the shoppers were looking for the same items: turkey, dressing, yams, marshmallows, green beans, mushroom soup, french-fried onion rings, olives, and so on.  I was beginning to believe that the commissary staff could have pre-loaded the carts with a Thanksgiving meal and positioned them in the parking lot for “take away”.  Why not?  We were all getting the same things.

Judi and I cleaned the flat from top to bottom.  This was no easy task, since we were both suffering from a lingering cold-type virus.  We spread out our normal mass of candles and prepared our sound system with our well-known “moody” music.  

But with all our preparations, we realized that we were still missing some needed items.  NO PROBLEM!  I’d venture out to the Safeway store and finish our last minute shopping.

During that last shopping trip, I learned a lot about the British culture.  The main lesson was that Great Britain is not a PARTY country.  I wanted to buy a couple large bags of potato chips (or “crisps”, as they’re called over here).  Was I surprised to find that “crisps” are individually wrapped over here? I had to buy a 12-pack and unwrap each package.  Then I went looking for more canned green beans.  I was in for another surprise when I reached the canned vegetable section.  If I were interested in canned peas, I would have been set for life.  The shelves had about a four-foot frontage of peas (a wide variety also, from pease pudding to mushy peas).  But green beans – only two or three cans (and those were French cut).  We only had two pies at home so I went searching for another pumpkin pie…had to settle for a chocolate torte.  Sour cream was actually “crème fraische”.  Oh well, these are the joys of living abroad.

Thankfully, the turkey pan JUST fit in the oven.  Now, all I had to do was convert the centigrade temperature on the oven to Fahrenheit.  Judi and I worked together and all the preparations were done.  All the hors d’oeuvres were strategically placed.  Now we waited for our guests to arrive.   

True to holiday form, our guests arrived later than we expected.  The turkey was more than ready to come out of the oven and none of the hors d’oeuvres were being consumed.  Thankfully, our informal style took care of that.  Dinner was served!

Our guests included Karin (an old CMAT member and current co-worker), Jennifer and John (we met Jennifer in Orientation), Maria and Dave (Marie lives in the same building as Jennifer and John), and Tate and Vickie (we met Tate during our breaks at work; Vickie is British).  We had a very comfortable evening with our friends.



Jennifer & John

Maria & Dave

Tate & Vickie


Vickie was able to share some local wisdom about my “crisps” dilemma.  Apparently, in the past, the Brits wanted to copy the “American Way” and sold bulk packages of crisps.  They later realized that practice was wasteful and went back to an “individual size”.  

Much later in the evening, I made contact with my nephew, Tony, who works for Microsoft.  He convinced me earlier to set up a videophone call to his house during the Thanksgiving celebration.  We made contact and I was able to talk to (and see) my family.  I love the wonders of modern technology.

It also turns out Maria & Dave became engaged that night (but didn't tell anyone 'til they let their families know), and Jennifer and John discovered they were going to have a baby!  Two out of three isn't too bad; I learned Tate & Vickie broke up four months after this dinner.