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It is the night after Thanksgiving…. and I am up at 3 am. I can safely say that part of the reason I am up is not the rich food or the excitement of the day, but rather this blog entry that has been forming in my mind for some time.

I went jogging this morning, not something that has occurred very often thus far, but something that I am hoping to repeat more, especially since I have new running shoes that do inspire me to jog. It was about 11 am and as I was passing the houses in Burlingame, I could definitely tell that it was a different day from all others. People were setting up tables inside the houses, there was the smell of food and fire-wood in the air and guests with trays of prepared food started arriving to some of the houses. A woman I did not know waived to me through the window and a guy startled me by commenting on how running on the Thanksgiving day was good for my health.

Thanksgiving… the oddest of all celebrations, considering the complicated history… was in the air. And I was part of it. I have been part of it since I first came to the US for college in 1996 thanks to my American family. I have to think of them all every Thanksgiving day, be it in the US or outside and thank them all (mentally at least) for making me part of their lives back then. And of course I have to thank my American mom Piper for the greatest Thanksgiving wisdom of all: “You have some Thanksgiving food, and then you go for a walk to walk it off, so you can have some more.” 🙂

Since I did spend all of my college Thanksgivings (the junior abroad year excepted, but I don’t remember celebrating) with my American family, I never really had to learn how to prepare any of the food, until … I met my American husband. He was not my husband back then, but he did love pumpkin pie and he was coming to visit me for Thanksgiving in 2002 in Croatia where I was working back then. So… I had to make the pie… from scratch… I printed out the recipe (it was hard to find one where even the crust was to be made from scratch, I remember), I translated all the spices into Croatian and bought some of them… but the biggest problem was to find a pumpkin…. any kind of pumpkin. They simply were not available in Knin.

I consulted with my colleagues, and my assistant (who was more like my boss, as he was older, much more experienced and local, thus by definition more knowledgeable in the local affairs) finally translated it into Croatian (bundeva… I just looked it up, even though I remember it more like kungula), looked at me all knowingly and explained that that is something that cattle eat around Knin, so that’s why I will not be finding it in any kind of store, but he did organize that I get a cattle pumpkin from somebody’s garden. It was long and green and looked more like a squash, but it did taste like a pumpkin (even though it was not sweet) and I did make my first international pumpkin pie… from scratch.  And Sherwin liked it… and he decided to stick around for more.

So every year I make at least one pumpkint. I don’t have a recipe of my own. I get the basis from the internet and then I add the spices to taste (this year, considering that my Indian relatives were coming over, I was adding a lot of cardamom) … and I make it from scratch. I no longer bake the pumpkin. Too impatient for that, but rather steam it. The pastry crust (that I add sugar and spices to) never rolls out perfectly, but I press it back in with my fingers and it stays in there and tastes great (I prefer the wholewheat variation, but since reading “Cure Tooth Decay” I no longer only cook with wholewheat anymore). I don’t make it too sweet, which is very un-American (I usually cut all the sugar from American recipes by half), which this year resulted in my son telling me that he does not like it and eating all the ice cream (which was much sweater, of course) instead. Will have to hold off on the ice cream next year. 🙂

We had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving feast, half of which consisted of Indian (from India, not native American) food. And that is the beauty of Thanksgiving celebration, how international and American at the same time it can be. I am thankful for being able to experience it this year … here in California for the first time.