Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Fulbright Thanksgiving

The Czech Fulbright group decided to have a Thanksgiving dinner, which several of us offered to host, but which ended up being at the home of Hanka Ripková of the Fulbright office. Certainly her suburban house proved to be larger than any of the visitors’ apartments, and it was a charming place to gather.
Of course, as many of the Fulbright grantees live far from Prague or had other commitments, not everyone was able to attend, but there were about as many of us could reasonably fit at and near a very large table.
There was considerable anxiety in advance about the menu, as some people were determined to have favorite dishes (ingredients not readily available) and in general the Americans wanted to give the Fulbright office staff a sense of what a Thanksgiving dinner is like. Thus, there was extreme concern about where to find turkey and who might have an oven large enough to cook it. Turkey does exist here, but is not especially popular, and probably doesn’t usually come in gigantic sizes. However, Dawn and Hubert found some quantity of turkey and each of them fixed some, with Hubert preparing his in batches (I don’t like to imagine this, but perhaps it was actually easier that way). Hubert also found a very good marinade recipe online. I don’t usually eat much turkey, but the marinade enticed me to have a second slice.
Deborah and two of her friends who teach English somehow obtained sweet potatoes in large quantity and cooked these. Had there been sweet potatoes at the store, I would probably have made them too, since I too prefer not to go without sweet potatoes/yams. (I thought I might be able to get a similar effect from buttnernut or acorn squash, but there were none of those to be had either. Remember, squash is a New World crop, although not unknown in Europe.) Deborah also came across jars of cranberry sauce and brought those. They were not bad. I had bought a package of Ocean Spray cranberries (!) but then realized I hadn’t bought anything to add to them; I like to add additional fruits to the mix. Cranberries are known here and turned out to be brusinky. In fact, one of the pies was a raspberry-cranberry pie, which I would like to duplicate.

I was somewhat at a loss what to make, because things that are easy to make for one’s own guests are not always easy to transport—especially when that means 45 minutes on the tram followed by half an hour or so on the train. Besides, while Sandra has left me a pretty good selection of kitchen implements, there are not a lot of truly portable bowls and such (and a person usually wants to reheat the food upon arrival). I finally settled on a roasted vegetable medley, in part on the grounds that I had never before roasted vegetables and it seemed like time to learn how this was done. In essence, I chopped up some carrots, parsnips, and beets along with an onion and some garlic cloves, tossed them in olive oil with salt, pepper, and every spice in the cupboard that smelled suitable, and shoved them into the oven in the pie pan. I didn’t turn them quite often enough at first, but the degree of searing that transpired proved not to hurt the flavor. I may make more tomorrow so that I can eat all of them myself.
Bruce and his wife Megan, who describe themselves as pumpkin snobs, had pumpkin sent from Minnesota (which they also have done when they are at home in Michigan), and thus brought a very nice pumpkin pie. Jakub from the Fulbright Office brought a bundt cake which was quite elegant.

We also had salad, mashed potatoes, homemade bread, cookies, carrots, broccoli, and beets. It’s possible I’m forgetting something, but it will have to remain forgotten.
After the meal, several of us went for a brief walk around town. Three sheep came running to meet us when I greeted them, but I think I was the only one who was really interested in communing with sheep. They did seem like very nice sheep, but maybe life with rabbits has simply disposed me to get along well with herbivorous mammals in general.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Kristen said...

Interesting--in Russian, brusnika is one of those berries we don't really see in the states (usually translated whortleberry or bilberry). Cranberry is kliukva. (A brief Google search suggests whortleberries and cranberries are related.)

November 27, 2005 8:48 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

I have been suspicious that cranberries don't really exist here and are really lingonberries or something like that, but the stuff we had yesterday was definitely the American variety. Still, everything I've seen gives the same translation. Perhaps a botanical dictionary would be advisable. (Like I really want to stock up on specialized dictionaries; I was just telling Jesse I may need to look at a medical or psychiatric dictionary in order to read Brouk.)

November 29, 2005 1:11 AM  
Blogger Hubert said...

The marinade recipe can be found on
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,,FOOD_9936_29111,00.html

January 02, 2006 3:26 PM  

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