“Have you found any Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving with?” Linda asks. Andrew recently sent an invitation on the Sail South East Asia Facebook group to find any Americans who may wish to join us for a Thanksgiving Feast, but the only ones who responded were in Madagascar 3,000 miles across the Indian Ocean.
“No, not a single one,” I said.
“We can be Honorary Americans!” Steve and Linda volunteer.
This is great news. I know I need to mark the occasion somehow to avoid feeling put out that I am spending a second holiday season in a row so far from family and home. So, we make a plan. Sonrisa and S/V Donetes part ways temporarily to allow Steve and Linda to enjoy the Beer ATM while Andrew and I complete our grocery shopping. We plan to meet back at Rebak Marina in a few days’ time.
I pull out my trusty “notes” app and begin typing out my grocery list. “Do we have enough…, did we ever get any… do you think we can find…” I ask as Andrew and I put our heads together to make a route plan for our Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt: Pok Brothers specialty food store, the grocery store, wet market, and the duty free liquor shop. Will we be able to cull together a traditional Thanksgiving meal? Andrew puts in a request for Trip #1 into his Grab App, and we wait at the dock for our chariot to arrive.
First stop, Pok Brothers. We’ve heard they can provide turkey, but as I dig through their freezer all I can find are smoked duck breast from New Zealand, Salmon, Beef, and “Turkey of the Bush” according to our Aussie friends - i.e. Lamb. Turkey of the Bush will have to do. We peruse the frozen fruit isle and find nothing of cranberries.
“HEYYYYYOOOOH!” Andrew proclaims, holding a can in my direction.
“What did you find?”
“Cranberry sauce!” Andrew replies. “Oodles of cranberry sauce!”
“That is not cranberry sauce. That’s Jiggly-Can-Cranberry.” The gourmand in me shudders as in my minds eye, I see myself rolling the can opener around that perfect circle, sliding a butter knife around the edge, tipping the can upside down and hearing that “sahllluuuurrrrraawwwwwp” sound Jiggly-Can-Cranberry makes as it evacuates itself from the can. I examine my imaginary can shaped blob of cranberry jiggly and grimace. “Maybe we can rehydrate Crazins and simmer them in pomegranate juice?”
Andrew places six Jiggly-Can-Cranberries on the counter to be rang up and placed in our bag.
Next stop, the grocery store and the fruit and veggie wet market where, happily, I check most “things” or “substitutes for things” off my list. I am nose over the yam bin, count the requisite number of satisfactory yams, and drop them into my shopping bag. Then, I turn to the basket of potatoes. With each of my arms laden by six or seven heavy grocery bags, Andrew looks down at me and utters the unimaginable phrase: “You are going to have to choose between candied yams and mashed potatoes with gravy.”
“What? NO! Impossible!” I scowl at him and stomp my foot. “You, Sir, have gone too far.” Andrew smirks at me, assuming that I am kidding until I begin placing potatoes in my bag.
“I’m serious!” He says, “how are we going to cook all this in Sonrisa’s galley?” I continue loading potatoes, my holiday spirit on the wane. No turkey, inferior cranberry sauce, and now no mashed potatoes? After loading all my bags into a taxi, I take to the Facebook-O-Sphere soothe my indignation. To my satisfaction, the peanut gallery agrees with me.
We arrive at the dock to find Grin and his compatriots clattering about like dice in a Yahtzi cup. The wind is up from the West, and as it blows down the long corridor toward Kuah it is kicking up a jumble of waves that land uncomfortably in the anchorage and on top of the dinghy dock. It seems our shopping excursions have come to an early close. We load everything into Grin, weighing his waterline down an inch or two. Kitty grunts as she tries to power all us through waves that Grin insists on scooping up in great gulps. I chastise him while bailing furiously with our bailing cup. “Grin! Keep your nose up!”
Jumping around like a popcorn kernel in oil, we find Sonrisa isn’t much more comfortable. We create our human loading chain and pass groceries from Grin to the deck, deck down the kitchen hatch while being tossed about. Bad weather arrived earlier than predicted, and this is only going to get worse. So, we abandon our run to the duty free shop and hope our wine and liquor stores will see us through. We up anchor and make a beeline for the better protected Rebak Marina. We arrive just moments before a wall of rain rushes through the inlet and gives Sonrisa a pre-Thanksgiving bath. Grin tries to hide beneath Sonrisa’s stern, begging to be bailed out every hour or two.
“Perfect!” I say. A combination of overcast days and the little air conditioner keeps Sonrisa rather pleasant while we begin preparations.
Cooking a feast on a boat is like a game of Tetris. Starting three days early, the first few falling blocks are managed easily. I enjoy alone time in the galley while Andrew catches up on one of his Netflix shows. I pull all the ingredients for my mushroom cream sauce out of the fridge one at a time. Once I start chopping, all my ingredients and tools will be located over the top of the hatch to the fridge. So, if I do not plan properly, I will have to shuffle everything elsewhere, hold the fridge hatch in my left hand and dig around shoulder deep to find what I need. This is annoying and I wish to avoid it. I set everything in a pile and look it over with a shrewd eye: do I have everything I need? Satisfied, I return the hatch and pull out my cutting board and knife. I heat the oil in the pan, add onion to sauté, a mound of minced garlic, mushrooms, a dash of lemon zest, cream and shredded gouda. I stir while the sauce thickens, a glass of white wine in my left hand and jazz music playing over Sonrisa’s sound system. It’s calm, and I feel smugly successful. When I’m finished, I let the sauce cool in a Tupperware, wash all the dishes, and begin the process of relocating all the leftover vegetables into the fridge.
This seems so under control.
But as the days progress closer to the time of Feasting, Andrew gets more involved. We each have our traditional cooking jobs. Andrew’s the pie crust guy, and I’m the filling lady. I am the saucier! Andrew is the sous-chef. We dance an intricate circle around each other back to back while Andrew works at the counter and I wash dishes, side to side while Andrew chops and I stir something on the stove.
“Guhhhrraahh!” I say, as I dig headfirst to the depths of the waist deep cabinet tucked in the corner between Sonrisa’s stove and fridge. Tins, plastic bowls, lids, the vacuum sealer, and several bottles of liquor clatter around as I try to locate the pie plate. “Where the hell is the pie plate? I don’t think we have a pie plate?”
“We have to have a pie plate. We wouldn’t leave home without a pie plate.”
“No! No, pie plate! I’ve looked everywhere it could be!”
My hair emerges from the cabinet, wild and frizzy, from being pulled and tousled by the ledge around the cabinet. “We are going to have to use muffin cups.”
With this there is much debate about whether a muffin cup will serve to bring out the existential essence of a “Thanksgiving Pie” - Andrew claiming it just isn’t pumpkin pie if it is not served in the shape of a triangle. But, like his insistence on Jiggly-Can-Cranberry, I ignore his protestation (what choice do we have anyway we are hours and hours from any place we might find a pie plate) and go about preparing my pumpkin filling and crust. Soon, I step into my role as Ship Admiral and command Andrew to roll out the dough and prepare a number of smaller circles. Though grumbling with dissent, he complies and I tuck the crust into the little pie tins.
The morning of Thanksgiving, I sketch out a battle plan in my head, complete with sequential timing instructions. We dance an intricate waltz in the 3 foot x 2 foot galley space, to ensure a full meal is completed timely, still warm, and presented inside a boat that doesn’t look like a tornado took hold of the kitchen. This, my friends, is an excellent litmus test for the state of the Oddgodfrey Marriage.
Soon, it is an hour before our guests are slated to arrive and the process is shockingly under control. I am on top of the dishes, washing everything immediately as it ceases to be used. The roast is bubbling away, the sweet potatoes and spiced apples are arranged in their casserole dish and soaking in their sweet and spicy stew of brown sugar, orange juice, orange zest, local fresh ground cloves, and a pinch of salt. The marinated carrot, onion, and pepper cold-salad is plated in its serving dish and chilling in the fridge, and the Jiggly Cranberry is, well, still jiggly. We lay out the table and place the red wine in the top of the fridge to take off the tropical heat.
Once our guests arrive, we crack open the bubbly and an (almost) traditional American Thanksgiving commences!
And the pies? They turned out all right, too.