Thanksgiving started with everything being about an hour behind schedule. In true holiday form, my careful plan to cook, clean and present myself as the American version of June Cleaver posing for the Korea addition of House Beautiful was smashed into panicky "get out of my cooking space, I'm wielding a carving knife" mode by one malicious, unpredictable element:
In order to pull off my Thanksgiving ex-pat party, I ordered a pre-cooked turkey with trimmings from the Grand Intercontinental Hotel in Seoul.
Of course...I don't live in Seoul.
So after pressing myself with unexpected intimacy against the strangers stuffed in the subway more tightly the stuffing in a turkey cavity, and waiting 45 minutes for a friend to help me drag the 17.5lb turkey I order back to my apartment in Bucheon, I climbed into a taxi, expecting him to zip of to the nearest highway and whisk me home.
You're a smart cookie - you know that's not the way it went down.
Instead, the cab crawled through the city to another highway, took a scenic detour and finally slow dragged his plump and pissed off fare (me) to Bucheon, disgusted, seething, and late.
Don't get me wrong - the turkey? done. The mac & cheese? Done. The rest? Being brought by friends. What had me in a utter panic was that I had less than 30 minutes to pull together what I considered to be my coup-de-gras this holiday season: the appetizer.
I had my party completely mentally mapped. I would pull the roasted-tomato bruschetta out of the oven just as the first guests arrived. We'd crack the wine and conversation would flow, keeping everyone mellow until dinner.
The reality was much less elegant. I was still chopping when the first guests arrived. I had a friend in the kitchen being my sous-chef as I fixed my hair and make-up and had nearly outrageous fits of OCS whenver an unauthorized guest stepped into my cooking space. My guests popped on my laptop and played my music, which was completely embarrassing - who wants friends and guests to know that you sort-of-accidentally uploaded your Aqua CD onto your new laptop so that could dance around to "Barbie Girl"?
Thank goodness for wine!
We cracked open the first bottle and magic happened. People relaxed, stopped paying attention to me and my OCS antics - or "trying to help" as they put it - I served up my appetizer with a secret ingredient (bacon), and my friends tucked in with gusto.
Then the real food came out.
When you're living away from your family, the people you share the holidays with become a close substitute. So to see my friends comfortable, shoes-off, chowing down in true turkey day style was the best holiday gift, despite the fact that I wasn't nearly as coordinated as I had hoped to be.
Towards the end of the night, a guy who had tagged along as a friend of a friend pulled me aside and said:
"Thanks so much for letting me crash your party. I've been feeling really homesick lately, and I thought it wouldn't be possible to have a real Thanksgiving here. But you're an excellent cook, and an excellent hostess. You actually made Thanksgiving."
If I had to say what I was most grateful for, it was that moment.
Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!