Real Life at Home: Colleen's First Thanksgiving

As I mentioned in an earlier post Entertaining Memories, the first time I hosted Thanksgiving dinner was not a particularly stress-free experience. It was 1994, we were four girls living in a furnished flat in Dublin, and didn't have a clue. "Sure," we thought, "why not host a Thanksgiving dinner for 20+ American exchange students plus some Irish friends? We have an apartment and they are all living in dorms. How hard can it be?"

HARD! Hard to find the necessary ingredients for some holiday favorites. Hard to coordinate the potluck portion of the event. Hard to have at least four people cooking in a tiny galley kitchen with a three burner stove. Hard to cook a meal with a random assortment of cookware and plates assembled by years of exchange students. HARD!Looking back, we were charmingly naive. Christine, Sarah, Tracey and I agreed to provide the venue, hot sides (potatoes etc), and pies. Other folks signed up for turkey, bread, paper plates, beverages, etc. We woke up that Thursday morning, confident the party would be a huge success. And then of course, it all started to go downhill...

About 10am, the girl who was signed up to bring a turkey, a COOKED turkey mind you, showed up with a freshly plucked, most definitely raw, turkey from the butcher. As if that wasn't bad enough, she didn't even stick around to cook the thing- she just dropped it off, explained she couldn't miss class, and left us! Cue the first of many phone calls to my aunt (who lived in Dublin but was at work) to try to learn about cooking a turkey.

We did everything she said (rinsing it, emptying it, stuffing it, etc), got it nicely into the cooking pan, then discovered it was too big to fit in the oven. Too high, too wide, too deep- there was no way that bird was going to get cooked intact. Cue another lengthy call to my aunt. I don't like to remember too much about the whole process of cutting a slippery stuffed bird in half with a bread knife, digging up another cooking dish, and convincing the boys in the flat downstairs to let us use their oven (after cleaning it of course)- let's just say I don't recommend it.

By the time the darn turkey was in the ovens, our whole schedule was off. We frantically tried to keep an eye on the turkey, peel and boil potatoes, prep the other sides, and make the pies from scratch all at the same time with one small table and about a foot of counter space to share. All I remember about that process is cursing, and yelling, and flour everywhere. Oh yeah, and more calls to my aunt at a time when the Irish phone company charged by the minute for local calls.

We frantically threw on party clothes as the first guests rang the buzzer at the front door- thank goodness for the four steep flights of stairs that bought us time to apply some makeup. As our small apartment filled with people and their contributions to the meal, we kept manically running up and down stairs checking on the turkey halves to see if they might be cooked (no convenient pop-up timers to help us out). By the time we decided to dish the bird up, folks were well lubricated and hungry enough not to comment on its dubious appearance, and we were so tired we just didn't care.

Despite it all, in the end we all had a great time. We had food, and friends, and the joy of a holiday spent as a group even though we were all far from home. Our Irish friends loved the experience, our strange Franken-turkey didn't kill anyone, and when we finished up the night at our local pub, the Irish boy I had a crush on told me that he liked me.

So yes, in the end, the party was a success though I confess I have never since cooked a turkey!

Image: Shutterstock

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