Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving in Japan

Thanksgiving is pretty much only an American holiday so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Japan really doesn't do anything for it.  I'm grateful that there are enough expats in Hiroshima for Costco to stock turkeys.  Jeff and I ran down to the Costco as soon as a) we heard they had turkeys and b) we managed to find room for one in our freezer.

Once we got the turkey we started working on a plan to eat it.  First, we needed a place to cook it.  We don't have an oven large enough for more than 2 chicken breasts let alone a turkey.  I knew the YMCA had ovens so I spoke with my boss to see if we could borrow an oven. The YMCA is a long way from our house.  This made hosting a dinner very difficult as there would be no way to transport a turkey that kind of distance, while keeping it warm enough to make sides and have people show up.  All of our American friends in Japan live in Hiroshima, which is where the YMCA is.  We just sort of said "If we cook a turkey would anyone be willing to host?"  Fortunately we had some takers and Turkey Day was on!

We decided to do it on the Saturday after Thanksgiving since everyone had work on Thursday.  I arranged to have access to the oven and everything was set in motion.  We thawed and brined the turkey.  My mom sent me a turkey tray and an oven bag to cook it.  We also volunteered to bring a dessert.  There is (oddly) a country wide butter shortage in Japan right now which limited my dessert making options but my sister-in-law was super sweet and sent us a goody box a couple weeks ago which included mix for pumpkin spice cupcakes.  These didn't require butter except for the frosting.  I thought cream cheese would work (and it did) so we were good on dessert making.  I'm starting to get the hang of toaster oven baking.  We did all the prep work at home and loaded up the finished cupcakes and the turkey that was preped and ready to go in the oven.

Once we got to the YMCA there was a little bit of a problem.  I figured out how to turn on the oven (which made me feel pretty smart) but the tray wouldn't fit.  Japanese ovens are REALLY small.  They have trays that slide in them instead of the wire shelves.  We tried putting the turkey on the oven tray and it didn't fit that way either.  We were starting to get worried when a couple more people showed up at the YMCA.  Fortunately one of them was an experienced turkey cooker in that oven.  She pulled out the oven tray told us to put the turkey in the foil tray and then smooshed it all up so that it would fit in the oven.  The tray went right on the bottom of the oven (the turkey was only about 15 lbs but it still barely fit).  It seems like having the tray sitting on the bottom of the oven would cause uneven heat issues but she said it's not a problem.  We figured she knew what she was talking about and we really had no choice, so we went with it.

Turkey in oven bag and smooshed tray in YMCA oven.
Turkey ready for carving.

Three hours later we had a lovely cooked turkey.  We took it to our friends house and met a third couple.  There was stuffing (made with oysters), cauliflower with a delicious tomato and dill sauce, roasted carrots, mashed sweet potatoes, corn casserole, and apple crisp and pumpkin spice cupcakes for dessert.  It was quite the decadent feast and we had a lovely evening.  We divvied up the leftovers at the end of the night and went home stuffed and happy.  Nothing like good food and good friends for a wonderful day!

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