Petunia, the Lithuanian Turkey – Abby from Northwestern

Our food table. Photo by Abby

While schools and workplaces in the USwere closed this week, I continued to go to classes and play catch-up on homework.  Lithuaniaobviously does not observe Thanksgiving.  I knew this would be a hard week to be away from home, and it was. I love Thanksgiving.  I love its purpose, the time spent with family, the food, the football games, the card games, etc.

I didn’t get all of that, but I came about as close as you can when you’re 5000 miles away from home.  My RA organized a potluck Thanksgiving dinner between 2 pods in my building (30-40 people).  Each room signed up to bring a dish: turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, dessert, or drinks.  I was leaning in the direction of mashed potatoes or dessert, but my roommates wouldn’t have it.  They wanted to bring the main attraction–the turkey. Nastia nor Yulia had ever eaten turkey before and this was the second time for Hedi and Irsana.  So I consented to help prepare it (even though I’ve never done it!) if they could figure out where to get a turkey.  You see, you can’t just go to the store and buy a turkey here.  You won’t find one in the frozen food section, which is why people have never eaten turkey here.  It’s just not something they eat on sandwiches or for the holidays.

On Wednesday, she took a bus down to the market and bought a 5 kg turkey (11 lbs) for something like 60 litas ($23).  So it was expensive compared to standards in the US, but simple economics makes the pricing easy to understand.  The second I got back from classes Nastia jumped out of her chair and rushed me to the fridge.  She had to show me the prize for her turkey quest.  The spirits were high in my room that night!

Seasoning with Yulia and Hedi. Photo by Abby

Now the ball was in my court.  I became the expert on how to prepare a turkey. I did some googling to figure out seasoning and cooking times, gathered a few ingredients, and went for it!   Yulia named it Petunia, although the gender is still in question.  Three hours later, Petunia was ready to eat.  

After we ate, we went around our tables and said what we’re thankful for.  Then, a study abroad cut out the wishbone; we explained the tradition and had two Europeans break it after they made wishes. We followed that up by watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  I may not have been at my grandparent’s house with the fam this year, but I still got to be with people I love and eat yummy food.
I will always cherish this year’s Thanksgiving because I finally got to feel like I had something cultural to share (and I made a turkey!).  I didn’t realize how uniquely American Thanksgiving is.  We have traditions and even some foods that I can be proud of!  I had a lot of fun sharing this part of my culture with my roommates and giving them a taste (literally) of what Thanksgiving is like.

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