Thursday, November 25, 2010

Don't mention the T-word!!!

This year, as for most of the years I've been in China, I thought of trying to organise a Thanksgiving dinner for the 'waifs and strays' - my American friends who are here without family, and who are apparently incapable of sorting anything out for themselves... although these gatherings have usually ended up including a majority of non-Americans, people who, like me, just enjoy the holiday as an excuse to get together for a big meal.

This year, the response was the most disappointing I can remember.  In fact, it was a stony silence.  Most of my long-standing American buddies have quit Beijing this year.  And the few that remain (and the Canadians, too; I lump all the North Americans in together for this, because no-one remembers to celebrate with the Canucks at the start of October!) all seemed to have made "other plans" for once.  Even The Weeble seemed oddly convinced that "plans had been made for [him]" - although he was unable to say who these 'planners' were or what exactly their 'plans' might be; rather Kafka-ishly sinister, I thought!

However, with barely a week to go before the big day, one of the aforementioned American buddies suddenly got in touch by e-mail: he's flying back from overseas tomorrow, was relying on me to sort out something for T-day.  Yikes!!

I thought it was just going to be him and his girlfriend, and me, and any 'date' I might be able to find (ha!), and perhaps, at most, two or three others.  But my friend, even while still overseas, was suggesting that he would bring at least two people with him.  My renewed enquiries here in The Jing suddenly flushed a few people out of the woodwork (and, of course, there was the inevitable string of annoying 'definite maybe' types).  And then the friend discovered that his girlfriend's old flatmate was visiting from Shanghai this week, and asked to add her to the party.  She in turn wanted to bring three or four other people.  And then one of my other friends - a surprise response in the first place - was suddenly talking about bringing a small group with him.  And the friend overseas learned that an old friend of his from the States was also flying in this week... with his entire family.

So, my projected numbers had gone from 0 to 22 (with 5 or 6 more still dithering) in the space of 48 hours.

And I had something of a meltdown.

I've got a ton of work on this week, and I'm sick as a dog.  I really haven't got the time or the emotional resource to be dealing with the kind of major military operation that is trying to coordinate dinner plans for such a HUGE group of people.

I don't believe there is any venue in this city that can reliably cater to a party of 20 or more.  Not without making an enormous song & dance about it, anyway.  And not with only 5 or 6 days left before the big day.  Certainly, the ones I spoke to about it were all utterly fucking useless.

So.... Thanksgiving, for me, is most emphatically CANCELLED.  I shall probably be moping under a blanket on my sofa with lots of hot toddies.

I hope the rest of you manage to find somewhere to enjoy a celebratory meal with your nearest and dearest.  (Just don't go telling me about it, please.)

Happy Thanksgiving!!


JES said...

Yikes. Just... yikes.

Life is so much simpler when you have someone to do all the social calendaring for you. Then you can just say, like, "Whatever you say, my dear! I'll figure out some way to get through it!"

Froog said...

Yes, indeed. Last year, I delegated most of the organizing to one of my young lady friends.

I think I've passed a critical threshold with these things now. The modest satisfaction of arranging a pleasant evening no longer seems to outweigh the enormous hassle involved. NEVER AGAIN.

Froog said...

The insult-to-injury climax of my dispiriting week was a failed expedition late yesterday afternoon to try to purchase some turkey sandwiches for myself and the two guys running my favourite 12 Square Metres bar last night (one of whom is a temp, an amiable young American who I thought might be feeling a bit forlorn at having to work on the holiday).

Sequoia is the only place I know that does turkey sandwiches (good ones, too!), but the only location of theirs I'd ever used was the Guanghua Lu one which closed down a few months ago. I heard they'd just reopened just around the corner from that former site, so off I went... I blundered around for the better part of half an hour in Beijing's toxic twilight, but wasn't able to find a trace of the bloody place. Grrrr.

So, my T-day ended up being completely turkeyless. And indeed foodless. But I drank a lot of beer and whisky to compensate!!

JES said...

I'm still debating whether blogging about our own Thanksgiving meal would be a good idea. All seemed going swimmingly until about 5 minutes before we were to grab plates and eat, at which point The Missus suddenly yelled, "The gravy! I forgot to make the gravy!" I knew this was my cue to make myself another "autumn cocktail" (sugar cubes and orange slice muddled with a dash of bitters in an old-fashioned glass, which was then topped off with crushed ice; then added 1/4 cup of good bourbon, couple tablespoons of cranberry sauce, and a "splash" of soda -- actually not bad, at least after getting through the first). While doing so in the living room, that's when I heard the second scream from the kitchen -- when The Missus and The Stepson lifted the turkey from the roasting pan and found that (a) it had been roasted with a wad of paper towel stuck to the underside, and (b) it had been insufficiently roasted, with red liquid running from the bird into the pan.

I don't know. Relating all this in the harsh light of the Internet seems unchivalrous somehow, even if intended merely to be truthful.

Froog said...

The original initiator of my aborted Thanksgiving plan this year was bombarding me with text messages (from Thailand) giving 'helpful' suggestions. At one point he asked if we knew anyone who could host a dinner (for 20+ people!!) in their apartment. I told him to stop being SILLY.

Cranberry sauce in bourbon sounds... er, rather nasty, I have to say. I don't know why you'd put anything in a decent whisky. Although I have been won over by certain of the Manhattan variations - a splash of madeira works particularly well, I think.

Froog said...

Will you be doing it all again in a month's time, JES?

I may e-mail you a 'Don't forget the GRAVY!' reminder.

JES said...

The Christmas dinner menu around here is seldom predictable. (By me.) Back in NJ, a couple decades or more ago, Thanksgiving's and Christmas's were pretty much indistinguishable except for the sweets (cookies, meringue kisses, all that at Christmas -- oh, and of course fruitcake -- while at T'giving we had "only" pie, albeit in a staggering array of types).

Everyone down here seems to think turkey is acceptable at Christmas but not de rigueur. Someone inevitably suggests ham; I don't hate ham as actively as I did when a boy, but it's really not UP THERE on my (haha) personal Mt. Rushmore of meats. The other one often mentioned is prime rib. I am the only one within 200 miles, apparently, who does not care for prime rib; when that makes it onto the menu, The Missus roasts a Cornish hen just for me. We've also done lobster (one small one per person) and -- brace yourself -- "Peking duck." The latter actually quite fun to prepare, involving brushing the birds with vodka and drying their skin out overnight in a cool garage...

Since I'm not often a Barstool visitor, now I'm wondering if you've ever done a "Christmas meals in the 'Jing" post here. (I don't recall such a post on Froogville either.)

Froog said...

Peking Duck?? That sounds more like Moscow Duck!! I've never heard of using alcohol in the preparation before.

I was shocked - shocked! - to learn a couple of years ago that the Welsh apparently favour a joint of lamb as their Christmas roast.

In the UK we double up on our gluttony by making Boxing Day - December 26th - a holiday as well. Roast pork is the commonest choice there, although I have heard of some people opting for gammon ham instead. Of course, this means that the turkey leftovers last even longer. For many of us, a turkey curry - about 3 or 4 days on, when the last scraps of meat are just starting to turn a bit - has become another key part of the Christmas eating tradition.

I did a post here last year on my Top Five Christmases (in Beijing) - although it was more about the drinking than the food.