A time to eat, and a time to be thankful.
This week marked the first Thanksgiving I’ve spent in America since I was 4. I can’t actually remember the last time I did Thanksgiving in the USA, but I assume there was turkey involved, and being in Honolulu, there was probably pineapples or something tropical.
There’s no real equivalent to Thanksgiving in Australian culture, except possibly Australia Day, which marks the day when the first English settlers (read: prison ships full of criminals) turned up in what is now Sydney. Kind of like the pilgrims, but with convictions for theft.
However, there’s no symbolic attachment of giving thanks or being with family on Australia Day; in fact most people just have a barbeque, drink, play cricket and listen to the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown on the radio. Which, come to think of it, is pretty Australian.
Since I don’t have any family living here in the USA, I accepted an invitation from a professor at the Meadows School of the Arts to an “Orphan’s Thanksgiving” that they were hosting for students like myself here in Dallas that were from overseas or couldn’t get home for thanksgiving.
Everyone was asked to bring a dish reflecting their home country. Given that most Americans can’t stand our default national dish of Vegemite, I decided to get creative and brought a plate of Tim Tam Rum Balls, made from Tim Tams (imagine two chocolate cookies, filled with chocolate cream, then wrapped in chocolate – that’s a Tim Tam), cream cheese, coconut, and Bundaberg Rum. In true Australian fashion, I put a little extra rum in them. They were tasty, but with a kick.
Not that we were able to eat them all. With twelve guests each bringing their own dish, along with what our hosts made, we had a surfeit of food. A giant turkey, a ham, a multitude of side dishes, and more desserts than could be counted.
The Italian exchange students Giulia and Riccardo made risotto, which was sublime. They were kind enough to teach me some pointers on cooking risotto. Apparently my stirring technique needed a lot of refinement, but they got it sorted out.
We also had an unusual dessert from Colombia, which comprised a collision between hot chocolate and fondue. We had a cup of cocoa, into which we put soft cheese. You dipped the bread into the cocoa, and spooned out the melted chocolate-cheese mix from the cup. It was surprisingly tasty.
There was even Australian wine, which our hosts had procured. Coincidentally, the wine came from a town called Avenel, which is less than an hour away from my family home back in Alexandra. Literally, you drive down the highway for 50 miles and then turn right and you get to Avenel. It was a nice touch to the day (and a good wine too).
We had a lot of food remaining at the end of the evening, and we were all sent home with a full plate each, so that we could enjoy the great tradition of eating Day-After-Thanksgiving leftovers.
But Thanksgiving isn’t (just) about food. It’s about coming together with friends and family, and celebrating gratitude for the things that we have. On reflection, there’s a lot for which I can be thankful. Even though it’s been hard work, the opportunity to move to the USA and study has been great. I’ve made some great friends, and learned a lot not just about business and the arts but about myself. There’s still a long way to go, and a lot more to learn, but having the chance to do so is fantastic. I’m also thankful for all my family and friends back home who have supported me throughout the journey so far.
And thanks to everyone who reads these blog entries. This whole site from the outset has been a bit of a project for my own benefit, but it's nice to know someone beside myself reads this.
This week is final exam week. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a semester in Dallas, time has flown by. Just three days to go and it will be the winter break. I’m staying in Dallas for most of the break, helping out on a project for the National Center for Arts Research, catching up on reading, and learning some Italian ahead of moving to Milan in August next year.
But straight after exams, I’m off to Orlando for a week to participate in a leadership program at the Disney Institute. I'm really looking forward to the experience of learning about customer service and leadership from what I consider to be the largest arts organisation on the planet. However, it means that there may not be a blog entry next Sunday. We’ll see.
Observations on music, coffee, and the occasional controversial thought.
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