finally finals! five whole days of sitting at my desk knitting, drinking tea, and getting to go home for lunch, which i've just done. on the way back, i took scissors to that spider ceiling i mentioned yesterday. rather than get all those spiders in a froth by stretching taut their sticky web until it broke, i simply snipped in twain the important threads, and the spiders drifted gently to two sides. problem solved.
japan is constellated by spiders. often they are pretty in their way, clouds of webs flecked by insects so tiny and formless that they look like dark little stars, green arachnid bodies floating in the outer space of visible galaxies stretching from telephone poles or garden tomatoes. but sometimes they are just gross. i rarely kill them anymore; there's just no point. they eat or at least compete for territory with bugs that are even more of a nuisance. i have literally seen a mukade caught in a spiderweb inside my house, and for that i will forgive them a great deal.
anyway, i went to a foreign food store last weekend, and when i came back and unloaded my bags on the kitchen table, i realized i had gotten exactly two of everything. the unconscious effort of shopping has on several occasions revealed to me things about my life i didn't notice before. in college, when i plunked various items from the bookstore on the counter, i realized red was my new favorite color--it was the color of everything i had chosen. i wonder if this sudden need to pair everything is a reflection of my desire to be part of a pair. or maybe i just like to stock up on beans.
i was going to ignore thanksgiving altogether this year and maybe head to tokyo, but it meant so much to me last year that emily planned a traditional dinner when i was still new to the expat business, and i figured some of the new people might feel the same. plus, i travel north constantly; i wanted the fun to come to me. the task of planning the event (and by default, cooking the turkey) fell to me, and it was my first one. i have a teeny-tiny convection oven and a two-burner stove; i was responsible for cooking a 12-pound turkey and enough sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce to feed ten people. my mom was "cooking by email" the day before...giving me last-minute instructions.
i had to order the turkey online, along with several other things not widely available in the japanese countryside. because the typical japanese refrigerator is about 1/4 the size of a typical american one, people aren't really in the habit of storing whole poultry. when it arrived, i tried to fit it in my oven, and it was, uhh, a little tall. granted, it was frozen solid, but i was sure i was going to have to give it a slight chiropractic "adjustment" when it thawed...
turns out turkeys are more solid than i thought. though i leaned my whole weight on it, cpr-style, it didn't flex at all. i had to buy a special pan that b a r e l y fit in my oven so the top of the turkey wouldn't touch the heating element.
megan came over the night before to bake pumpkin pies. i made mom's fantastic, jammy (my new favorite word) cranberry sauce full of fragrant orange peel and walnuts. i also made sweet potatoes. sweet potatoes deserve a whole paragraph all to themselves, because they are my favorite thanksgiving food. the sweet potatoes native to this land are purple. they're not as moist or delicious as the orange ones, and last year when i tried to cook them for thanksgiving, they turned green in the oven (ghastly), and were dubbed ogre potatoes. not the kind of infamy i was hoping for. only once each year does the local store sell something which resembles the elusive orange sweet potato. i was waiting anxiously this year, hoping it wasn't a fluke, scanning the stores every three days or so. finally i spotted them! in my overwhelming excitement, i bought no less than fifteen potatoes. i felt light-headed with happiness.
megan and i were up till 1am making preparations the night before the party. the next morning dawned too soon, but we got down to business in the early afternoon.
i feel like i've watched my mom wash and prepare turkeys a hundred times, so in a way it felt natural, as natural as cold, raw birdflesh can feel. we stuffed, trussed, and squeezed that thing in the oven and slammed the door!
like a big, 3-D photograph, we had to dodge the top of the turkey with a big foil mask or "turkey hat" to keep the skin on top from burning, but check out the finished product!
the fun showed up, bearing other glorious food and drink, and we had a choreographed toast. the turkey was done on time, cooked through, and i had had two martinis by the end, so i carved like a maniac, literally. megan was an indispensable wingman. get it!? she made the entire three days possible and fun. considering my tendency to be a kitchen dictator, her graciousness throughout the weekend gave me a new appreciation for just how cool she is.