In honor of the upcoming holiday, I’ve decided to share, over the next several days, a few of the challenges we’re facing trying to prepare Thanksgiving dinner from Haiti. So stay tuned all week for the sometimes amusing, sometimes maddening, sometimes mind-numbing complications that inevitably arise when celebrating this most American of holidays in the least American of places.
Today I give you the oven-related challenges.
I told Sara when we were looking for a house here in Haiti, that I simply had to have an oven. Neither of the two homes we had in Vietnam had anything other than a cook top in the kitchen, which bothered me to no end, since I like to bake—cookies, cakes, biscuits, pies, muffins. The only thing I like more than making them is eating them, but that’s another post for another day.
So Sara did what any Tollhouse-cookie-loving-partner would do. She got us an oven—a real honest-to-goodness gas oven—minus the thermostat.
I kid you not. There’s no way to set any specific temperature on this most essential of kitchen appliances, any temperature either Fahrenheit or Celsius.
Now, I love Sara more than anything, even more than my daily dose of cake and cookies, and those of you who know my inclination toward carb-consumption, know that’s saying quite a bit. But sometimes she misses the most obvious of details.
“Oh, that’s not that important. You’ll figure that out.”
Twelve attempts and twelve burnt batches of cookies later, I’m still figuring.
Which brings me to the matter of needing an oven this week, a temperature controlled oven, I might add. In America we can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. It’s the most Thanksgiving of Thanksgiving desserts—even when celebrating from here in Port-au-Prince—especially when celebrating from any far-away, cholera-sickened, earthquake-toppled part of the planet!
A pumpkin pie likes to bake for the first 15 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit and the final 45 to 50 minutes at 350, temperatures too precise even for the oven thermometer I brought back from the US. It only seems to get me in the ballpark of a particular temperature, give or take 100 degrees.
But what about the turkey Sara plans to roast, what about the thermostatic requirements of the old Butterball?
Oh, that’s not that important. She’ll figure that out, she says.