In honor of the upcoming holiday, I’ve decided to share again a few of the challenges my partner Sara and I faced last year, trying to prepare Thanksgiving dinner from Haiti. So stay tuned this week for the sometimes amusing, sometimes maddening, sometimes mind-numbing complications that inevitably arose trying to celebrate this most American of holidays from the least American and most inhospitable of locations.
Today I bring you the oven-related challenges.
I told Sara when we were looking for a house in Haiti, that I 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–in bulk, I might add.
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 was no way to set any specific temperature on the oven we had in Haiti, 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,” she insisted.
Twelve attempts and twelve burnt batches of cookies later, I was still figuring.
So last Thanksgiving I needed an oven, a temperature-controlled oven, I might add. In America we can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. It’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of Thanksgiving desserts—the high-stepping, baton-twirling creme de la creme–even when celebrating from Port-au-Prince—especially when celebrating from some far-away, cholera-sickened, earthquake-toppled part of the planet!
Now, a pumpkin pie likes to bake for the first 15 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit and the final 45 at 350, temperatures that were too precise to register on the oven thermometer I had brought back to Haiti from the US. That thermometer only got me in the ballpark of a particular temperature, give or take 100 degrees. How’s that for thermostatic precision?
But what about the turkey Sara planned to roast, what about the thermostatic requirements of the old Butterball?
As I said to her last Thanksgiving, “Oh, that’s not that important. You’ll figure that out.”
Have you had any memorable Thanksgiving dinner disasters?