As you might expect, celebrating Thanksgiving in China is a little more difficult than it is in the States. If you don't care about having it at home, the only problem is a monetary one, since most of the big Western hotels offer some sort of Thanksgiving dinner, although you'll likely end up paying at least $40 a person to eat it. (Including all the Chinese wine you can drink, which should mean you get at least $10 off but doesn't.)
However, if you decide that you want to have Thanksgiving at home, as we did, you have a few more problems. Like, for example, the fact that most Chinese kitchens--including ours--don't actually have an oven. Or that even if you can find all the ingredients you need to cook a turkey in your non-existent oven--and that is by no means certain--they'll probably cost two to three times what they would in the US because they have to be imported. (For example, a box of Strawberry Cheerios will run you about $9 here; a quart of Florida's Natural OJ is over $7.) A final problem, at least in our case, was also sort of a strange one: dishes. While our apartment came fully furnished, it didn't actually come with any kitchenware, which meant that upon arriving in Shanghai we went to Ikea and bought just enough kitchen stuff to survive. (Also the cheapest kitchen stuff we could find, but we'll come back to this later.) So, for example, we have four plates, four bowls, one pot, one pan, and--we obviously splurged here--eight sets of silverware. This is all well and good when it's just Holly and I, but when you plan to have nine total for Thanksgiving, it gets a bit tricky.
The last problem was the easiest one to solve, since it simply involved a quick trip to Ikea to pick up a few more of the cheapest plates known to mankind. The first problem, however, was a bit harder, since having Thanksgiving at home with no oven is obviously a bit problematic. However, that turned out to be easily solved as well: we just had a turkey delivered! Yes, it turns out that in China you can indeed get pretty much anything delivered directly to your door. (One of the side benefits of having an almost unlimited supply of cheap labor.) So at 4 PM on Thanksgiving evening (everyone had to work here), we had our Four Seasons turkey delivered:
Great, isn't it? Unfortunately, this led directly to a new problem. Namely, that rather than delivering some sort of sliced up turkey breast, which was what we had assumed would show up, the hotel delivered a whole turkey, complete with stuffing on the inside. Why was this a problem? Remember earlier when I mentioned that we bought the cheapest Ikea kitchen stuff we could find? This also included our kitchen knife set. Yes, for our four knives--cook's, bread, paring, and some other kind (are there even more than three types of knives?)--set in a standard wooden block, we paid just under $6. Yes, that means that rather than using a nice electric knife or something similar, I was in charge of carving a turkey--for the first time, no less--with a $1.50 cook's knife that usually has a hard time slicing through not-quite-ripe Asian pears in the morning. Combine that with a standard Ikea dinner fork that we probably paid about a quarter for and a lot of hands-on pulling, twisting, and even shredding, and this is what you end up with:
Luckily, it tasted better than this picture makes it look. (And it was actually very tender, so the knife did a passable job.) But of course Thanksgiving is about more than just turkey, and while the Four Seasons also provided gravy, cranberry sauce (more of a chutney, actually, for whatever that's worth) and an incredibly small tray of miniature Brussels Sprouts, we managed to come up with the rest of the fixings with some help from our guests. For the record, this picture includes 75% of our salad bowls, 75% of our dinner spoons, 100% of our serving bowls (which, thankfully, we decided to take with us from Beijing), and 100% of our serving spoons:
(Side note: that's our washing machine. We don't have a dryer--almost no one in China does. And yes, it does suck. Thank you for your sympathy.)
On the plus side, everything was very, very good; on the negative side, we had tons of dirty dishes when we were done. I know it won't seem like a lot to those of you who had big Thanksgivings in the States, but it sure seemed like a lot to us:
And really, percentage-wise, I'm sure we used more dishes than most. One side-effect of having so few dishes is that we can literally keep all our dishes in one cabinet. That being said, here is the aforementioned dishes cabinet after our Thanksgiving meal:
Yes, other than a small Nalgene bottle, we managed to use every single dish we owned. And, while it was a fun night, do you know what I felt most thankful for the day after Thanksgiving? That we'll be home for Christmas and won't have to deal with any of these problems again. Well, that and the fact that I was able to leave at least half of the dishes for our maid to do when she came on Saturday. That wasn't so bad either ...