In many respects, this year was my first thanksgiving. It was the first time I was more than a tiny bit responsible for a Thanksgiving meal. In years past, in America, maybe I helped with the mashed potatoes. Maybe I "made" the crescent rolls.
Maybe I used the leftover oil from frying the turkey to make fried twinkies (may they rest in peace.)
But this year, Chris and I and the other Volunteers in our province (and some fantastic few others who made the trek down!) happily agreed to accept the challenge of preparing the side dishes for a Thanksgiving feast for our fellow PCVs and the staff who would be training them over the holiday.
Allison, our country director's wife, as she did last year, organized the entire meal. For 100 people, she prepared seven turkeys, three giant tubs of stuffing, and a dozen cans of stuffing. For 100 people, we agreed to make a vat of mashed potatoes, pounds of carrots, piles of green beans, and the largest salad we've ever seen. With the finishing touches of rolls bought in Phnom Penh and a gravy made in our kitchen, the meal would be complete.
In my OCD way, I started by working with Allison to break down exactly what we'd need. I spent a couple of hours googling the pounds of potatoes required for a buffet for 100 hungry Americans and Cambodians. Once that was determined, I made a happy little chart of which people would be responsible for which dish, and a shopping list of items we'd need from the capital, and what we could buy- and how much we'd need- from my town's market. Chris worked with the Peace Corps staff to head to the market to purchase the fifty-five pounds of potatoes, thirty pounds of carrots, thirty five pounds of green beans, and dozens of pounds of salad fixings Saturday morning.
And then the real work began.
We washed and peeled.
We made messes and more messes.
We boiled and mashed.
We diced and chopped.
Eventually, we began to look like Bret Michaels?!
Until it was finally complete. Twelve full hours later, the table was set and the hard work of 10 Peace Corps Volunteers, 1 Country Director and 1 Country Director's wife paid off.
Below is what the majority of fifty-five pounds of mashed potatoes looks like; and yes, they are housed in a tub that is typically used for clothes washing. Though the tub was new and clean.
A toast was made by our Country Director.
Lines began to form in anticipation of the feast, and the Volunteers generously allowed those of us who worked on the meal to eat first.
I took too much, after I cautioned others to pace themselves. Of course.
Chris and I were still a bit sweaty, but so, so happy.
And mostly, incredibly excited to eat the food we'd labored on up to the minute of the meal.
The Volunteers were, from what I could gather, very happy and enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving. Their thanks were visible in the gorgeous sign they made for us.
Thank you, K6s, and fellow K5s, Penny and Allison for making this one of the best Thanksgivings this side of the International Date Line!