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Sidain meets the turkey.

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Thanksgiving Hierakonpolis style

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Everyone enjoyed the turkey

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Fran's pie

All photos courtesy of the Hierakonpolis Expedition. Click on images for larger versions.
by Renée Friedman

Thanksgiving Hierakonpolis Style

To prove that it could be done, we embarked on a Thanksgiving Day feast. I mentioned to our driver Khalid, who helps me with the weekly shopping, that on Thursday there would be an American holiday and that I wanted a turkey (called dik-rhumi in Egypt) as everyone in America on Thursday would have one. As a surprise gift, on Wednesday morning he rolled up with a turkey for us, and what a bird! A little more than I expected, with feathers, head, and ferocious gobble still intact. It was a very fine gift but I was a bit puzzled on how we would prepare it for the oven, as my experience of turkey preparation only went as far as fishing out the giblet pack from the nicely cleaned cavity. I expressed my concern to Sidain who told me that Khalid actually hadn't understood what I wanted, as turkeys can be obtained at a butchers already prepared, even in Edfu. Khalid apparently thought we wanted to eat WITH a turkey, as who can guess what strange customs we foreigners have. Nevertheless Sidain, who did understand the concept that we wanted to EAT the turkey, was willing to prepare the bird for us, he assured me, and under the cover of darkness whisked it away I think mainly because he was afraid I would bond with it and add it to the already extensive Hierakonpolis menagerie! Next morning an oven ready turkey arrived, but I sincerely doubt it was our Tom, having shrunk in size to feed four very nicely and was being mysteriously breastless (never much cared for white meat anyway). The preparations then began. Ali the cook, much agitated by this change in his regime, carved the turkey down to our oven's size, and then boiled it to tenderize. Although this made stuffing it a little difficult, it did cut down cooking time and the turkey turned out very tender (considering it was well-matured and very free range). Fran made bread crumb stuffing (mashed bread sticks, left over bread, some old Ritz crackers, half a danish pastry, onion, butter, basil, pepper, parsley, and almonds).

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Some of us really enjoyed ourselves.

Then she embarked on an apple pie, which was excellent, all the while being scrutinized by Ali. Of all the strange things we did, apple pie was indeed the most peculiar. Apples are now being grown in Sinai and the price has come down considerably, but they are still an expensive fruit and quite a delicacy. To cut them up and cook them in a pastry was just too hard to believe. It certainly merited another chapter in the great situation comedy "Khowagas (foreigners) in Paradise" that we provide for them each season. This was even better than the installment where we make the men brush the dirt and then berate them for not making the dirt clean enough, and then take a picture of the dirt, draw the dirt, and then make them put dirt back on the dirt, finally berating them again for not putting enough dirt back on the dirt. Cooking apples, apparently takes the cake!

In the evening we feasted on oven roasted turkey, with most of the trimmings: stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans sautéed in olive oil and garlic, and apple pie, washed down with a nice bottle of red wine. A great success. Feeling a bit like pioneers ourselves, we proved that Thanksgiving traditions can be upheld, even at the edge of the Sahara desert.