While this was our third Thanksgiving in Korea, it was our first with turkey. Or with Koreans. Given the spaciousness of our new abode, we thought it was time to have some people over. I only knew one Korean who'd tasted turkey before. She tried a drumstick in the Ye Olde part of Disneyworld. In her opinion, turkey was delicious, especially with kim, a dry, salted seaweed. Based on this expert analysis, we figured our guests would enjoy the bird. We stashed some kim in the cupboard just in case.
Thankfully, it never hit the table. Our friends wanted to experience a traditional American holiday, so we gave them the works. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, a smorgasbord of vegetables and rolls. There was a total lack of chopsticks, drinks were served with dinner, and everyone was warned to save room for dessert. We set it up buffet-style, as a compromise between American and Korean dinning habits. (Actually, it was a compromise between wanting people over and not owning chairs. Fortunately, our friends were down with sitting on the floor.)
At first there was confusion over the lack of McDonalds wrappers. The food just looked like food. As in, meats and vegetables, more or less as found in nature. Did Americans really eat like this?
"Well, not all the time," said Sam, who had spent the entire day cooking.
"But we do eat real food," I added, not wanting to lose their rising respect Ask any Korean about American food, and you will get a brief, greasy list of fast-food chains.
Our guests took a few cautious spoonfuls, then retreated to taste and confer.
"Hey, the carrots are ok," my friend told her husband in Korean. "No really, They're pretty good." Over her shoulder, the kids cautiously nibbled on turkey. A few minutes later everyone got up for seconds. The teenaged boy loaded his plate to capacity, and carried back a drumstick between his teeth.
We ate and ate. As dinner slowed, they perused our bookshelf. We ducked into the kitchen.
Sam outdid himself on dessert. You could not have found a more beautiful lattice-top pie if you'd ripped it out of Gourmet magazine. In honor of our guests, he'd changed the apple filling to persimmon. Hard persimmon slices in soft persimmon sauce, with pumpkin pie spice. I snuck a taste while dishing it up.
"Is it ok?" Sam sounded worried.
"Its amazing." I licked my fingers. "Really spicy. And sweet."
"Do you think they'll like it?" He glanced into the living room. Our friends were laughing over our Korean cookbooks.
"Probably." Koreans usually eat raw fruit or yoghurt for dessert. This was more sugar than they'd probably put in their mouth at one time before. "If they don't, I'll eat their share."
When they took their first bite, all conversation stopped. Their eyes bulged, as though the fabric of time and space was warping in front of them. "It is very...interesting," my friend managed. A few moments later, her bowl was empty.
"Erin Teacher," she told me later, as I walked her to the door, "we will always remember this meal. And I will always remember this pie."
P.S. No, Korea. NOOOooOOoooo!