Many of you know that I was born and raised in Germany. Heidelberg is very popular among tourists and, until recently, also housed many American families of service members stationed in the area since WWII. As a teenager in the late 80s, I became good friends with Noma, an American high-school student, who just lived a few blocks down the street. Her parents were working as civilians for the U.S. government on one of the military posts near us. It was her, who introduced me to Tang, microwaved popcorn, and MTV (my mom didn’t have cable). Germans don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving to the extend Americans do, if at all. My family never did, so it was a treat for me when Noma’s parents invited me to join them for their Thanksgiving feast at their house.
It was a cold and misty day when I walked to Noma’s home that afternoon – a typical fall day for Germany. The aroma of what promised to be a wonderful meal greeted me as I entered through the door. Walking into their home, I was stunned when I saw their dining room table filled with wonderful dishes, some of them I have never seen before. My jaw dropped. They could’ve fed the entire town with all that food. As soon as I took off my coat, Noma’s mom handed me a plate. “Help yourself!”
I didn’t know where to start. There were so many choices, and I felt a little shy about taking the first scoop out of these wonderful casseroles. “This is a sweet potato casserole,“ she said as she saw my puzzled facial expression. Sweet potatoes were foreign to me, so I scooped a small amount onto my plate. Next, I grabbed an ear of corn. Normally, our German corn on the cob back then was used for pig feed, since it was a particular bland type of corn. Now, this was American sweet corn, which I usually devoured at our German-American Volksfests (carnivals) on post. There was also a green bean casserole, a huge turkey (for German standards), mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie, and so on.
Just taking samples of every dish made my plate overflow. Of course, I had to go back for seconds for my new favorites, the sweet potato casserole, corn, and these delicious little buttered bread rolls. By the time everything was said and done, I was stuffed. I don’t remember what happened the rest of the evening (I must’ve been in a food coma), but my first “official” Thanksgiving meal made a lasting impression on me. Even though we long lost touch, I am grateful for my friend and her family to let me join their tradition.
May your holiday also be filled with laughter and cheer and turn into happy memories for you and your family.