Every Thursday, we gather in Kitchen 28 for Dinner Club. Myself, a German, a handful of Danes, a dozen of us usually crowd the table for a meal together. We take turns preparing meals of our choice and share the cost of each dinner. Thus, in theory everyone contributes equally to the Dinner Club. It’s a bit familial, with conversations about daily life and making plans together. In the end, the kids, or at least the ones who didn’t cook or didn’t win some variety of a betting game, share the dish washing duties.

September, October, November.

“Stephen, when are you going to cook for us!? We want American food!”

Falling on a Thursday, Thanksgiving fit perfectly in the Dinner Club schedule. I’d be missing my family when it came time to eat, nap, and eat again. I’d want turkey. I’d want pumpkin pie. I’d want stuffing. I’d want mashed potatoes. I’d want gravy, in a mashed potato volcano mountain, of course.

“I think I might prepare a Thanksgiving feast in the end of November.”

The excitement brewed, fizzed, and spoke. I asked for everyone to sign up about two weeks in advance, so I’d have adequate time to plan and collect ingredients. With two of my other friends joining us, the sign-up chalkboard demanded a feast for 14. When we have Thanksgiving in Maine, there are usually 12 of us. So, I will need to do more than the work of Gram and Mom combined, in a foreign country. I can do this.

My single-handed preparation efforts meant I had to be selective; I needed to offer a typical Thanksgiving meal but I couldn’t prepare every typical dish.

The menu: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli, cranberry, bread, pumpkin pie.

When my plan to buy canned pumpkin at a British/American store in Copenhagen failed, my typical Thanksgiving chefs rescued me. A box with two cans of pumpkin, two cans of cranberry and poultry seasoning. I had detailed recipes and ingredient lists. I had a timeline of preparation for each dish, for the week overall, and for Thursday afternoon. I had volunteers to help me prepare pieces throughout the week. The major shopping took place on Monday evening. Turkey(s) could be bought, but not as large as 20-25 pounds. We settled for two turkeys, totaling just over 20 pounds. Our new friends, aptly named Hansel and Gretel, meant Thanksgiving would really be coming to Kampsax Kitchen 28.

Tuesday: Hansel and Gretel started thawing. I prepared dough and formed rolls into pans. I froze the rolls. Titte helped me prepare the stuffing, beginning my periodic food announcements. “Stuffing doesn’t look very tasty but for a lot of people it’s their favorite part of Thanksgiving!” We snuck bites. Delicious.

Wednesday: Mette helped me prepare two pie crusts for the pumpkin pies.

Thursday: I did some last minute shopping and began my full day in the kitchen. I first prepared the two pies, then thawed the rolls.

Around 1 pm I began my wrestle fest with Hansel and Gretel. I’ve seen turkey. I’ve eaten turkey. I’ve touched turkey. I’ve never man-handled a turkey, given it a bath, held it like a baby, stuffed it like a pillow, or tied it up with string. On Thursday, I did it all. Something about the European turkeys also made me feel like they were still very alive, moreso than others I’ve eaten. The turkeys were my greatest source of anxiety. The oven is a bit different and we didn’t have a roasting pan. They weren’t producing a lot of drippings for the gravy. We didn’t have a meat thermometer. With two in the oven side-by-side, Lærke had to help me lift and rotate each bird to ensure even browning and cooking.

Around 4:00 the real preparations began, or at least the test of my preparations. Dinner would be served at 6:15, and I was aiming for every dish to be finished right on time.

Titte and Simone helped skin and slice potatoes. The potatoes boiled and Titte mashed them. I taste test approved. Done around 6:10.

Titte and Simone also prepared the broccoli, which we boiled in three separate pots. Done around 6:05.

I cooked the remaining stuffing in the oven and removed it at 6:05.

The rolls were in the oven and finished cooking at 6:15.

Hansel and Gretel exited the oven around 5:30 and started cooling. I collected the drippings for gravy. After awhile, I was able to remove the stuffing from the turkey. Done.

The table was set.

Now, I won’t be the first to tell you that my mother has mastered the art of gravy. She’d given me basic instructions. Flour and water. Stir continuously on the stove over medium heat. Add drippings. Continue stirring. My drippings didn’t seem to be enough. The gravy tasted bland and there wasn’t very much. Behold, the second pan where the turkeys had been cooling. My salvation. Drippings galore. My gravy tasted excellent. Done at 6:15.

We sliced the cranberry. Done.

Dinner was ready. Unfortunately, not everyone was in the kitchen quite on time but within a few minutes, we were ready to feast.

For the first time in my life, each dish at the Thanksgiving table had to be individually introduced. Just imagine not knowing the glory of creating a mashed potato volcano with your gravy. I explained each food and what it was meant to be eaten with. Given that we had two turkeys, I had pre-sliced some of the meat before setting the birds in separate serving dishes at either end of the table. As I continued serving meat, I realized the intense level of experience that is required to carve a turkey. Major props to my grandfather for mastering the art of carving a turkey. Either I can’t cut a turkey well or I had a really bad knife. We survived. We thrived.

Everyone loved Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, the stuffing was the first to disappear. The mashed potatoes and gravy disappeared. The rolls disappeared, leaving only a bit of cranberry and broccoli, and the turkey carcasses to be “dissected.” Historically, my mom is the one to find the meat, filling containers to be refrigerated for leftover turkey sandwiches. It might not be Thanksgiving if you didn’t see her in the kitchen after dinner with her glass of wine, “therapeutically” gathering turkey pieces. Naturally, it was necessary for me to assume this role and make sure the turkey was saved for days to come. I filled a large bowl and saved both wishbones for anyone in the kitchen who felt challenged to compete.

After waiting all of stomachs’ dessert rooms to open a little more, we enjoyed the pumpkin pie.

So, Thanksgiving in Denmark was nothing but a success. I learned that I’ve taken my family’s cooking for granted for at least a few years and 13 former strangers joined me to learn the reasons behind the tradition of Thanksgiving. Besides the food, we talked about the origins of Thanksgiving and what type of holiday it is. I classified Thanksgiving as one of few times when families and friends gather for the sake of love and togetherness. Unlike Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and even Easter, Thanksgiving has nothing to do with gifts, at least until Black Friday. I was embarrassed to explain that people camp outside of stores to wait for “big” sales and then stampede the entrances, and in some cases people die. I mean, really, what are we saying “thank you” for, after all?

I, for one, am thankful for the opportunity to share Thanksgiving with some of my new and closest friends and family.