You Never Know Where Life Will Take You

Welcome! This is a blog about a girl, who got a job, and moved halfway across the world to teach English. Read and enjoy!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Chinese Thanksgiving

[November 24, 2011] Thanksgiving! I woke up feeling horrible – which is why I haven’t written in a while. Most of my free time in the last week has been spent sitting in my bed feeling miserable as my chameleon of a cold goes from terrorizing my swollen throat, to wracking my chest with bone rattling coughs, straight up to my head to strangle my sinuses and turn my nose into a faucet. It’s been an unpleasant week for my immune system…

Despite my state, I was not going to let a bug derail my Thanksgiving plans in which I was somehow going to try and concoct a festive meal. Now, I’m not a stellar cook to begin with nor can I really follow a recipe…but I have this uncanny ability to whip up things from scratch using basic ingredients.

Not Possible: I'm no miracle worker or Martha Stewart

I mapped out the most basic holiday meal I could think of:
1.       -Chicken – a good substitute for Turkey (they don’t have this bird in China) which I knew how to cook
2.       -Mashed Potatoes – decided to flavor with garlic instead of gravy because I could not find flour
3.       -Corn – I had seen some at the store, sounded easy enough
4.        -Fruit – self explanatory
5.       -Pumpkin Pie – easier said than done, the Chinese don’t make this dish

Also known as 'China's 3-Story Walmart'

I had grabbed potatoes, onion, milk, salt, fruit, and garlic on earlier trips. I was just going to go to TESCO after work on that Thursday to grab the remaining things: chicken, corn, and pumpkin pie. I mentioned this to Tina, a coworker, and she said she would go with me to help me pick out a chicken.
This was good, because fruits, veggies, meat, and bakery bread is organized differently here and has to be packaged by an individual at the store. Also, the places is so freakishly huge and most things are in Chinese, what takes a native 5 minutes to find can take me up to 30 minutes sometimes.

Meat-a-polooza: It's like this x1000.
Tina, once we started our grocery shopping, tried to convince me to get a whole black chicken…head, legs, everything. I told her no. It’s not that I didn’t want to try it, it’s that I didn’t know how to cook it nor did I think it would fit into my pan. We ended up finding some chicken breast! Success. Then we found some corn…that was shrink-wrapped and microwavable. I figured since I didn’t try the black chicken, I should at least humor Tina and get the corn-in-a-bag. Corn, check. She talked me into getting some 5rmb (~$1) white wine and some garlic to cook with. Which inspired her to add some sugar to that, since a glass of warm wine with sugar and garlic is said to be good for health. Didn’t take long to convince me! Onto the pumpkin, which pie made of that squash is not available here, so I went with these little pumpkin croquettes.

As I was leaving, I decided to take a detour to Starbucks and got myself a congratulatory Cranberry White Chocolate Mocha and a piece of cherry cheesecake (just in case the pumpkin croquettes didn’t work out).

I can't read any of the labels...

Cooking went off without too many mishaps. The garlic mashed potatoes turned out great. The chicken with a wine/garlic/onion/ginger sauce was a pleasant surprise! I sliced up some kiwi for my fruit portion. The only fail was that after microwaving the corn…when I began to cut it, I noticed a weird texture anomaly. It was hard, so I tasted one of the kernels. IT TASTED LIKE WAX.

This belongs at Madame Tussauds under 'bad idea'

 It was disgusting. Awesome, I had bought mutant corn. Oh well, the dinner portion was a success nonetheless and I was too full by the end of it to really miss the corn.

Garlic mashed potatoes, chicken in a hodge-podge sauce, kiwi, and coffee

Now, onto dessert! My first attempt to fry the pumpkin things was a failure

The top one looks like a hockey puck. Probably tastes about as appetizing as one.

…but failure is the mother of success (and it also helped that I had a lot more for some more tries) and eventually produced to lightly fried pumpkin croquettes with a drizzle of honey for good measure. I also boiled the wine with some sugar and ginger in it…and voila!

Fork courtesy of Starbucks!

 The wine ended up a bit too booze-y for my tastes, but all in all the whole debacle was a success! Go me! This evening I'm thankful that I didn’t burn my apartment down. Also, I was ridiculously happy to be able to Skype with my family and friends later that evening as well – a really special treat to see everyone I miss!


  1. Claire, I didn't realize you were in China but hope it's going well! I love your writing style... you have a gift! Hope you're having an amazing weekend. :)

  2. Rebecca! Yes, I've been in China for about a month and it's been great so far. I look forward to learning and seeing a lot during the year I'm here. Thank you for the compliments! I also enjoy reading through your blog - I look forward to following you. Best wishes!