To me, cooking my first turkey was a rite of passage.  Not quite up there with my first kiss, but an important milestone,  Cooking a turkey and orchestrating this feast called Thanksgiving was something your mother or your grandmother did.  When it was thrown in my lap at the age of 21 I gulped and just prayed I didn’t screw it up!

I had spent the prior year studying in Aix-en-Provence, and just wasn’t quite ready to come home…..hey, I still had a little bit of money, why not extend the adventure?  So much to my parent’s chagrin, I moved to Germany and took up residence with 5 guys in the Air Force.  They were stationed at Bitburg, which you might know for its excellent Pilsner.  Our home was actually about 6 kilometers outside of Bitburg, in a very small farming village called Nattenheim.

Now Nattenheim was not exactly a hopping place in the day, but our home was an entire upstairs above the only pub in town. So our evenings were filled with oompah-pah music filtering up through the ceiling that the guys tried to drown out with Led Zepplin.  Yep.  Loved the ‘70s.

Sometime in October I remember the guys first mentioning Thanksgiving…..since I had moved in a few months earlier, they had enjoyed actually eating real dinners.  God only knows what they ate before I was around, but they seemed to enjoy my culinary experiments and word soon spread. Every night it seemed that we had one or two extra buddies that stopped by just around dinner time.  Heck, I had nothing to do but wander in the forest, take photos and cook.  (Can I have that gig again???)  So the guys suggested that I make a big  Thanksgiving dinner for, well maybe 20 people.  They of course would buy everything….I just needed to make it happen.

OMG. Cook a Turkey?? And fixings for 20?  I had no clue and the Frau across the street had pigs sleeping downstairs, so probably not a good source for culinary advice.  I frantically wrote mom…of course no Internet or even accessible phone service in those days.  Please mom, please answer in time and help me know how to cook the damn thing and make your delicious stuffing!

Mom and the postal service somehow came through and I managed to cook a beautiful turkey, stuffing and all the side dishes. It wasn’t all perfect, but we had enough beer and wine to compensate.  I still sweat just thinking about it, but also smile remembering how good it felt to hear the oohs and aahhs and to see the smiles on everyone’s faces. Whew! I was a grown-up!  I had passed the first turkey rite of initiation… guess the rest is just gravy 🙂


Prost! Happy Thanksgiving!