Recap: Thanksgiving Abroad in Jerusalem + Being Thankful Everyday

A twist on my traditional Thanksgiving meal inspired by local ingredients.

Every year that I spend Thanksgiving abroad, it’s always a new and unique experience. Sometimes we celebrate it with a big group of people and other times it’s just my husband and me celebrating it together. Regardless, it is still a good celebration. Since my husband is from Europe, our focal point for Thanksgiving is really about reflecting and giving thanks. Thinking about all that we have to be thankful for. Undoubtedly, there is always so much to be thankful for.

Also I was inspired to create a Thanksgiving meal based off of the local ingredients in Jerusalem. Instead of using butter and herbs for my turkey, I used labneh (a thick, strained, creamy yogurt) and za’atar (a blend of spices found commonly throughout the Middle East and North Africa). For my stuffing, traditionally I would prepare a cornbread stuffing, but this year I used “Jerusalem Bagels.” They are very long (nearly three or four times the length of a traditional “American bagel,” the texture is softer and they are coated with sesame seeds. It’s very common to see vendors selling them throughout the Old City and I have a favorite bakery just beyond Damascus Gate that sells them hot and fresh.

Preparing this meal reminded me of my first Thanksgiving abroad in New Zealand. I went searching everywhere for turkey only to finally “settle” for a sushi feast (not a bad Thanksgiving option if you ask me). It was not what traditional according to what I would consider traditional, but it was a nice change.

What I’ve learned about celebrating Thanksgiving and other holidays abroad is:

  • Change Can Be Good: It doesn’t have to look exactly like your typical celebration and that’s okay. It brings you back into awareness that you are in a new culture.
  • Going Local is Best: In terms of buying ingredients, local ingredients are the way to go. It’s true that you probably will not find a local equivalent for everything on your list but you can find something else that is equally (if not more) delicious. Plus, going local is more environmentally friendly, supports the local economy and is much friendlier on your wallet.
  • Expand Your Celebration: Invite others to experience a feast. Last year I had the privilege of inviting many guests to our house. I was cooking all day long and it was so rewarding to see so many people gathered and just having a great time. Our group represented nearly 10 different countries.

Everyday is Thanksgiving day.

Everyday is Thanksgiving day. As cheesy as that may sound, it is true in the spirit of celebrating the holiday as a day of truly giving thanks for all that you have. Today and everyday, I always have many things to be grateful for and I am sure if you’re reading this right now, then you do too. Thanks for reading. Remember you are loved, you are cherished, you are unique and special.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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