It was like a holy grail-type mission.
There had to be cranberry sauce somewhere in Nairobi, and I was going to find it.
There are lots of items, many of which I described in an earlier blog post , that are clearly imported just for expats. And, while Americans are probably the least numerous here when ratios of country population are factored in, it made sense that some stores would likely order things like cranberry sauce specially.
I visited Nakumatt, the largest grocery store chain in Kenya, only to be informed that they had ordered cranberry sauce on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving, and that it would arrive by the following Monday.
Ever resourceful, I figured if there wasn’t pre-made sauce available, that maybe I could buy frozen berries, or maybe even fresh cranberries!
I should have figured that cranberry bogs are not really a hallmark of AFRICA, let alone KENYA so that route was also a fail.
Desperate, I posted in a community Facebook group, hoping to crowdsource cranberries. Nairobi Expat Social — where did they get theirs?
I’d describe the experience as akin to playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. One person would report having seen ONE jar somewhere — other American cranberry sauce poachers would join the thread, indubitably rushing to check on the purported jar.
Phantom cranberry rumors persisted deep into Thursday, when I feared I’d have to resort to cheap Arabian strawberry jelly in lieu of proper cranberry sauce. What was next? Chicken in a tin as the main course?
Someone mentioned off-handedly that Prime Cuts, the expat-o-centric butcher in Village Market, renowned for their hard-to-find meats and cheeses as much as they are for their high prices, had the sauce. I called them and they told me that they’d have it delivered after 3pm, and immediately mobilized some of our dinner guests to be perched, ready, to buy it ASAP.
Juliet, our friend and neighbor within Fourways, had been at a work meeting in an odd area of town and saw a supermarket in the same plaza. Enterprisingly, she went inside and found TWO jars, and, rather than fighting the old man going for one of them, purchased just one. But we were going to be 12!
As we spent the moments before everyone had arrived Skyping with our parents in America, my French colleague called me from his strategic post at the butcher’s. “They have Whole Berry and Smooth,” he said to me in French. “Hold on, Dad,” I said in English, then, in French, “Whole berry is better.” If you’re not American, of course you wouldn’t know. But our cranberry sauce problems were solved!
One of the best parts of Thanksgivings as an expat is that you not only get foods and experiences from other countries and cultures, but you get traditions from other parts of the US! Everyone has turkey, sure, but thanks to Carlos’s demands, we also had Macaroni and Cheese, which is one of his Thanksgiving favorites.
Kate, our dear Australian friend, made some sort of Australian Christmas treat that was described as “like plum pudding” (which I’ve never had so cannot verify its authenticity) but it was complete with festive little “pokercandy” on the top in Christmassy colors.
All in all, we had 7 countries represented: America (of course), Germany, France, Mauritius, Australia, the UK, and India.
- Mashed potatoes (2 kinds)
- Sweet Potato Casserole with the 5 marshmallows we could find in Nairobi on top
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Cauliflower-Broccoli Gratin
- Balsamic Vinegared green beans
And, because it was Kate’s birthday this past Wednesday, I surprised her with cupcakes. Shockingly, Priscilla’s delicious pecan pie, the cupcakes, and the plum puddings did not really get eaten.
While we waited for people to digest, we subjected our guests to a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Maybe we’ve been kibitzing too much during our weekly Bad Movie Club, but Charlie Brown has never seemed so funny or outrageous before.
The nicest part of the whole evening was getting to share love and tradition with my friends here in Nairobi. My family, while non-religious, always sang the Doxology while holding hands around the table. My friends obliged me, thankfully, even though it was only Adam and I who sang.
Most of them had never been to a Thanksgiving before, or eaten a lot of the foods that we consider holiday standard. We’re thinking maybe next year we should invite the Economist after our friends here in Nairobi ended up in the Wall Street Journal!
And our food was delicious — even delicious-smelling! The proof is this stray cat who spent most the night wanting to be inside:
It was a beautiful night. And, thanks to the ubiquity and ease of househelp and the fantasticness of our employee Rachael, I have not had to wash a single Thanksgiving dish.
Happy holidays, everyone.