Thanksgiving in the Tropics … Suntanned Turkeys

Thanksgiving in the Tropics … Suntanned Turkeys

A Caribbean turkey?

A Caribbean turkey …

I slept in this morning. When I awoke, Greg was dressed and heading out the door for his office.  “But it’s Thanksgiving!” I called out after him.

Except that here in Barbados it’s just another fourth Thursday of another November.  So while Bajans go about their usual routine today, Yanks like me living in Barbados are feeling all grateful and Thanksgiving-y.

Turkey Culture, American Style

We Yanks are inculcated into the Thanksgiving holiday early on, beginning in pre-school when we trace our hand with a crayon and then color in the finger-turkey-feathers and thumb-turkey-head. We learn that the Pilgrims and Native Americans shared a 3-day feast in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate the Pilgrims’ good fortune of having survived the winter. Those three days of eating inspired today’s Thanksgiving holiday, made a regular thing under President Lincoln.

Across the US today, American families come together to condense three days of feasting into one groaner of an afternoon followed by major vegging in front of the TV to watch the Macy’s Thxgiving Day Parade and football on TV. All that food … it’s fuel for tomorrow, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, which, like the feast itself, is not for the faint of heart.

So while it’s just another Thursday to Barbadians, to me it’s my schmaltziest day of the year, when I feel all warm and deeply grateful for the life I have and the amazing people I’m lucky enough to share it with.

Eat Early, Eat Often

In the US, people will begin eating the Big Meal early- to mid-afternoon. The early start on eating assures plenty of time to go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths before slipping into a food coma in front of the TV. Here in Barbados, our American friends Sharon and Peter are hosting Thanksgiving dinner on the outdoor patio of their home and we will dine at 7 because everyone has to work.

As she did last year, Sharon ordered the turkey three weeks ahead from the local Chicken Galore. Unlike last year’s turkey, which had been imported by Chicken Galore from the States, this year’s turkey came in Barbados’ Chickmont Foods company wrapper.  Turkey production – if that’s the word – is very limited here; Sharon said she got one of a handful of turkeys available.


Ralph is being served at 7; I can't wait!

The yams Bajans eat are not like the bright orange yams or sweet potatoes we Yanks are used to, so Sharon is cooking acorn squash that she’ll top with the requisite brown sugar and butter.  The rest of our feast is a little “make do,” too — canned cranberries instead of fresh, that sort of thing — but no matter.  I can already smell the plump Bajan turkey roasting to a golden brown …

Gourmet Pumpkin Pie, Bajan Style

Our contribution is a stunning pumpkin pie with a pretty crinkled crust that Greg asked Flindt’s patisserie to create for the occasion. $39US for the pie … ouch, but it’s Flindt’s …. the best. And the price I pay for not being willing to cook anything myself.

There’s much this sentimental ol’ Yank is grateful for, starting with friends who go to the trouble of creating this Thanksgiving feast.

I guess another would be not having to go to a US shopping mall tomorrow.

P.S. I’m Stuffed

It’s nearly midnight. We just returned home.

I’m really, really full (a not-subtle way to say 1) the meal was fantastic and 2) I’m a true American and ate too much). Sharon’s Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely first class and the company delightful: four Yanks and four Bajans at table beneath the stars.  The locally raised turkey was a standout.

One disappointment …. While the gorgeous Flindt’s pie from Barbados’ premier bakery was delicious, it wasn’t as close to a classic American pumpkin pie as I wanted it to be. I knew as I was eating it that it was exquisite. And yet I wasn’t keen on it; it wasn’t satisfying. Then it occurred to me why …

One reason we treasure our traditions is because we can rely on them to be some of the very few things that stay the same in our constantly changing world.

That’s why Sharon’s modest little pie beat the gourmet pie from Flindt’s.


Sharon cuts into Flindt's pie. As the David and Goliath of Thanksgiving pumpkin pies, David won.

3 Responses to “Thanksgiving in the Tropics … Suntanned Turkeys”

  1. Rod says:

    Hi Jane,

    Everything you put on paper oozes with charm.You’re right,
    with all the changes in life,some things you want to remain intact.
    Thanksgiving is one of them.

  2. Thank you for your warm comment, Rod. No matter how Bajan I become, Thanksgiving is likely to remain my favorite holiday … I like living an attitude of gratitude; feels good. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, too!

    Random comment but interesting: I heard on BBC radio the other morning that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to become the national bird of the US, not the bald eagle. 🙂

  3. […] Oh – and the American holidays; only a fellow Yank understands the tender childhood memories triggered by a roasting turkey and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. […]

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