Oberlin Blogs

A Thanksgiving First

November 28, 2011

Simbarashe Runyowa ’15

As you may or may not have established from reading this blog, I am a Zimbabwean. I repeat, I am a Zimbabwean. Once again, to clarify, I am a ZIMBABWEAN. Keep in mind, once more, that I am a Zimbabwean.

*Deep Breath and stabilising cough to be inserted here*

Right. With that disclaimer out of the way and off of my turkey gravy smothered chest, I shall now proceed to spread deep misinformation about Thanksgiving with little care for the backlash I shall surely provoke for my abysmal lack of thorough knowledge about this generally American phenomenon. Work with me here, y'all.

Unsurprisingly, it turned out that sometime last week was Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I really should have been aware of this, given that my obsession with the festivities surrounding this November supper run astonishingly deep for someone who grew up in Zimbabwe where turkeys, if they ever existed there, had probably long buckled under societal pressure and just converted themselves into either chickens or cows or zebras in order to fit in.

Having no turkeys within accessible proximity did nothing to diminish my unbridled fascination with Thanksgiving, which was fuelled and fanned by television images of the general debauchery that accompanies the day. I remember as a child watching with globular-eyed attention, images of impeccably prepared feasts comprising glisteningly golden turkeys and casserole dishes brimful with mash and technicolor permutations of various vegetables which looked exaggeratedly vibrant and unbearably appetising from a Harare-based television. I remember wondering about the taste of turkey — was it like beef, or chicken or both? And cranberry sauce, why would you ladle that onto meat? According to me, sweet and savoury were irreconcilably disparate sensations and were therefore not permitted to mix. Disgusting, I thought. I remember closing my eyes and wishing and wishing that my mother would, out of the brilliant blue sky, proclaim that we would somehow defy Zimbabwean social order and indeed celebrate Thanksgiving and feast on turkey and cranberry sauce and what have you, but A-L-A-S no such thing ever materialised.

Given this background, you can imagine the stratospheric level of excitement that possessed me when I finally got to experience Thanksgiving in all its glory.

Cue Sunday Dinner at Midge & Smith Brittingham's Oberlin home. The Brittinghams are both alumni of Oberlin College who graciously open their home every Sunday to host a home-cooked meal for international students. This time, they made the quintessential Thanksgiving meal that fulfilled all my childhood fantasies.

3 people in a kitchen working food in roasting pans.
Midge and Smith Brittingham ('60) and Ma'ayan Plaut '10 discuss the finer points of turkey carving (I think...)


People waiting for the food to be ready
The awesome Srijit '15 and Chelsea '16 bond over the thought of food in their mouths while Ben expresses shock over this photographer's slyness.


About a dozen people together on a couch
Assorted international students + BEN. This photo may or may not include Sharon, Poon, Chelsea, Srijit, Ahmet, Sinem, Shiva, Weelic, Matt, Saksham, and Simba.


In the end, I ladled cranberry sauce all over my turkey. It was delicious! My childhood aversion to sweet and sour has been overcome.

Sculpture of a flying man in a shop window?

Responses to this Entry

I'm often curious about what foreigners think of quintessentially American holidays like Thanksgiving, so it was interesting to read your thoughts.
Perhaps more importantly, I'm glad that you had a good Thanksgiving! Aside from all of the delicious pies (apple, pumpkin, yum!), turkey with cranberry sauce is my favorite Thanksgiving food.

Posted by: Emily on November 29, 2011 12:59 PM

Oh my goodness. My mom is going to love that Ben is now popping up in more blog posts than mine!

I'm so pleased that Midge and Smith introduced you to your first Thanksgiving dinner. It was SO DELICIOUS.

Cranberry sauce is such an underrated sauce. Pity it's only served at Thanksgiving, in my mind.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on November 29, 2011 1:43 PM

Haha, nice. Really well-written post.

Also, Chelsea graduates an year after I do? Is that a double-degree thing?

Posted by: Srijit on November 29, 2011 3:16 PM

whoa! you guys have a good time last thanks giving day, and the food seems so yummy!:D do you have a spare turkey there so that i can have my dinner? (kidding);)

Posted by: kim perry on December 1, 2011 6:21 AM

I'm glad you enjoyed Thanksgiving here! It's certainly my favorite holiday too. I really enjoy how you write, Simbarashe. I'll be back to read more in the future!

Posted by: Lily on December 12, 2011 3:57 PM

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