Tunisian Turkey: A Feast to be Thankful For

I love this photo. A typical street in Kairouan, Tunisia, scene of my Thanksgiving, 1987.

My final Tunisian post…the Thanksgiving conclusion of a pilgrim in a new land.

We’ve all read books (or blog posts, or magazine stories), or seen movies about Americans in foreign lands feeling horribly homesick at Thanksgiving. They go to the local markets, search for turkey (settle for partridges), substitute breadfruit for potatoes and learn that they can be thankful even without cranberries. Right?

My Thanksgiving in Northern Africa didn’t even come close to such menu approximations.

And that was just fine.

I think of this as “Tunisian Blue”.

As we entered the hotel restaurant – a hotel which was far more Tunisian than Hilton – we harbored no expectations that there would be any reference to Thanksgiving. Five days in Tunisia had taught us that anything American was verboten.

A street in Sousse, Tunisia.

Having just come in from a stroll through town, where the inexplicable phrase, “between the sheets,” was shouted at us by giggling teenaged boys, we also harbored no expectations that the waiters would be overly sympathetic to our plight.

We chose to be away from home for Thanksgiving: our expectations had been changed the day we signed up.

“So,” I figured, “if I’m not even bothering to recreate the pilgrim’s meal, how about I go for something local? Something totally different; something unforgettable.”

I learned that when there is no roast turkey to be had, you opt for paella.

It came: a platter of aromatic saffron-colored rice, peppers, mysterious meats and vegetables, and several whole, baby octopus.

I wasn’t prepared for the octopus.

My traveling companions had ordered ordinary things, like French Onion Soup. I had ordered Northern Africa on a plate.

And I ate every bite.

There are many things in my life to be thankful for. Many experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world. Thanksgiving Paella in Tunisia is one of those things.

A Thanksgiving feast, indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

A friend of mine, along with her family, fixed a paella feast out on Orcas Island, Washington, last summer. I wish I’d been there! Isn’t her paella pan marvelous?!

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