Ok, so if you really want to host Thanksgiving like an Israeli, don't host it at all. (Yeah, that whole "It's an American holiday" thing.) But unlike Easter, Christmas, Halloween, New Year's Eve, and Valentine's day-- also holidays not really celebrated here-- I feel Thanksgiving is worth keeping, in a nostalgic and let's-force-Israeli-friends-to-eat-American-food kind of way.
The problem is that celebrating Thanksgiving in Israel is a lot like celebrating Jewish holidays in America-- this country really isn't set up to take Thanksgiving into account. So here's a way around a lot of the problems you might encounter if you try to host Thanksgiving dinner in Israel.
1. Be flexible about dates. Thursday night is a great night to have people over, because it's right before the weekend (Friday to Saturday). However, chances are, something else will already be scheduled for that night, even if you're doing something with the English-speaking community. (Those Brits just don't seem to understand the importance of gorging oneself with Turkey in solidarity with Pilgrim forefathers.) I have a memorial service to attend this Thursday night, so we're doing our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night.
2. To buy a turkey, go to a butcher shop. Preferably one that specializes in turkey and poultry. And you'll need to order it in advance and probably pluck a few final feathers when you get it. Sadly, no, turkeys don't go on uber-cheap sale around the holiday-- I'll pay 25 shekels a kilo for mine. But you can shock all of your Israeli friends with the size of a full turkey! And, er, don't forget to specify-- several times, in as many languages as possible-- that you want a whole turkey in one piece.
By the way, last year the butcher thought I was crazy. This year he invited himself over for Thanksgiving dinner. Progress?
3. To find cranberries, look for Russians. And then follow them until you figure out where they shop. This year I bought my frozen cranberries at a little Russian macolet (mini-market), and while they appear to be manufactured in Israel (and are kosher parve and everything), the writing on the clear plastic container is Russian, not Hebrew. You can find dried cranberries in almost any supermarket.
4. If you need sausage for your stuffing, buy chorisos. Last year I went on an epic sausage-finding mission in which I ended up using pieces of kabobs, kabanos and kishkes in my stuffing. It tasted fine (it's pretty hard to mess up stuffing), but later this year I realized that choriso sausages-- available in the frozen food aisle-- actually have the right taste. Israelis don't do breakfast sausage or turkey sausage, so you need to be a bit creative.
5. Find sage fresh, not dried. Sage is another one of those crucial "Thanksgiving" flavors, but for some reason you'll find it more readily in the fresh leaves section (or even in a greenhouse) than in a bottle, dried.
6. Make your pumpkin pie from scratch! You will not find pre-prepared crust, canned pumpkin, or pumpkin pie spice in any ordinary Israeli supermarket. You will, however, find large chunks of ginormous pumpkins (wrapped in seran wrap, in the fresh foods section), butter, flour, and every spice that goes into pumpkin pie spice. While our pumpkin isn't technically sugar pumpkin, I've found it makes a mean pie filling. Just steam it and then (this step is important) puree it in your food processor... the texture of our pumpkin is stringier than a sugar pumpkin. Last year I used this recipe for my pumpkin pie, and it was delicious. Oh, and two things-- 1) if you use an Israeli-size pie pan, double the recipe for filling and crust... those pans are huge. 2) Don't expect actually Israelis to like your pumpkin pie. To them it's a little bit like eating, say, a sweet broccoli custard. They don't get it.
7. Make sure your turkey actually fits in your oven. You have an Israeli-size oven. This is an American-size bird. Make sure you do the math. :) Also, you won't have any automatic timer to tell you when the bird is ready, so make sure you know how long it will take to cook.
Now if anyone can help me find real apple cider in this country, I'll be eternally grateful!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. :) Is anyone else hosting a Thanksgiving in Israel or for Israelis?