I never fully realized how one taste can send you straight home (in the "where-I-grew-up" sense).
For the first time in my 8 years of married life, this week I cooked my first ever Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings: roasted chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, roasted veggies, peas, even cranberry sauce made from scratch from real cranberries! The crowning glory, however, were my two pies, made from scratch - and I am NOT a pie maker!
Without apologizing, I made the pumpkin pie for myself. I knew my Kiwi husband would love the apple pie and tolerate the pumpkin (New Zealanders tend to keep things like pumpkin in the "savoury" category). I wasn't sure how my kids would react since they've never had pumpkin pie before, and I was pretty sure our local guests would take a polite bite or two and leave the rest (and I was right). But I wanted pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, and so I roasted the pumpkin, and followed the recipe carefully, and made one. All by myself. For me. In honor of American Thanksgiving, as the only pure American in our vicinity. I even tracked down real whipping cream (for a prince's ransom) to go with it!
I wasn't sure how the pies had turned out. (After all, you can't taste a pie without cutting into it, and who serves a pie with a chunk out of it?)
But as I slid my first forkful of pumpkin and real whipped cream into my mouth, I closed my eyes with pleasure. Yum. It tasted perfect. I couldn't believe it. Just like Thanksgiving at home.
And with that mouthful I was at once perfectly happy and very sad. No one else around my table - my kind local friends, my wonderful Kiwi husband, our lovely guest from New Zealand, even my sweet children - could share my experience in that moment.
I felt immensely far from home, and immediately close to my original family, all at once. I felt sorry for everyone else around my table who couldn't share this taste with me… not just the taste of pumpkin with whipped cream, but the taste of home.
And yet, I didn't feel guilty. I savored every bite of my piece of pie, cut off another sliver and ate that too, and kept my eyes closed the whole time. Home tastes sweet.
And as I build my own home, I'm feeling nourished by the physical memory of the home that made me…. one Thanksgiving dinner at a time, year after year, holiday after holiday, memory after memory.
Best of all, unbelievably, my children will have the taste of pumpkin pie and whipped cream as part of their memories growing up, even though they live in Central Asia… and that thought tastes really good to me.