November 22, 2007

Bangalore Thanksgiving

This will be our first Thanksgiving in Bangalore. Mostly we're enjoying not have to deal with the consumer nightmare that you get in the USA from Thanksgiving to Christmas, but I do have some nostalgia for traditional Thanksgiving dinner. So imagine my excitement when I saw the following menu for Thanksgiving lunch at work (edited slightly for formatting and grammar):

Thanksgiving lunch from Erica's kitchen.

There will be:

Waldorf salad
Exotic salad
Leek & Mushroom soup
Cream of chicken soup
Bread Basket

The Highlights:

Stuffed Turkey
Mashed potato
Zucchini
Broccoli
Green beans with puff pastry
Cold cut platter

And to top it all

Fruit pies
Vanilla Ice cream


Our staff worked hard to put together as close to a traditional American Thanksgiving menu as possible, and I think they did the best they could to communicate that to the caterer. I think the problems are that 1) the caterer has no one who's ever experienced an actual Thanksgiving dinner, 2) they couldn't get a lot of the things that go into a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (like cranberries) and 3) there were the inevitable transcription errors.

I think I understand better why my Indian friends complain so much about the Indian food in Charlie's Cafe at Google. They say the names sound familiar, but the food bears no resemblance to the dishes with those names. This was like that. What was it actually like?

From the top:

Waldorf salad
This was chunks of apple swimming in runny mayo with a few bits of walnut thrown in. No raisins, no celery.

Exotic salad
Now I don't know about your family, but my family never had "exotic salad" for Thanksgiving. This was just shredded purple and green cabbage, carrots, and some lettuce leaves with no dressing. I guess if undressing a dancer makes them an exotic dancer, not dressing a salad makes it an exotic salad?

Leek & Mushroom soup
Cream of chicken soup
These weren't so scary, but they looked like standard steam-table catering cream soups.

Bread Basket
Some bread sticks and a bunch of soft white rolls, torn in half. It was in a basket.

The Highlights:

Stuffed Turkey
It was turkey, and it was stuffed, but it was like no stuffed turkey I've ever had before. As best I can tell they mostly boned a whole turkey, wrapped it around some kind of chicken forcemeat, then roasted it maybe over wood? It had an interesting smokey flavor, but the dense salty forcemeat dominated, and in order to cook it through, the outer layers were inedibly dry. A shame, because it looks like it once was a nice bird. In addition, the server was just hacking off big chunks, not slicing it. Carving a whole roast turkey is a learnable skill, carving a boneless turkey is something anyone can do, this was a farce. So to speak.

Mashed potato
These were actually croquettes, and spiced with masala. How hard is it to just make plain mashed potatoes?

Zucchini
Broccoli
Green beans with puff pastry
I came a little late, and never saw any of these.

Cold cut platte
"Cold cuts" in Bangalore are usually some kind of shaped and formed chicken forcemeat, or sliced pressed chicken. It's dense, bland, over salty, and thoroughly unappetizing. When we were moving here we thought that it might be hard to find beef, but pork should be widely available. Wrong.

And to top it all

Fruit pies
These "fruit pies" were actually little tarts, with bland flavorless fruit (I think it was apple), no binder (no custard, no whipped cream, not even a cornstarch glaze, just pieces of fruit) and soggy crust.

Vanilla Ice cream
A five gallon box of commercial ice cream, left out on the table with a spoon stuck into it. By the time I got there it was a puddle in the bottom of the box.

A laudable sentiment, a fine sounding plan, appalling execution.
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