By the time Thanksgiving rolled around at Honko, I was getting a little homesick, and there’s nothing like the holidays to make you miss the comforts, traditions, and people you’ve left behind. Therefore, in an attempt to bring the spirit of (for me) a New England harvest to our little camp among the dunes, Tess and I orchestrated a dinner that recalled the gluttony, satisfaction, and hominess of a true American Thanksgiving feast.
The pie was the first thing we began planning. An essential part of the holiday, this dessert would be the key to capturing the spirit of fall. Of course, the squashes, pumpkins, and apples we would recognize as “fallish” were not to be found in southwestern Madagascar. Something about mango just didn’t seem right to me, dairy products weren’t really practical, in a place like Madagascar, I didn’t want to have to revert to the globular and unnatural (though delicious) pecan pie I’d known from home. After at least a month of mulling over our options, we settled on sweet potato. We’d never tried it before, and we’d never made a pie in a solar oven before, but it came out well, and certainly conjured up the vibes of pumpkin patches and falling leaves.
Maddy provided the mashed potatoes and string beans, and, though the meat-eaters had to make due with zebu rather than poultry, our splurge on butter and rolls pulled it all together. That simple combination I’d never realized I so highly valued turned out to be the deciding factor: it was, in fact, Thanksgiving in Madagascar.
And, perhaps most heartwarming of all, was the surprise opportunity, courtesy of our little mutt Dog, to share something with the community of Honko employees. It didn’t look like an opportunity when Dog chased down and mildly mauled a goat in Ambondrolava that morning, but when it resulted in Honko’s buying and distributing the meat, it felt like a gesture of appreciation. It was something we might have planned in order to share the Thanksgiving mentality, and it certainly highlighted the value of things we might not, on other days or in other settings, appreciate as much as we should.
As we rounded off the evening sharing beverages and playing cards by candlelight, I felt we had been successful in our humble imitation of the feasts of my childhood. My sappy and nostalgic side got the best of me, and I found myself reveling in the glow of smiling faces and not so longingly looking forward to my departure.
Of course, when I did finally leave Honko only several days later, I spotted several squashes in the market on my way to the airport.