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Holiday in Bremen

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THANKSGIVING away from home and in a strange place can be cheerful and memorable, as in Bremen. Truth is that in my bringing up Thanksgiving never meant a roast turkey. Our barnyard hens were worthy substitutes, so I was college-age before I tasted turkey. The American Dominique, the poultry breed we favored, was just as native as a Pilgrim wild turkey, but ran small so it took a covey of them to do what one Big Tom would do on that holiday. Mother never stinted, and with assorted friends, relatives, neighbors, and countrymen bidden she usually basted six Dominiques in one huge ``bakersheet'' that just fitted into the oven of her Modern Clarion. So as a boy I heard of the Pilgrim turkeys and wondered. Later, when I came to taste a turkey, I was agreeably disappointed and gave thanks for my mother.

It was in 1953 that I had my first Thanksgiving afar. I didn't expect to see turkey in Old Bremen, which was then rebuilding war damage. I was there on what was generously called a ``cultural mission'' for the State Department; those were the days of the ``Occupation.''

Nor did I expect to see chicken as Mother roasted. I had learned that few good German dishes come from an oven. Top-of-the-stove chicken, yes, and perhaps grilled, but not a plump rooster browned and bursting with stuffing.

As Thanksgiving approached, I expected to make a lonely meal at my hotel and tender my holiday gratitudes over something else -- Wurst and Kraut, perhaps, or some Kasseler cutlets -- and undoubtedly an echter deutscher Kartoffelsalat. All such things are finest kind, but not for Thanksgiving. I would, for certain telephone home to Maine, but the time difference somewhat defeated the sentiment. Thinking of pumpkin pies and bag pudding and the immeasurable Gem"utlichkeit of a down-east farm kitchen on Thanksgiving, I got connected just as the family was getting out of bed. Besides, the German telephone operator tarnished my enthusiasm by warning me such a call would be very expensive.


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