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Thanksgiving With Bosnian Refugees In Iowa

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
November 22, 2023 3:04 am

Thanksgiving With Bosnian Refugees In Iowa

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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November 22, 2023 3:04 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Joy Neal Kidney shares the story of two unforgettable Thanksgivings with Bosnian refugees.

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Pro football player Travis Kelsey is pressed for time during the football season, so he does two things at once.

Whether it's grilling while mowing. Two things at once! Or getting this season's updated COVID-19 shot at the same visit as his flu shot. Two things at once.

You can be like Travis and ask your pharmacist about getting this season's COVID-19 shot at the same visit as your flu shot, if you're due for both, as recommended by the CDC. Learn more and schedule at Sponsored by Pfizer. Following last year's amazing turnout, the Black Effect Podcast Network and Nissan are giving 50 HBCU STEAM scholars the opportunity to have an all-expenses-paid trip to Nissan's second Thrill of Possibility Summit.

This is a remarkable opportunity to be mentored by auto, tech, and podcasting's brightest minds. NCA&T's Marcus Scott Jr., who attended the first summit, had this to say, And we return to Our American Stories, and all show long, we're celebrating Thanksgiving. Up next, a story from our regular contributor, Joy Neal Kidney, on an unforgettable Thanksgiving with Bosnian refugees. Take it away, Joy. Joy, how long do you cook a turkey?

Eleven-year-old Janella called the evening before Thanksgiving several years ago. It depends on how much it weighs. Well, how do I weigh it? Check the bag it came in. It'll tell you, I told her. Is it thawed yet?

Not yet, but I've gotten water in the sink. Mom works tomorrow on the holiday, but we've just got to have a real Thanksgiving turkey dinner. What else are you having? You know, stuffing, gravy. What shall I have Dad get at the store?

I listed onions, celery, and chicken broth. Oh, we need pumpkin pie, too. I'm going to eat some, even if no one else does. It's traditional. Why don't you just have your Dad get one at the store?

And get some Cool Whip, too. Oh, be sure to put the turkey in the refrigerator overnight to be safe. Janella had arrived in Iowa as a darling, dark-eyed two-year-old with her parents.

Samir and Zlatka came to our church in Iowa with other Bosnian war refugees for English classes. Because of her parents' work schedules, I eventually became Janella's band and drama grandma, getting her to practices, concerts, and plays. That night, I worried about Janella's turkey getting thawed in time, and whether she'd even figure out how long to cook it. So, Thanksgiving morning, my husband and I headed to their condo to check on things. The turkey had thawed nicely, and Janella had located the pop-up thermometer on it.

We set to work making a timetable. When to put the turkey in the oven, the stuffing casserole, when to make gravy. She got busy chopping celery and onions, making cubes of some of her mother's chewy, homemade Bosnian bread.

She suspiciously sniffed the spices. Joy, this smells like Thanksgiving! Can you and Guy stay for my first turkey, please?

Please? Samir and Guy were visiting in front of the TV. When Samir learned that our family dinner wouldn't be until the day after Thanksgiving, he said, come, come have American Thanksgiving with us. So we did. But we came home first. We rustled up ingredients for mashed potatoes, scalloped corn, and a salad. By the time we arrived with our contributions, their condo smelled wonderful, just like Thanksgiving. Zlaka was home from work, helping her daughter find a bowl for the gravy.

When her feast was ready, Janella called everyone to the table. Two younger brothers had to tear themselves away from a video game. You made this, kid or father? This is good! Yup, my very first turkey.

What is this? He was skeptical about the scalloped corn. Corn, crackers, and eggs. Oh, it's good. You teach Janella this, okay?

For next year. Don't forget to save room for pumpkin pie, Janella reminded us. It's traditional. She was the only one in her fifth grade who had fixed her family's Thanksgiving meal. Since that first one, she has always roasted the turkey. Back in those days, she planned to go into some kind of medicine, maybe nursing. But her junior year in high school, she took a culinary class.

She was hooked. Throughout her senior year, she took classes at the local community college and worked in a restaurant. She graduated from culinary classes and was hired full time by her former employer.

And has been working steadily ever since. Soon this little chef fixed the whole Thanksgiving feast for her extended family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, even grandparents who have also immigrated here. Thanksgiving dinner has always been Janella's American specialty, ever since fifth grade. A couple of years later, Thanksgiving dinner was at Janella's Aunt Georgia's. She's an Iowa girl who married Janella's Uncle Omer. In fact, Omer's parents, who are about my age, were visiting that year from Bosnia. So Aunt Georgia was in charge of turkey, potatoes, and a dessert.

Since Janella loved fixing the turkey, she helped at Georgia's house. I invited her younger brother, Otis, to my place to help make pumpkin pie and other side dishes. He was born in Iowa when his parents had been here just over a year. They'd asked if I would accompany Zlocka through labor and delivery to help with English.

So I did. He was the first birth I ever witnessed. After Otis started school, I sort of became his Cub Scouts grandma. We made cakes together for fundraisers, a ladybug, one that looked like a cheeseburger, and even a prize-winning alligator.

We'd always decorated them in his condo, so this was the first time we'd cooked at my place. I had him crack four eggs into a large bowl and started to hand him a whisk to beat them. Then I remembered my son at that age, years ago, decided that an old-fashioned egg beater would be more fun for a 10-year-old boy. It was, especially when he was cranking away to flick off the dribbles, flipping egg over the counter.

Good thing our cleanup rag was at the ready. I measured the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves after sniffing each one just like my son used to. Otis liked the cinnamon. Next came stirring while I opened cans of pumpkin and evaporated milk. He scraped the pumpkin into the eggs.

I poured in the first can of milk, but he wanted to do the second one himself. When all was mixed, he ladled it into two pie shells while I explained what custard is, and the pumpkin pie is one kind of custard. I carried the filled pie shells on a cookie sheet to the stove. The oven wasn't quite hot enough, so I parked the pies and turned around to do some counter-cleanup. There sat the bowl, then nicely combined sugar and spices.

I laughed. Oh dear, we forgot the spices. Now what? I'd just stir it into the pies, Otis suggested. I ended up pouring the pumpkin mix back into a large bowl, leaving the sloppy edge on both pie shells. While Otis stirred in the spiced sugar, I wiped off what I could from the edges of the dough with a paper towel.

Ladling had been too slow, I guess. This time Otis just hefted the big bowl and poured the filling into the pie shells. By then the oven was ready. He carefully carried the cookie sheet with the pies to the stove, but he had me left it into the hot oven. Our pies are gonna look kinda ugly, I said. Uh, they'll taste good anyway.

Those brown eyes twinkled. That was nice of him, especially since Bosnians hadn't gotten used to the taste of pumpkin pie. I knew he wouldn't eat any.

One hour to bake, a couple of hours to cool. We still had scalloped corn, stuffing, and green bean casserole to make. Otis crushed crackers for the corn.

I like my corn plain, he admitted. Oh well, he'd at least enjoy Aunt George's mashed potatoes and gravy. I showed him the checklist of what all we were having for the feast. And which relative was bringing what food, such as his mother's Bosnian bread.

Indeed, Otis didn't eat one single thing that he had helped make for the festivities. And his Bosnian grandmother couldn't quite make herself taste the turkey or the pumpkin pie. Georgia had roast beef in the slow cooker just in case. But his grandfather ate some of everything and went back for seconds. It was an interesting day with a mix of immigrants, Iowans, and descendants of Mayflower pilgrims sharing an American Thanksgiving.

When I got home, I jotted potato chips on the next year's Thanksgiving list. And added the bringer's name right next to it. Otis. And a special thanks to Monty for producing the piece. And a special thanks also to Joy Neal Kidney.

A beautiful story about immigration, about America, and about love here on Our American Stories. Pro football player Travis Kelsey has pressed for time during the football season. So he does two things at once. Whether it's grilling while mowing. Two things at once! Or getting this season's updated COVID-19 shot at the same visit as his flu shot.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-22 04:31:02 / 2023-11-22 04:36:06 / 5

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