Saturday, November 28, 2009
Thanksgiving: Great Food at the Great Wall
While my parents and other relatives enjoyed a cozy, wholesome Thanksgiving dinner back in the States, I was stuck in the office, working late (it was my turn for production night), eating a small, semi-warm bowl of rice, beef and what I think was pork from Yoshinoya. Dessert consisted of a few Hershey kisses I had hidden away in my desk drawers.
But last night (Saturday), I enjoyed a pleasant evening with a few of my expat pals at a small compound at the base of the Great Wall called the School House. The School House is owned and operated by American Jim Spear and his wife Liang Tang. Located at the base of the Great Wall at Mutianyu (about an hour's drive from Beijing), the out-of-the-way mini-resort is a great escape from busy Beijing (not to mention a nice break from the city air). But more importantly, at certain times throughout the year, they host special dinners. And this weekend they were serving a family-style Thanksgiving feast.
The venue was much smaller than I'd imagined, but what it lacked in scale it made up for in food, festive spirit and friendly people. My friend, Ken McManus, who has been coming here for some time noted that numbers were down this year - there were only about 20-some present and previous years had seen a much higher volume of people. But it was cozy, a real family-like gathering, small kids running around and adults chatting about "big people" matters. Live music played while everyone sipped on their choice of hot chocolate or a variety of wines. I tried a bit of everything.
The dinner itself was great. Served on those spinning table centerpieces, each plate of food - including turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, baked rolls, broccoli and cheese and many other options - made its way to each person at our table. Dessert this time was for real: chocolate mousse, apple pie, chocolate pies and home-made ice cream. It was a nice alternative to my faux-Thanksgiving feast Thursday night.
And soon enough, it was time to leave the feast behind and make our way home. Before leaving, we were given tupperware containers to take leftovers home, because, as Jim Spear said, "No Thanksgiving is complete without leftovers." How right he was.
(FRONT) Mike Peters (China Daily), Brian Peach (Global Times), Brandon Taylor (Beijing Review); (BACK) Ken McManus (South China Morning Post), Jim Spear (owner) and his wife, Liang Tang