My Korean Canadian Thanksgiving

For my husband, one of the perks of living in Korea* was the absence of Thanksgiving. He is a curmudgeon who is not a fan of the holiday because 1, he doesn’t like stuffing; 2, he feels that the sentiment is forced; and 3, he enjoys being difficult. I love him.

*And yes, I know this blog is about America and Canada. Just bear with me.

Here is my husband during our first ever Thanksgiving together in 2004. What a happy guy.

We had to go to work on Thanksgiving in Korea, as the pilgrims did not make landfall on Incheon in the 1600’s. This fact was often lost on our friends and family in the US when they voiced their indignation that we had to work on this apparently holy holiday. So off we went to our school that day, my husband in great spirits that he was going to work and not have to suffer through stuffing. While he was sitting at his desk before class started, one of our cheery Canadian coworkers came up behind him and gave him a big hug around his neck and wished him the happiest of days. His shocked response – “Erm, turkey, football, thankfulness” – was as genuine as he could possibly make it.

When you are married, you learn to optimize squirmworthy moments. While he was still shocked and had yet to yet to recover from the Thanksgiving Hug Heard ‘Round the World, I told him that I had signed us up for a Thanksgiving dinner being held the following Sunday at a Canadian bar** in Seoul. I had paid in advance for both of us to have a full Thanksgiving meal in Gangnam (THAT Gangnam), a price that totaled roughly $65 American dollars. This was an assault on his frugality and his distaste for Thanksgiving. But our friends had invited us! What would they think if we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving with them? Our Canadian coworkers already believed that B was a direct descendant of John Smith! He would just have to take one for the team.

**See? I told you I Canada would come into play. O ye of little hope.

Sunday afternoon, we and our Western friends loaded onto the Seoul metro to make the trip to the Canadian bar where we would eat turkey. B was already irked that he had to wear a dress shirt on his day off (which he didn’t, but since he was already dead-set on having a crappy day, he felt he may as well dress the part), but he got to hold the iPod on our long ride to the upscale entertainment district of Seoul. A soundtrack of Dexy’s Midnight Runners always fits the twenty-something Koreans endlessly texting on the train.

We disembarked in Gangnam and searched and searched for the place. Since there really aren’t any numerical addresses in Korea, locating an unknown location is often tedious and miserable. Since we were celebrating a compulsory holiday, though, our nerves were pre-stretched for the stress. We found the place, and the tiny sign for the Canadian bar belied the hugeness of what was going on inside. We descended the stairs to the underground lair that was Big Rock Brewery to find a cozy room filled with hockey jerseys and American hipsters ready to get their ironic turkey on. Apparently, Big Rock is a brewing company in a town called Calgary, wherever that is.

We found the long table that out friends had already staked out. I had been fantasizing all week about the goodies to be had at the meal. Would they have eggnog? Please, for all that’s good and holy, let there be eggnog.

Eggnog, there was none. Instead, it being a Canadian bar, there were cocktails called Caesars. “What’s a Caesar?”, you ask? Oh, it’s just a Bloody Mary WITH OYSTER BROTH IN IT.

Because, you know, Bloody Marys aren’t good enough and so the Canadians had to go and fix them with shellfish water.

Having lived in a foreign country for six months by then, though, I got over the clam juice cocktail pretty quickly. My breaking point had already occurred several weeks prior when I had ordered a baked potato at another restaurant and it had arrived garnished with whipped cream instead of sour cream. I scanned the room and the large flat screen TVs covering one wall grabbed me. There had been word among our friends that Big Rock would be airing pre-recorded American football for their special Thanksgiving meal for all the expats who would be celebrating. Even though I’m by no means a sports fan, I will watch some football on Thanksgiving because that’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s in the Plymouth Charter.

But no football was to be seen. Hockey. Hockey! So I settled in with my friends and my Canadian oyster water and watched the hockey because that’s what you do when you are celebrating American Thanksgiving at a Canadian bar in Korea.

“Having a good time?” Wink! Devious, devious husband.

Soon enough, the buffet was opened. The Korean-Canadian spread wasn’t too shabby, either. Turkey? Check. Green bean casserole? Check. Stuffing? Check. Pumpkin pie? Check. The real challenge was balancing the scads of food on the 5″ x 5″ bread plates we were provided. I am hesitant to blame the Canadians for the bread plates, since they were likely the result of Korean small portions. However, in the spirit of this post, the onus is on the Canadians. Since they share a border with us, they know that we are a nation of fatness and overconsumption, so they could have at least told the Koreans to provide us with extra large Frisbees to pile up our food.

You will notice that my oyster pee has been replaced with a beer. A fine beer, indeed. You will also notice that my husband’s smile is extremely forced.

That night, we headed back to our apartment in Jukjeon with our stomachs full and our heads woozy from Canadian beer and Caesars.

“So, was that so bad?”, I asked B.

“Actually, no. I mean, I got to watch hockey with a bunch of American expat hipsters in a Canadian basement bar and eat turkey I never wanted and wash it down with clam juice and beer. I got to stand in line for 25 minutes for green bean casserole which I took three bites of. And I paid $65 to do so!”

B is my eternal curmudgeon. And next week when we celebrate our first Thanksgiving as parents, I am going to tell him at least 300 times how thankful I am of him, just to see him squirm.

Emily blogs at The Waiting about her baby and her past life in Korea. Sometimes she talks about WordPress spam, too. You should definitely subscribe for the spam posts alone. 

55 thoughts on “My Korean Canadian Thanksgiving

  1. Oh yes, the Official Canadian Cocktail a Caesar! Nothing surprises a die hard drinker of Caesars than going to the US and ordering one and having the bartender say, “A what?”. It fascinates me that Clamato Juice is unavailable in the US. Once a year I attend the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention in Las Vegas. “Broadcast Dialogue”, a Canadian trade magazine hosts the “Canadian” nights at the Flamingo. They ship in cases of Clamato Juice ahead of time. You can drink as much as you like but all they have is Caesars and Canadian Beer. It is a great party.

    • I had never heard of it before hanging out with Canadians in Korea! It is a pretty bizarre thing that clamato juice even exists anywhere, even in Canada. I will admit to eventually liking it when it is mixed with crappy beer and Tabasco. I craved those all through my pregnancy!

  2. This was excellent, Emily. What a great memory. Guess you didn’t have to worry about it being original! “It’s in the Plymouth Charter.” It certainly is.
    I have to fall back on what Lily always says about Canadians and their version of our Thanksgiving… “What do they have to be thankful for, anyway?” haha!

  3. Is it weird that I’m a little bit jealous of your baked potato with whipped cream? Actually, I wish every time I went to a restaurant and ordered something healthy, the waitress realized, “She doesn’t really want that,” and then just randomly brought me a cheeseburger with bacon, and a vanilla shake covered in whipped cream. Yum.

    Sorry, but I’m easily distracted when I think about food. Thanksgiving involves pumpkin pie. Surely B realizes anything that involves pumpkin pie is automatically good.

    • Funny you should say that; pumpkin pie is pretty much the only thing about Thanksgiving that he looks forward to. I’m getting ready for a bakeathon next week so that he can eat them nonstop.

  4. That photo of your husband at the Thanksgiving dinner is hysterical. You can just tell how NOT THRILLED he is. I never heard of a Caesar until I read your post, so thanks for the education. I’m disappointed in our Canadian friends for not providing troughs for the Thanksgiving spread, though. I thought they knew us better than that.

  5. My husband recently announced that he will no longer tolerate turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas anymore – may have to call him Grumpy Guts now! He claims that he hates turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes – and forget about yams, sweet potatoes or turnips cuz those are pig food! So the onus is now on him for Christmas dinner – he’s planning cooking a large rack of lamb. I still like turkey though. 😦 At least we can agree on the importance of pumpkin pie.

    • Pumpkin pie is the eternal peacemaker. It is something everyone can agree on. If someone doesn’t like it, they are probably a witch. Lamb sounds wonderful! Last year, we actually had steak for Thanksgiving because it’s much easier and you don’t have to eat the turkey leftovers until 2014. I may switch it up and do lamb this year!

  6. This was an intriguing post. I have heard of people hating Christmas–mainly because I say “I hate Christmas”–but have never heard of an anti-Thanksgivingite. Interesting. Although if i had to drink clam juice in a Bloody Mary then I would hate Thanksgiving too.

  7. Calgary!!! Wahoo! Any mention of home warms my heart these last days in Australia. If our Caesar’s ruined Thanksgiving (I also did not know that was strictly Canadian!) perhaps this Canadian Living recipe (AWESOME Canadian Magazine) for White Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Tarte ( will redeem Thanksgiving. I’ve made it numerous times and it’s delectable each time!
    Great story!!

  8. Cesarsssssssss! I know I’ve had them before…had to be that ‘odd’ time when I had the canadian girlfriend. seriously. of course this post is amazeballs, as i knew it would be. i also think you have created the first korcanica post, which is a feat on to itself. i also looooovvve when you write about you and your hubsy. it’s so charming and heart warming… oh, and i’m going to plug this today on the old blog… xoxo, sm

  9. Oh yes: Big Rock beer and Clamatto juice. I forget about the differences our wee border creates. I live in Canada so this Calgary beer and fish water drinking does nto surprise me. Still, it’s hilarious to hear you tell it.
    Your husband sounds like a dish.

  10. 1) I would totally go to Korea just to be in that bar and take in Korea’s interpretation of my beloved home country.
    2) Stuffing is fowl. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Seriously, though. Fucking gross.

  11. Pingback: & aging not-so-gracefully « & squatch makes three

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