All of half a dozen restaurants offer turkey dinners for Thanksgiving
Luckily for me, Christmas is not a holiday that matters to me. Thanksgiving is something else entirely; it has become my favorite occasion for overeating and communing with friends and family.
In a country that has made Buddhism the national religion, one could hardly expect much in the way of celebrating such Western holidays. But the expat community of Americans — which seems very much a minority among Australians, New Zealanders, Brits and Canadians — manages to participate long-distance in celebrations half a world and half a full day away.
It is possible to find frozen turkeys in supermarkets that cater to the Western market. One upscale meat market delivers ready-to-eat soup to nuts for Thanksgiving, and I am aware of maybe half a dozen restaurants offering turkey dinners, among them the fancy hotel rooms at Raffles, Sofitel and the Intercontinental.
At a restaurant that trains students in food prep and cooking among other skills with a view to socially responsible capacity building, several of us got together for an expansive all-you-can eat buffet. Trust me, I can eat a lot. (If you haven’t read Frank Bruni’s funny New York Times piece on his family’s repast, don’t fail to check it out.) The tab: $18 a person versus the lowest $30 price at one of the hotels.
The food was okay and abundant (except for the fish that we were told the chef forgot to order), but I was sorely disappointed by the stuffing (or dressing, if you prefer) and the pumpkin pie. They constitute my second and third most important elements of a Thanksgiving feast, with turkey being first, of course.
Still, our experience was immeasurably better than local options that might have included sweet-and-sour fish soup, pad Thai or grilled chicken. And it certainly was leagues ahead of trying to figure out how to roast a turkey without an oven.
Regarding Christmas, I have walked around whole sections of Phnom Penh to satisfy my curiosity about signs of Christmas. Perhaps it is still somewhat early to find them, but I have to say that little did I find.
What I encountered was generally pretty modest, perhaps understandably in that the cost of electricity is sky-high, maybe 25 percent more than ConEd in New York.
I am sure that some of the stores will start playing carols endlessly, too, but mercifully few of the merchants will so assault its customers. In addition, employees at Lucky’s supermarkets undoubtedly will be forced to wear incongruous Santa hats once again.
As for symbols of Hanukkah, not a chance.
Please do see the other long-captioned photos below.
Happy holidays to one and all!