The Thanksgiving dinner I cooked in Lanai should have been easy. We were living aboard our 37.5 ft Hunter sailboat, and had been through Mexico and many isolated anchorages in French Polynesia. We had sailed up to Hawaii to keep out of hurricane season and had easily accessible supermarkets and shops.
Our downfall was Monday night football. My sister and her husband were in Hawaii for a conference and would be joining us for a sailing weekend over Thanksgiving. We planned to sail out of Hilo on the Big Island and have a tropical Thanksgiving dinner on Lanai.
I already had canned cranberry sauce and instant mashed potatoes. All I needed for Thanksgiving dinner was the turkey, and a few fresh rolls and veggies. Even though I had cooked many company dinners on the boat, Hawaii is quite warm in November, so with four on board I knew I didn’t want to cook a turkey in our little oven. A turkey breast, however, would be just right. It would fit in the oven and not give us too many leftovers for the small galley fridge.
As our guests still had their hotel room and a rental car, we went to the supermarket to get the turkey breast, some bread, and some fresh or frozen vegetables, hurrying to get back to their room in time to watch Monday Night Football. With the time difference this made it a bit of a rush, as Monday Night Football was aired Monday afternoons at 3 p.m. in Hawaii. No worries. The four of us hit the shops, each one assigned a few things to find. I took the turkey breast. Easy.
Not so easy. There were no fresh breasts in the store, so I headed for the freezer section. After checking out the various options, I settled on a rolled turkey breast which would be simple to heat and to carve. I grabbed it and trotted to check out. We got everything stowed and were in place in front of the game right on time.
The sail was a bit rough overnight, but the day dawned beautifully as we approached Lanai. It was a lovely place to spend the Thanksgiving weekend. On Thursday, we sat down to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with wine and all the trimmings. It was a pleasure to share our lifestyle with family. As I sliced the turkey, or rather cut it, I noticed the texture was a bit different, but I served it graciously. As we tasted it, my sister was the first one to say, “This tastes like Spam!” Well, not quite. As sailors, we have eaten our share of Spam, but the texture was certainly dead on. When I check the label I noticed it was a turkey roll made from turkey pieces held together with small pieces or ground turkey.
The next day we met the people on the next boat, who were really pleased to talk to us, as they dreamed of heading out on the ocean to French Polynesia. He was quite the cook, talking about food, so my sister joked that we had turkey Spam for Thanksgiving dinner. He immediately invited us over for dinner that night to make it up to her, as he planned a whole roast chicken with all the trimmings. We took some appetizers and wine to contribute and had a wonderful evening with great food and good company.
It was a memorable Thanksgiving, with family and new friends, a gorgeous beach, snorkeling, and dolphins swimming in the bay. We had the perfect sail to Honolulu, which is never as lovely as it is when approached from the water.
We have had Thanksgiving dinners with all the family before and after this memorable year in Hawaii. But my sister still reminds me of the year I served her turkey Spam.