Thanksgiving at the American Ambassador's residence

My first Thanksgiving in Ireland was in 1986 and I was invited to the American Ambassador's residence on the big day.

Okay, I wasn't invited personally. The Ambassador's invite was for all American students studying at Trinity College, where I was putting in a year. My friend John, a fellow American, and I made our way up there hoping we'd get a decent bit of food. We weren't expecting to sit down to a beautifully laid table with linen table cloth and finest silverware, but we did hope we'd get some form buffet-style turkey dinner served on paper plates. Turkey sandwiches at worse.

Upon arrival we were provided with a can of Budweiser and a bag of potato chips. Not quite traditional, but a pleasant start. We were treated to a short speech by the Ambassador Margaret Heckler {photo}, who seemed to expect us to be in awe because the house was once the residence of Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston's father. "Can't you just image little Winston crawling along these floors." No. All we could imagine was food.

Finally she finished speaking and made her way around the room saying hello to everyone. And that was it. It took a few minutes before the ugly truth dawned on us, but that was it.

No turkey. No mashed potatoes. No turnip (rutabaga!), brocoli, cauliflower. No apple or pumpkin pie. No nothing, nothing but the sad reality that we'd walked an hour up and had another hour back to look forward to for one can of beer and a bag of potato chips. On Thanksgiving. Thanks Madam Ambassador.

There were probably 25 of us or so there and I think each and every one of us was too disappointed to speak. Eventually we sort of shuffled out. I think the cleaning people were sweeping up right behind us as if we were the Thanksgiving Day parade finishing its run down Broadway.

Eventually we made our way back through the damp and the cold to the center of Dublin. A group of us ended up in some second-rate restaurant eating food we couldn't afford, but reassuring one another that it was Thanksgiving.


I've never been back to the residence since, although not for want of trying. Every year between 2003 and 2008 I used my blog to shamelessly plead with Ambassador Foley to invite me up for a bite of food. He declined on each occasion.

So, now it's over to you Ambassador Rooney. I know it's late, but I could rearrange my schedule if you want to enjoy my company over Thanksgiving dinner. Beer and potato chips won't cut it, however.

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