Thanksgiving may be as American as pumpkin pie, but the notion of sharing a meal and counting your blessings transcends cultures.
Many foreigners who celebrate the holiday here in the Czech Republic incorporate local dishes and customs, cooking up a Thanksgiving dinner that’s part American, part Czech, and entirely international.
That’s certainly the case for the Eremeev-Salvatore family whose annual Thanksgiving feast takes place in the elegant surrounds of the family chateau, a lovingly restored cultural heritage site.
“We’ve lived in Prague since the 1990s,” says Anton Eremeev whose half-Russian, half-Georgian father and Italian mother purchased Savoia Castle in 2007 and began hosting its annual Thanksgiving dinner shortly thereafter.
Located east of Prague in Skvorec, a small town of less than a thousand inhabitants, the castle changed hands throughout the centuries as it was transformed from a gothic palace to a Renaissance chateau that was plundered and burned down by the Swedish army in November 1639.
Maria Theresa of Savoia (born Lichtenstein) restored the castle in the 18th century, living there for half a century until her death in 1772 when the castle once again fell into disrepair.
So how did a Russian émigré, and the daughter of a noble family from Mercatale, Florence, discover an appreciation for turkey with all the trimmings?
“My father taught international law at the University of Pittsburgh before he arrived in the Czech Republic,” says Eremeev adding that the holiday was originally celebrated at the castle with his American cousin, David Agranov, a Hollywood actor.
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The annual Thanksgiving dinner, open to the public, is held in the Teatro, a space with its own interesting backstory, says Eremeev:
“The castle was a religious center for the local Jewish community and this venue housed a synagogue for eighty years until 1939, when the Second World War began.”
This year’s menu reflects a completely different set of influences — Asian by way of a chef friend who helms a popular fusion restaurant in Prague. Guests can look forward to roasted turkey with Hoisin gravy, sweet potatoes with lemongrass and ginger butter, and green mango salad with Thai herbs.
Says Eremeev: “It’s a fun social experience. We get a mix of expats and locals, and some of the guests always start playing the pianos we have around the castle, with everyone else joining in the jam session to sing.”
One thing never changes, though: guests can always expect a slice of pumpkin pie.
Reservations are still available for this Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner at Savoia Castle with shuttles service available from Prague; the venue hosts year-round events everything from crafting workshops to pastry courses and, as a nod to the chateau’s family ties, Italian cooking classes.
For more information visit the Savoia Castle website.