Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An International Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Part of living abroad is learning about and experiencing new traditions.  The other part is sharing some of your traditions, like Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it's non-religious, so you can celebrate with everyone.  Instead of reciting prayers, this is a day of reflecting on things in life for which you are grateful...and eating fabulous food.  I have a lot to be thankful for in my life, and this year, I chose to think about all the wonderful opportunities my family has provided to me, and how their support has enhanced and developed my life.

In 2009 when I studied abroad in Madrid, Thanksgiving was a really sad day because I wasn't with my family or friends.  They called me from dinner over Skype, and while it was nice to say hello, it underlined the fact that I wasn't there.  I really missed flying in from Boston and setting the tables in the morning.  I didn't even get to sneak a piece of turkey to Maddie Beagle.

This year, again in Madrid, I decided to host my own Thanksgiving Dinner for the first time.  If I couldn't go to Thanksgiving at my house, then I was going to bring the party to Madrid.  So, I invited about 10 friends.  We decided that I would make the turkey, and they would bring pies, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, wine, and extra plates.  You know you live like a student when you have enough wine glasses for your friends, but not enough plates for all of them to eat dinner at the same time.   Not to mention silverware...
Thanksgiving Table

And then there's the issue of serving platters.  Unmarried people do not have a closet full of beautiful serving platters.  And you can't just put the food on a regular dish if you already don't have enough dishes for your guests.  In any case, we bought some plastic dishes and silverware, and it all worked out fine.

The real issue was finding a turkey.  Where do you buy a turkey on a continent that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving?  Not Día, not Carrefour, not Mercadona, running out of stores...  Fortunately, Chloe knew that turkey was sold at Mercado de la Maravilla near Cuatro Caminos, so we went to a butcher there.  He showed us a full turkey, still intact - what you would typically buy for Thanksgiving.  However, this turkey was three times the size of my miniature oven.  Besides, can you imagine riding around on the overcrowded Metro with an entire turkey that still has legs and wings?  Eww, no.  So, we got pechuga de pavo, and it was all good.

Substitute Rolling Pin
We made a few other substitutions since we were in Spain, and the available ingredients were a little different.  For example, we made cherry sauce instead of cranberry sauce.  As is traditional in my family, I also made Lilly Abbot's Candied Yams with sweet potatoes instead of yams, but I was only able to find pink marshmallows here.  Another somewhat student-ish substitution was using a cider bottle in place of a rolling pin.

Each year at home, we make the best juice ever for Thanksgiving.  It's kind of like mulled wine, but without the wine because we have always had a ton of guests under 21.  It's cranberry/raspberry/apple juice with cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, orange slices, diced apples, and a few other things.  I have always looked forward to drinking this each year, so obviously it had to be included in the Madrid version of the celebration.

Guest list by nationality:
United States: 5
Peru: 2
Colombia: 2
Hong Kong: 1
The Netherlands: 2
Bangladesh: 1

This is likely the most international Thanksgiving I'll ever have.  We had a great time sharing the food and explaining the story of Thanksgiving with the non-US citizens present.
iFeliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

1 comment:

  1. I feel truely blessed that you value the wonderful life that you have! I am very happy that you cherish Thanksgiving just like we do. It was always Gamma's favorite holiday too. I am very proud of you and your accomplishments! I have the best daughters in the world and that I am completely grateful for! Pretty great husband too! Love you lots, Mom