Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving without Turkey?

I have celebrated two Thanksgiving Day's in Spain, and both have been quite unconventional and unforgettable.

Thanksgiving in Spain in 2006: In Fall 2006, I was studying and living in Granada when my roommate and I arrived home after our classes with the highest hopes/expectations that our host mom would have prepared a semi-traditional Thanksgiving meal for us. Instead, we ate nothing more than some fried eggs, a cup of noodle soup, and a few croquetas (fried meat in a batter). Not quite Thanksgiving...but what can you do? Since we were living with a host mom, we didn't have much control over the meals that were prepared. And we weren't about to complain that she failed to prepare correctly for a holiday that is strictly an American tradition and little heard of in Spain.

Thanksgiving in Spain in 2008: Thanksgiving this year was a little different. Arguably, a little more traditional than in 2006. As Thanksgiving is a day meant to bring friends and families together to give thanks, I decided it would be fun to have a little fiesta with my English and Spanish roommates, and all my new Spanish friends. My friend Hollie (also my delightful English roommate) and I decided to rent out a room in the bar below our house, prepare some traditional dishes, and invite some teachers from our schools, some women from our dance class, and the waiters in the bar. We planned the menu, reserved the room, and distributed invitations. Let me first say we weren't planning anything too extravagant; just a turkey, some cranberry sauce, and a pumpkin pie, and perhaps a couple things to munch on. However, this was probably the most memorable/difficult Thanksgiving I'll ever experience in my life.

First of all, while there are a few turkeys wandering around the countryside in Spain, you will be hard pressed to find any in the supermarkets or meat shops. I searched relentlessly for a turkey, but in the end I was unable to successfuly obtain one. There is one way to get a turkey, but it requires going to the country, finding a farmer, and asking if he wants to sell you one of his turkeys. If so, you can walk out of his farm with an extremely fresh turkey. The only problem there is that means I have to completely prepare the turkey (as in...behead, pluck the feathers, clean the get the idea). Anyone who knows me at all, knows that that isn't quite my idea of cooking. So, for the second Thanksgiving of my life, I went without a turkey. Second, Spaniards apparently do not eat cranberries. Over the past two months, I have noticed that there is no cranberry juice of any sort, but it didn't really sink in that there were not cranberries. And believe me, I searched high and low: the supermarkets, the fruit stands, the fresh food market, and I even asked around a few places in the next closest town. No one sells cranberries (or understands why on earth anyone would want to buy any). Needless to say, we did not serve any cranberry sauce. Thirdly, canned pumpkins aren't too common around here either. Nor is pie crust. In fact, neither exist. This made making pumpkin pie a little difficult. As such, I had to improvise, and decided to make some pumpkin bread instead. From scratch. Literally. I mashed up a pumpkin, estimated all the ingredients (since I don't have any measuring tools at all), threw it in a pan...and put it in the oven. Oh wait...back up. Did I mention we do not have an oven (or even a microwave). This makes cooking anything (such as bread) extremely difficult. But have no fear, Hollie and I pranced on over to our new neighbor and asked if she would mind if we used her oven for an hour or two to make bread. We went to put the bread in, and realized the oven was not in Fahrenheit or Celcius, but was instead in gas marks (numbering 1 to 10). I figured 4 was a pretty good number, so we left it to cook on gas mark 4 for a little over an hour. Surprisingly, it turned out amazing!! Despite everyone being fairly skeptical to try something as odd as pumpkin bread, everyone has asked me for the recipe. I'm not sure I want to divulge my secret tho... :-)

Overall, there was nothing traditional about this Thanksgiving feast hosted by me, an English girl, and a Spaniard. But it was the first Thanksgiving I've ever prepared all by myself, and I'm quite proud (my mom raised me well and her cooking skills must have been passed on to me). Our "feast" featured my amazing pumpkin bread, rice pudding, some soggy stuffing, two fresh salads, fruit salad, bread and cheese, olives, and an assortment of nuts. Not too bad considering all the glitches. However, not sure I want to do it again -- its a lot of work! In the event I'm ever in Spain for a third Thanksgiving (which hopefully I will be), I can at least say I know how to overcome adversity...haha.

That concludes my Thanksgiving story. Well, almost. Here goes the corny part: Thank you Mom and Dad for all your continued support, your guidance and love, and for providing me with this amazing opportunity. I LOVE YOU!!!!! Thanks to the rest of my family (Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, etc) for always being there, your generosity, and for your continued e-mails! I appreciate and love you all tons! Lastly, thanks to all my amazing friends who continue to keep in touch with me even though I'm thousands of miles away and hours ahead of you! Thanks for your friendship over the years, and for all you've done! All of you (parents, relatives, and friends) have made me who I am today, and I can't thank you enough! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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