This past Friday night, I prepared my first Thanksgiving dinner!! I worked on Thursday night, so I figured Friday was just as good. Fortunately, a few of my roommates frequently do art fairs, so there are these big white slabs of wood in the house, which they use as backdrops, I believe. Also, in the garage there are a bunch of these black wooden desks, which apparently were just on the side of the road. My roommates picked them up. I laid the white slab of wood down over the black desks to make a very long dining room table. That was the first step: making sure there was enough table space for people to eat. The preparation of the turkey should have been the next step, but I figured I could wing it and bought the turkey the day of, not factoring in defrosting time.
Fortunately, I didn’t have any work on Friday, so I spent the whole day preparing. In the morning, I went to the super market, Exito, to buy the ingredients for stuffing, the cranberry sauce, the turkey and plastic plates, cups and utensils. I could only find dried cranberries (arándanos), so I used those to supplement a sauce made primarily of raspberries with mango added to thicken it. I had prepped some other food the day before, but the baking I did the day of at my friend Javi’s house, because I don’t have an oven. This is the same guy who let me Couchsurf at his place for the first several weeks I was in Colombia. I left Exito and embarked on an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone: carrying an eight-pound frozen turkey and full bag of groceries on a 30-minute, crowded, Transmilenio bus ride.
Both Javi and I were in no hurry to address the issue of defrosting/dealing with the turkey, as both of us are kind of weak-stomached when it comes to raw meat that still retains the shape of the formerly living animal. We put the turkey in a cold bath in a bucket and worked on the stuffing in the mean time. Unfortunately, the power shut off a couple times for durations of about 10 minutes, which delayed the cooking process some. By about 3/3.30 PM, we had finished the raspberry sauce and stuffing and had taken a break to go out for lunch. We still hadn’t touched the turkey. A little microwave defrosting (and a lot of me grossing out Javi by pinching the raw turkey skin and making it recite famous movie quotes) later, we got the bird in the oven. At that point, all there was to do was wait…. For around three hours. Pressed for time, I gave Javi some detailed bird-sitting instructions—thanks to the directions obtained through a long-distance call to Momma G—and flew the coop back to my neighborhood, Galerías.
I bought pasta, cheese, limes, squash, eggs and boxed wine before heading back to the house, where I began cooking like a mad woman. The early arrivers can surely vouch for this. Fortunately, I had shredded the potatoes for latkes and cut carrot sticks the day prior. In the end, the menu turned out as follows: walnut and cremini mushroom stuffing, latkes, cinnamon mango apple sauce, ginger-glazed carrots, pan-fried green beans sautéed in lime juice and salt and pepper, cheesy paprika pasta (a close relative to Mac-n-cheese), pan-fried squash cooked in cinnamon and panela (sugar cane), fried plantain, fried chicken (bought nearby, for good measure), two different kinds of potato chip (so no one would starve), raspberry/cranberry sauce and finally, around 8 PM (delayed because Javi’s power kept going in and out), the turkey. In total, there were around 20 people: none left hungry and there was even food left over!!!
Oh, and everyone made fun of me for buying the worst excuse for wine I possibly could have, that apparently only 16 year olds buy with their fake IDs. The next morning, when I came downstairs and checked out the damage, all three of the boxes of cheap Moscato were empty. Let’s be real: at the end of the night, no one is too classy to drink alcoholic syrup out of a plastic cup. Crappy wine aside, I couldn’t have asked for a better first Thanksgiving. Several people commented, in awe and delight, that there was so much variety they didn’t know what to pick. Since Mom’s package arrived the day before (miraculously!), I even had a dreidel, chocolate gelt and a hanukkia (menorah) for the table. Mom even included a package of Twizzlers, which I handed out later in the night. (“Dulces de gringolandía? Alguién?”) “Mm! Rico! Como plástico en trenzas!” (“Mm! Yum! Like braided plastic!”) My favorite part of the night, though, has got to be convincing everyone, sitting around the table, to say que le agradecen; what they’re thankful for. Everyone thanked me for cooking and making the dinner possible. The guests included Colombians, a Puerto Rican, a Venezuelan, a Canadian and me, the only person from the US. I couldn’t have been more grateful for the ability to bring all these people and cultures together, for the kind people I’ve met in the few months of being here, while keeping in mind my family back home that helped build this foundation of love and good food! Though I enthusiastically move into the future, I’m eternally grateful for my roots, which give me the strength to create new traditions and new trajectories while keeping the previous ones close to my heart.
PS: I just finished my disposable camera roll, so more pictures will be on their way soon!