Thursday, December 5, 2013

How To: Have Thanksgiving in Spain

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, hands down. The whole point of it is to be grateful, be happy, think positively, and be loving towards everyone around you, it´s great! Oh, yeah, and to eat...a, a whole lot, of, like, the most delicious foods...all combined...on one plate...and then doused in gravy. **dramatic pause to let all that sink in** Yeah, so there´s a whole lot more a loving, positive, foodie person like me could want all in a day!


This being the case, it should come as no surprise that I was determined to have a Thanksgiving dinner this year, since it is not just my favorite holiday, but my favorite meal of all time (Mexican food being my favorite type of food). Even if I'd never made the meal before, and would have to host it a couple days late, I knew it was something I wanted to do. This great American tradition is one that I fully support, even though the events that followed this meeting of Pilgrims and Indians were disgusting, to say the least. But, I will NOT get into politics in this post that will be full of yummy food talk and love! (Keep those comments and thoughts to yourself on this one!) So, back on to the turkey-talk. . .

Now, my family, I've gotta say, RULES at Thanksgiving. My dad barbecues the turkey every year, and in my humble opinion, it's the only way to do it. (And if we're with the other side of the family, they usually barbecue it. Either way, it's almost always a bbq'd bird for the Fedor's.) My grandma makes the most delicious stuffing (dressing as it´s called by some), and my uncles are the side-dish kings. Overall, my family has been blessed with the ability to eat and cook well. And praise be to the good God above that I have somehow inherited these abilities!

I was able to get five Sevillans to commit to the Thanksgiving dinner, a few a week in advance, and a couple a few nights before. Which, if you have ever been here, lived here, or are from here, you will recognize as a MAJOR accomplishment! As much as I love the relaxed atmosphere and attitude of the people down here in the sweet south, some things do require a bit of planning ahead, Thanksgiving dinner being one of them. (You kinda need to know how many you´ll be, so you know how big of a bird to buy..) One example: when I sent out a message in our intercambio group a week and a half in advance, one response was, "I´d like to say yes, but I can´t just yet. It´s a bit early to plan that far ahead." >face.palm< But, as things always do, the group was the perfect number for our space, and it was a beautiful blend.

We were my Spanish roommate, his twin brother (who is the roommate of one of my closest friends here, as well as my friend), said close friend/roommate of my roommate´s brother, and two of our other friends, as well as a Polish couple that was couchsurfing at our place last weekend, and my Now-a-Real-Turkey-Making-American-Woman self. Eight in all, three countries represented, and not one person who had experienced Thanksgiving before. Aside from my Already-Real-Turkey-Eating-American-Woman self, of course. We started the evening with wine and appetizers, which I had decided to keep quite simple since the real bang of Thanksgiving is the dinner. And then, we all served up our plates, sat down, and wrapped our international arms around each other, and said what we were grateful for.

I actually had tears in my eyes as we went around, and I heard the beautiful things that people had to say. Some of the things they said about me, I couldn't even believe. I was soaring around in the arms of love, so high above all the earth. And to hear so many people voicing their gratitude to be able to experience Thanksgiving, was great. Especially since the opinion was unanimously in support of the holiday and it´s positive, thankful ways.

One of the reasons why I longed to return to Europe all those years I was back in the States, was exactly this -- the blending of cultures and people, the unity between different people from completely different places, the sharing of culture and tradition, and the moments of pure love and bliss that you can have with perfect strangers you might only know for a weekend, or friends you've made that you would have never known existed had you not broken the mold and broken out. These are the moments that remind me why I´m here, and show me just how right I was to leave home.

The night was so wonderful. I feel so incredibly blessed that I was able to host and participate in such a uniquely authentic Thanksgiving. I was quite sad not to be with my family on the day, but really, I feel nothing but joy when I think about this year´s Thanksgiving. If I wasn´t with my family, it sure never felt like it.

Thank you Roberto, Migue, Alberto, Carlos, Dani, Tomasz, and Yasmin, for making my first Thanksgiving as cook and host such a memorable and special one. You will all hold a beautiful place in my heart for as long as I live, and I hope we spend many more together! I have so much love for you all!

I was a bit scared to host my first Thanksgiving, not because I didn´t think it would taste good, but because I had such high expectations of flavors in my mind from years of successfully delicious Thanksgiving meals over the years. Like I said, my family does food very well, and I was not sure I was going to be able to match up to what my family seems to do each year. In order to prepare myself for the buying and cooking, I spent a lot of time WhatsApp-ing my parents and an American woman I work with in the language school, as well as watching YouTube videos, and reading different things on Google. I made recipe lists and grocery lists, and checked them all far more than twice. In the end, the menu was as follows:

  • Appetizers -- delicious cheese, raspberry jam, figs, typical crunchy bread things from Sevilla, olives, fried peppers, beet and radish dip my roommate made

  • Turkey -- with a group of eight, I was thinking that a five or six kilo turkey would be perfect. But considering that I waited until the day before the dinner to buy it, and that buying a whole turkey isn´t so common in Spain in late November, I ended up with a turkey that weighed 6.64 kilos (roughly 14 pounds). I bought it on Friday in the market. Now, it should be said here, that we can judge just how much I love this holiday, on the fact that I hadn´t bought and cooked meat in well over a year, and yet there I was in the market (a real market, where there are knives slamming down on chopping boards everywhere around you to cut of meat, birds, fishes, and whatever else), window shopping for a whole turkey. But, I got over the instinct to cry, and just told myself it wasn´t that big of a deal, and it wasn´t. And through the guidance of my turkey-master-man-of-a-dad and YouTube, I decided to prepare it as so:
    • First, I had to pluck out feathers. **another dramatic pause to let that one sink in** Yeah, you read that right. Not only did I have to buy an entire 6.64 kilo turkey and then carry it home in a plastic bag with its legs poking out the top of it (mmmmHHHmmm..), I then had to remove the remaining little white feathers that were stuck in it. But again I said, no big deal, and decided that instead of freaking out like a little girl each time I pulled one from its skin, I would strike up a conversation with it. (Which I suggest doing if you are preparing/cooking meat anyways. It may be dead and in slabs, but its soul is still present in the universe, and would likely benefit, as would yours, from speaking sweetness to it.)

    • After I was sure there were no (or very, very few;) more little feathers, I took out the butter. And let me tell you, between the conversation and the sexiness of that butter-rub, all my guilty conscious that might have been, was no more. That bird was shown the L-O-V-E! And after the butter, came the garlic salt (which I made from a mix of garlic and sea salt), and pepper. 
    • I tied the legs together, and put it in the fridge to chill for the night and absorb all the goodness I´d just put into it.
    • Next day: Took it out and let it hit room temperature while I made the stuffing, stuffed it, shut it, and put it in the oven. I read online that a stuffed turkey takes about 15 minutes per pound, but my turkey was done in about three hours. I think that because our oven is so small and the turkey completely filled it, it would have been better to put it lower than I did. (I actually don't remember what temperature I used, but I will lower it for the next one.) 
    • Result: It was delicious! A little bit dry on the tops of the drumsticks and breasts, but it was really tasty and not overly-dry-all-over!
Looks just like my dad's birds!
  • Stuffing -- chopped up a bunch of loaves of bread (baguettes) and baked them in the oven till they were crispy. Melted one cube of butter and cooked chopped onion, mushroom, celery, and parsley to cook a bit. Then added some chicken broth to it, let it simmer, and then turned it off. After, I mixed in the bread crumbs I'd made the day before, and stuffed the turkey! I put the rest in a pan to cook in the oven after the bird was done.  (Grandma's recipe, minus cooked sausage)
    • Helpful hint: I had pre-chopped everything I knew I was going to be using and put it in containers. Chopping tends to take longer than most other things, and if you have to do a lot on the day of, it's nice to cut time where you can to decrease the stress factor. Also, it's nice to work on it a little bit over a few days period, so you aren't running around the kitchen as people are showing up (kinda impossible to avoid anyways, but hey, it helps)!

  • Gravy -- chicken broth, water, mushrooms, pepper, bay leaves, and all the drippings from the pan when the turkey was done. AKA turkey fat and grease in liquid form to be poured all over your meal... YUM

  • Baked cauliflower and carrots with garlic, sea salt, and olive oil
  • Puree of sweet potatoes that my roommate made (instead of having mashed potatoes)
  • Potatoes and green beans with garlic that my roommate made
  • Lots of wine
I had been planning on making a salad and grilling some asparagus, but in the end, we had more than enough food, so I didn't do anything else. And now that I've done this once, I am pretty sure that I am already mentally ready to do it again! Bring on the Thanksgivings of the future!!

Many blessings to all! I am off to Copenhagen this weekend to visit a good friend from home who is studying there! I cannot wait! I haven't been in a new country since the end of March!! 

Love & Light Darlings <3

No comments:

Post a Comment