Or maybe a more appropriate title for this post should be “The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t.”
You see, I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our house for the last two years for our friends. It’s been a great time filled with too much food, laughter, giving thanks and enough wine to keep us contentillos well into the night. Well this year, unfortunately, the hubby and I found ourselves the lonely Thanksgiving turkeys as all our friends have abandoned the Basque Country in search of foreign opportunities (can’t say I blame them).
So this year we decided to include the hubby’s entire family and show them what American traditions are all about. They had never experienced Thanksgiving before and apart from our wedding, which included very few American aspects, know very little about American holidays, mostly only what they see in films and TV shows. When we called around to invite them to a Thanksgiving lunch, to say they were excited is an understatement. That’s all they talked about for the month leading up to November 25, 2012 (we celebrated it on Sunday since Thursday is a normal day here).
So imagine my surprise as I was giving class on the actual Thanksgiving day and receive a message from the hubby saying he got a call to work that weekend. My first thought was that he was joking. I knew he was going to have a drink with his cousin and I pictured them both sitting outside a cafe with a few beers planning a funny “joke” to play on me. I responded to the message by simply saying that I didn’t believe him. A few seconds later I get another message. “It’s true. I do have to work this weekend.” Damn. I was going to be stuck preparing a Thanksgiving lunch for 20 people by myself. I’ve prepared plenty of lunches and dinners alone and I love cooking but 20 people would definitely be a new feat for me.
A few hours later, I finished my classes and the hubby came home and let’s just say I wasn’t happy. I felt that I had put myself out there to invite and prepare a meal for his entire family and he bailed at the last moment. I understand getting called into work unexpectedly and I admire his commitment to work under any circumstances but I didn’t want to spend a special day without the most special person to me. He tried to switch his schedule with other colleagues but when nothing worked out we decided to cancel Thanksgiving 2012.
Making the phone calls the next day was not easy. His family had been looking forward to this day and the 12 kilo (26 pound!) turkey had already been ordered. We regretfully informed them that there would be no turkey this year. They didn’t take it well, except for the grandmas (why are they always so understanding?!?). And after an entire morning of phone calls, text messages and long discussions I eventually got guilted into roasting a 12 kilo turkey and making all the fixings.
We started cooking Saturday afternoon making the dessert (pumpkin cheesecake), roasted pumpkin soup, chicken broth, roasted red peppers and the bread crumbs for the stuffing.
7:30 Sunday morning (an unmentionable hour here on a Sunday!) we met at the Gastronomic Society to get everything else going. I hadn’t seen the turkey yet as my father-in-law had picked it up from the butchers the day before and took it directly to the lunch location. We had ordered a turkey between 9-10 kilos (19-22 pounds) and ended up with this beast:
Supposedly it was the smallest one they could find but I’m convinced they confused their adjectives and actually gave us the biggest one they could find!
Since I had never cooked a turkey this big before I wanted to get into the oven as soon as possible. We got it cleaned (not easy pulling feathers out of this sucker!) and stuffed with carrots, onions and leeks as quickly as possible. A quick rub of butter, garlic, pepper and paprika on the outside and it was ready for the oven.
Once we had the bird in the horno we got to have a little American-style breakfast to start the day off right. There’s nothing like smuggled pancake mix (that was almost confiscated at the Madrid airport!) from the good ol’ USA along with fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee to get the blood flowing for a long morning of cooking.
With our bellies full, we had to get down to business. The guests would be arriving soon and I knew that they would have high expectations. So we put on our aprons and pulled out the menu to see what we needed to get going first. Slowly but surely things started to get done and, after a few problems with the gas stove, we were well on our way to having a successful Thanksgiving meal by the time our eager guests started arriving.
Some other menu items included:
And the biggest surprise of the day was that everyone really like the food. In a region where people are notoriously picky eaters (when it comes to anything not traditionally Basque) my extended family was incredibly open minded and at least tried everything. Most of the little cousins were a little nervous and not exactly excited about this particular family lunch but I would say it was a success. And of course they loved the turkey! They couldn’t believe that such creatures existed here!
All in all a very successful day and I can say I am well on my way to Americanizing all things (and my new family) in this part of the world!
What about you? Have you had to celebrate a holiday away from your country? Have you adopted any celebrations from a foreign country into your American life?