One of my favorite holidays of the year is of course Thanksgiving. I love everything about it, and knew that since I’d be living in a country that doesn’t celebrate this wonderful day, I’d have to make a conscious effort to make it just as good as it is at home. We decided to split the cost of the turkey and each made one dish that we love from our own individual Thanksgiving feasts.
The first order of business was getting a turkey. Argentines love their red meat, and rarely ever eat turkey (the children I au pair for didn’t even know what a turkey was). After asking another expat, we were told that it is possible to get a turkey here, you just have to ask for it special and it may take a day or two to actually get to the store. With this in mind one of the boys and I ventured to one of the bigger supermarkets here to inquire about our bird. A woman in the store first misunderstood my request and directed me towards the avocados (the words for avocado and turkey in castellano are pretty similar), but then told me that they did not have what I was looking for. Discouraged, we went home thinking that we’d have to settle for a few chickens instead of turkey for our meal. This was obviously out of the question for my roommate, who immediately began researching other ways to obtain a turkey. He discovered El Tejano, a barbecue place here in BA owned by a man from Texas. The owner had a few extra turkeys up for grabs that would be cooked and delivered to us the morning of Thanksgiving. The twenty-six pound bird was worth every penny and even came with bbq sauce (which took the place of our gravy) that had a hint of cinnamon.
I decided to make the sweet potatoes for our meal. At home, I love the sweet potatoes that my mom makes, and thought that everyone else would enjoy them as well. I was nervous at first (I called my mom about three times for directions and moral support) to cook such a Thanksgiving staple, but I decided that backing out was not an option and went to work on my dish. Instead of the popular marshmallow-topped sweet potato pie, my mother pairs the vegetable (are potatoes vegetables?) with candied pecans. I was so proud of myself since the potatoes came out delicious…they had just the right amount of cinnamon and brown sugar (and of course butter), and the candied pecan topping added the perfect crunch to compliment the mashed potatoes.
After the success of the sweet potatoes, I felt very motivated to keep cooking. I took the role of sous chef and helped my roommate prepare the green bean casserole (which became quite the project and took about four hours). In the United States, green bean casserole is made significantly easier thanks to French’s and Campbell’s. Here in Buenos Aires, there are no pre-made fried onions or cream of mushroom soup, so we had to make the whole dish from scratch. My roommate took the job of frying the onions while I washed and cut the green beans. Although it was quite a project, the onions came out amazing (much better than French’s), and in my opinion really made the dish. The next difficult task was to make the cream of mushroom soup from scratch. There was some confusion for me regarding a dutch oven (classic mix-up), and after adding a majority of the ingredients I got nervous by the thick consistency of the mixture and passed the job along to my roommate. In the end, the casserole was fantastic, especially since so much work went into it.
After a very long day of preparation (I give my mother so much credit for the amount of work that goes into this meal), we finally made it to our friends’ apartment where we enjoyed our meal on their terrace. The menu included smoked turkey and bbq sauce from El Tejano, sweet potatoes with candied pecans, green bean casserole from scratch, pineapple stuffing, mashed potatoes with pancetta, corn, and mashed calabaza. Everything was delicious (my front-runners being the pineapple stuffing, pancetta mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes). For dessert we had apple slices with dulce de leche (yum) and a chocolate cake from our favorite bakery. The meal was certainly worth the wait, with great company and lots of laughter (mostly at my expense).
In my family, as soon as the meal is done and everyone has awoken from their post-Thanksgiving naps, we always watch the movie Arthur together. I don’t know how the tradition started, since Arthur is certainly not a Thanksgiving movie, but its something I always look forward to (along with pecan pie a la mode as a movie snack). This year I settled for watching it on my laptop the next morning before preparing another Thanksgiving staple, the Turkey Town. We celebrate Thanksgiving in Ludlow, Vermont, which is home to Java Baba’s café. Our favorite sandwich (which you can get year-round) is called the Turkey Town…turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo on fresh whole grain bread. The day after Thanksgiving we always re-create our own versions of this beloved sandwich (I usually like to add sweet potatoes to mine), so naturally we did the same here in BA. My creation this year had turkey, BBQ sauce, strawberry jam (in place of cranberry sauce), stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed calabaza, and pancetta mashed potatoes all on toasty pieces of whole grain bread…it was amazing and the perfect end to our South American Thanksgiving.